Grading the San Francisco Giants' Trade Deadline Performance

Dan MoriCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2014

The Giants hope Jake Peavy can take the sting out of losing Matt Cain.
The Giants hope Jake Peavy can take the sting out of losing Matt Cain.USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the San Francisco Giants have only one major move to show for it. With several holes to fill, Giants general manager Brian Sabean only filled one, a starting pitcher.

The Giants acquired veteran Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. This move was necessitated by the concern that Matt Cain's elbow is worse than originally thought.

As reported by Matt Snyder of, Cain was to be examined by renowned arm specialist Dr. James Andrews this week.

The preliminary findings indicated no ligament damage. CSN Bay Area reporter Andrew Baggarly tweeted this report after Cain's visit with Dr. Andrews:

I understand Matt Cain's UCL checked out fine. Dr. Andrews made recommendation on loose bodies in elbow and Giants "are digesting it."

— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) July 31, 2014

Meanwhile, Peavy was mired in a horrendous slump this season for the Red Sox. He had a record of 1-9, with an ERA of 4.72 and WHIP of 1.427. Peavy had allowed a league-leading 20 home runs prior to the trade.

Peavy has had one start with the Giants and looked fairly good, although the Giants lost 4-3 to the Dodgers. Peavy showed his competitive fire and kept the Giants in the game, giving his new team a chance to win.

In his Giants debut, Peavy threw six innings, allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five. He gave up four runs, three earned. Shoddy defense, including two Dan Uggla errors, put a lot of unnecessary pressure on Peavy and pushed his pitch count up.

Matt Cain's elbow injury necessitated the move for another starting pitcher.
Matt Cain's elbow injury necessitated the move for another starting pitcher.Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Peavy will take Cain's spot in the rotation until further notice. He makes $14.5 million in 2014, although the Giants' prorated portion will only be about $4.8 million. Peavy will be a free agent following the 2014 season.

Peavy had his best success in the National League as a member of the San Diego Padres. He won the Cy Young Award in 2007.

Peavy pitched in the NL West for eight seasons, and the hope is he can recapture some of his old magic. At a minimum, the change of scenery should help him, as he pitches in a league and division he is comfortable with.

The cost to get Peavy was high, as the Giants gave up two of their top pitching prospects, Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.

Escobar had an excellent spring and came close to earning a spot on the Giants' 25-man roster. He was sent down to Fresno, the Giants' Triple-A affiliate, for more seasoning.

Edwin Escobar's mediocre performance in Fresno made him expendable.
Edwin Escobar's mediocre performance in Fresno made him expendable.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

While in Fresno, Escobar was very inconsistent. In 111 innings of work, he allowed 128 hits and 37 walks, while striking out 96. His ERA was 5.11, with a WHIP of 1.486.

Escobar was sent to Pawtucket, the Triple-A affiliate for the Red Sox.

Hembree has been on the cusp of making it and staying in the big leagues for the past couple of seasons. He got a September call-up last year and was very impressive, striking out 12 batters in only 7.2 innings of work. He allowed only four hits and did not give up a run.

At the end of last season, all signs pointed to Hembree winning a job in the Giants bullpen in 2014. However, he was beaten out in the spring by the likes of Juan Gutierrez and Jean Machi.

In addition, when the Giants needed bullpen help during the course of the season, it was George Kontos, not Hembree, who got the call.

At one point in his career, Hembree looked to be the Giants' future closer. Unfortunately, that never materialized, and Hembree's star faded.

Heath Hembree never fulfilled his promise for the Giants.
Heath Hembree never fulfilled his promise for the Giants.USA TODAY Sports

While in Fresno this season, Hembree worked 39.1 innings, giving up 40 hits and 13 walks, while striking out 46. His ERA was 3.89, and he had a WHIP of 1.347. These are decent numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but obviously not good enough for Hembree to merit a call-up to San Francisco.

Like Escobar, Hembree was also sent to Pawtucket. It's possible he could get a shot in the Boston bullpen before the season is over.

Although Sabean traded two top pitching prospects, neither was a sure thing to become a big league star. The Giants' need for a starter outweighed the future potential of both Escobar and Hembree. Only time will tell if they can have an impact for the Red Sox.

The other move the Giants made was to pick up Dan Uggla, who was released by the Atlanta Braves earlier in July. The Giants are only responsible for the prorated minimum salary, as Atlanta is on the hook for Uggla's contract, which is for $13.2 million per year, through the 2015 season.

In 2010, Sabean made a similar move by acquiring Pat Burrell off the scrap heap. Burrell had a rejuvenation over the remainder of the season, helping the Giants to the playoffs and eventually their first World Series title in San Francisco.

Dan Uggla has six strikeouts in 11 at-bats.
Dan Uggla has six strikeouts in 11 at-bats.USA TODAY Sports

The hope was that Uggla could also find the proverbial lightning in a bottle, but it has not happened thus far. In four games with the Giants, Uggla is 0-for-11 at the plate and has already made three errors at second base. It appears painfully obvious that Uggla is not the answer to the Giants' second base woes.

Although Sabean made a patchwork move to attempt to fill a hole in the starting rotation, he did nothing to address the Giants' major problems in center field and at second base.

As the trade deadline came to a close, there were several middle infielders and a few outfielders who were on the move. Many of these players could have helped the Giants at second base or center field.

These players included Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Denorfia and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Emilio Bonifacio can bat at the top of the order and play second base and center field.
Emilio Bonifacio can bat at the top of the order and play second base and center field.David Banks/Getty Images

To be absolutely fair, we have no idea what other teams were demanding in return for any players. The Giants' farm system is thin in terms of top prospects, and Sabean may not have been willing to part with his top-tier talent.

The Giants had two main directions in which they could have moved. One was to bolster the roster and give themselves the best chance to challenge for the division title and playoffs right now.

The other scenario involved the Giants being more of a seller. With the expiring contracts of Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo, Sabean could have possibly moved them for something of value.

It is highly questionable whether the Giants will be able to sign Sandoval or Romo this winter. Both players may price themselves out of San Francisco. Jon Heyman of reports that Sandoval was seeking a five-year, $100 million contract earlier this year.

Pablo Sandoval may not fit into the Giants' future.
Pablo Sandoval may not fit into the Giants' future.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

There is no way the Giants will agree to that, so unless Sandoval is willing to come down significantly on those demands, he is likely playing his final few months in the orange and black. Those fans who bought the panda hats should definitely wear them now because in two months, they could be obsolete.

In the case of Romo, he was replaced by Santiago Casilla as the Giants' closer a few weeks ago. If he demands to close or asks for closer money, he is also likely to be gone.

This being the case, Sabean should have tried to move these two players and get something of value in return. Even if the return was younger prospects, it is better than nothing, which is exactly what the Giants will get if Sandoval and Romo depart via the free-agent market.

By only making the Peavy deal and not strengthening the overall roster, the Giants are unlikely to win the division and also not a favorite to land a wild-card berth. Moreover, holding on to Sandoval and Romo now, then losing them after the season, is also not a wise strategy.

Over the past two years, when Angel Pagan is out of the lineup, the Giants offense struggles.
Over the past two years, when Angel Pagan is out of the lineup, the Giants offense struggles.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Giants' only hope is that Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan can return from their injuries healthy and provide a spark to a very inconsistent offense. In Belt's case, that scenario is realistic, but with Pagan's bad back, it's a total crapshoot.

So, by doing virtually nothing, Sabean has put the Giants in a very tough position. They most likely do not have enough to make the playoffs, and they also stand to lose Sandoval and Romo at the end of the season.

The more prudent approach for the Giants would have been to go all in, or stay all out and get something for two players who likely won't be there in 2015.

My grade for Sabean and the Giants at the trade deadline is a D.


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