The last time the San Francisco Giants let go of their top prospect, they acquired a one-year stopgap who bolted after just two months on the shores of McCovey Cove.
San Francisco lost pitcher Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets and has regretted that deal ever since. The Giants are in a similar position this year, as they have another potential star pitcher in Kyle Crick.
The Giants are known for their bad farm system, but it’s actually not terrible. They have a wealth of pitching prospects in the minors, and if they actually unloaded their top prospects, they could haul in a prized player.
Guys like Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton and Adalberto Mejia make up a quality stable of young arms in San Francisco’s farm system. The Giants definitely have the assets to make a deal.
And they need to use these assets immediately.
Why? First of all, no Giant who has played second base this year has an OPS above .600, and signing Dan Uggla, the former Atlanta Braves strikeout machine, isn’t likely to help.
The Giants have tried many options, from Brandon Hicks to Marco Scutaro to Joe Panik. They don’t have the answer on the roster.
However, there are possible answers on other teams. The versatile Ben Zobrist, who could also play in the outfield and spell the mediocre Gregor Blanco, should be available.
He is aging and has had a fairly average season, so the Giants should be able to acquire him fairly cheaply. However, his track record shows that he could help the Giants on and off the field. His career OPS is a stellar .784.
All-Star Daniel Murphy might not be a superstar, but he is a top-flight second baseman who has gotten on base at a superb rate this year (his OBP is .334). He, like Zobrist, would boost the lineup significantly if general manager Brian Sabean were to pull the trigger.
Chase Utley, who started at second base for the NL All-Star team, might be a bit expensive, and it might not be worth it to acquire him when Zobrist and Murphy can be added at a better price. However, he would certainly bolster the lineup if the team were to add him.
All of these players would solve a need that has plagued the Giants this year. If the Giants dangle their top prospects like Sabean has said they will (according to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury), a deal could be reached fairly promptly.
Crick could end up being a future ace, and if the Giants were to trade him, they could probably add a player of Murphy’s caliber. Crick has a 3.21 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, but he also has control issues (as indicated by his 1.48 WHIP).
He’s a viable future ace, though, as he has the stuff necessary to succeed. Teams like that, even if he could take time to develop.
In short, if the Giants are to shore up their needs, they will need to get rid of Crick and more players.
And as long as they are getting a player who will be more than a two-month rental, they need to be alright with that.
However, it will take more than just Crick. The Giants have to address their need at second base, but there are other issues they have as well.
The important issue, despite the team’s success in this area, is the rotation. Matt Cain has an elbow injury that won’t require Tommy John surgery but could linger for the rest of season.
Unless the Giants want Yusmeiro Petit, who has a 6.15 ERA this season, to start every fifth day with no long reliever, they will need to trade for a pitcher.
Bartolo Colon, Ian Kennedy and Jake Peavy are some solid (but not spectacular) starters who will be available. Colon has a 4.03 ERA this year, and he had a 2.65 ERA last year. The aging pitcher makes $9 million this year, so the Giants wouldn’t have to give up a lot of prospects.
Even if the Giants trust Cain to come back strong, they could benefit from an extra reliever. Sergio Romo and Jean Machi have struggled lately, and George Kontos hasn’t had a great career.
The Giants need an upgrade in lots of critical areas. Their second basemen have been deplorable, their starting pitching could suffer from Cain’s injury and their bullpen lacks a true closer. Even their outfield could use an upgrade.
Crick could put together a fabulous career, but he could also struggle if he doesn’t solve his major control issues. Besides, the Giants already have a respectable rotation for the future with Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.
San Francisco’s more pressing need is a short-term and long-term fix at second base (and at other positions) as opposed to a starter who won’t be ready for at least another year. It needs to make some moves to help for the present and the future.
San Francisco has traded solid prospects before at the trade deadline, as it acquired Hunter Pence in 2012. Pence made the All-Star team this year and helped the team win the World Series.
That year, the Giants replaced Ryan Theriot, who hit zero home runs in 2012, with Scutaro, and they added Pence to replace Blanco. They have the prospects to make similar deals this year.
All Sabean has to do is pull the trigger.