Just over a week remains until the July 31 trade deadline, which means we'll start to see the market heat up over the next few days. The San Francisco Giants have yet to partake in the drama just yet, though they have been linked to a few important players. The team also officially signed second baseman Dan Uggla on Tuesday, and he'll look to make an impact at Triple-A Fresno to earn a shot with the big league club.
A large chunk of the Giants' 2015 payroll is already committed to the team's hefty long-term contracts, like those of Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum. That certainly limits general manager Brian Sabean's options this season—don't expect the Giants to go anywhere near Rays left-hander David Price, for example—but it doesn't necessarily preclude the team from grabbing a key player or two.
Let's take a look at the players who could be traded to the Giants, and whether those moves are likely to pan out or not.
The Giants' recent pickup of Dan Uggla certainly lessens the likelihood of a move for Zobrist, but it's not out of the question just yet.
In fact, the move still makes tons of sense for the Giants. For one, signing Uggla doesn't necessarily solve the team's problem at second base. Far from it, given Uggla's .472 OPS this season and his overall struggles dating back to 2011.
Zobrist, the Rays' 33-year-old second baseman, is relatively cheap contract-wise (a huge plus for the Giants with their already expensive 2015 payroll) and can play just about everywhere on the diamond. He makes $7 million this season and, more importantly for the Giants, has a team option for just $7.5 million in 2015. He has played shortstop (22 games) and outfield (18 games) this season alongside his starting role at second base.
Zobrist's versatility would especially help a depth-starved team like the Giants, who could use the Tampa Bay utility man to fill in as a fourth outfielder when needed. That could allow recent call-up Joe Panik to continue to receive at-bats—an important part of his development—while also removing him from the everyday pressure of playing regularly in the midst of a pennant race with less than 100 plate appearances of experience in the majors.
The Giants also have the pieces to get a deal done. Though the team's minor league system has seen better days, there are still several highly regarded pitching prospects in the organization, including Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Adalberto Mejia. MLB.com's Chris Haft and Ryan Hood reported that the Rays are believed to have scouted the Giants' Double-A Richmond team, where all of the above except Escobar (who is at Triple-A Fresno) currently pitch.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles
The Giants are reportedly interested in Cleveland Indians infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles, according to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi, but that's a deal that is contingent upon a variety of things.
Most importantly, the Indians have to show a willingness to sell, which is far from guaranteed given their favorable position in the AL Central. The Giants also have to decide whether they want to take on Cabrera's expiring contract, on which he's owed $10 million this season.
Finally, the Giants' current middle infield options—Dan Uggla, Joe Panik, Brandon Hicks—would likely all have to continue to struggle in order for this move to go through. That's a viable possibility, but with Cabrera's high cost and his struggles both offensively (.247/.308/.392 slash line) and defensively (-0.1 dWAR, per baseball-reference.com), Sabean might deem Cabrera unworthy of the price it would take to acquire his services.
When it comes to Aviles, cost isn't much of a concern with his $3.5 million salaries this season and next. Rather, it's his poor play this season (.264/.282/.349 slash line) that makes an Aviles deal unlikely. If Sabean ends up acquiring another middle infielder, he'll likely be looking to reel in a bigger fish, instead of bringing in a player with similar production to that of the recently signed Uggla.
Signing Utley appears to be a perfect fit, with the Giants' need for a second baseman and Utley's Bay Area roots.
The biggest roadblock for an Utley-to-SF deal is the second baseman's contract. He'll make $10 million next season, a reasonable and perhaps affordable sum on the surface. But Utley's contract includes a provision that bumps his 2015 salary up to $15 million if he spends 15 days or less on the disabled list due to a knee injury in 2014.
Sure enough, Utley has played in all but four of his team's games this season, and if he continues to stay healthy, the Giants would have to cough up an additional $5 million fee to add to Utley's contract. Though it's a reasonable amount of money to drop on a player of Utley's caliber, the cost—both salary-wise and in terms of the talent the Giants would have to give up for a 35-year-old with a lengthy contract—might not be worth it for Sabean and the Giants.
Indeed, Utley has vesting options in 2016, 2017 and 2018 worth $15 million each year. He'll be 39 by the time the final year of the contract rolls around, and there's no telling how productive he'll be at that point.
The Phillies would also have to be interested in selling Utley in the first place. As one MLB exec told ESPN's Jayson Stark about the Phillies' plans, "They're not going to trade Utley. That's not happening."
The Giants are reportedly interested in Colon, but according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, the Mets could have to pitch in on a substantial amount of Colon's $11 million 2015 salary, something they have no interest in doing.
Once again, cost appears to be a limiting factor here, and unless the Giants can give the Mets a really sweet deal, it's hard to imagine general manager Sandy Alderson wavering.
Colon is 8-8 with a 4.12 ERA this year, though he's coming off an 18-win season with the Oakland A's in which he posted a 2.65 ERA. The right-hander's age (he's 41), which is aggravated by his questionable condition, and his decline this season might keep him out of San Francisco (in conjunction with his high cost), but that shouldn't keep the Giants from continuing to pursue another arm.
According to CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly, the Giants are "intensifying their search for a starting pitcher," and they'll likely be quite active over the next several days.
Verdict: Fiction (but will continue to look for other pitchers)