The move was widely lauded from the Giants' perspective, as they were said to get an "upgrade" at first base over current starter Travis Ishikawa.
Ishikawa is hitting .269/.321/.411; Garko is hitting .285/.362/.464.
On that superficial level, Garko is a nice upgrade.
However, the righthanded- hitting Garko's only hit righties at a .265/.349/.424 clip, while the lefty-swinging Ishikawa is at .265/.319/.423.
The difference between Garko and Ishikawa against righties (the majority of pitchers) is a few walks.
Ishikawa is also a very good defensive first baseman, while Garko's defense is average-minus.
Garko may be a bit of an upgrade over Ishikawa, but expecting him to make a massive difference is foolish.
Further damning is the presence of Jesus Guzman at the Giants' Triple-A affiliate (although he was promoted today). In Fresno, Guzman hit .336/.386/.529, bashing both lefties and righties and providing plus defense at first.
It's very possible that Guzman is as good as Garko, if not better.
All of that said, acquiring Garko, in itself, isn't the worst idea—it's just not a big difference-maker for the Giants' hopes of contending in 2009.
The big problem with the trade is that San Francisco gave up Scott Barnes.
Barnes came in at No. 90 on my Top 100 Prospects list, and while giving him up is far more defensible than trading away Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson, Buster Posey, or Angel Villalona, it's still not a good move.
My take on Barnes in the Top 100 Prospects series:
"Barnes works around 90 with his fastball and uses the changeup as his out pitch, and the curve isn't bad. In some ways, that sounds a lot like Cole Hamels. Barnes won't be as good as Hamels, but he should be in the Zach Duke (when he's on) class of pitchers."
So Barnes could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. A dominant pitcher in the hitter-friendly Cal League, Barnes is ready for Double-A and could get a September look next year.
The Giants traded away a very good pitching prospect for an iffy, minor upgrade at first base.
It's simply not a good idea.
Now, I know that with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Kevin Pucetas, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson, Jesse English, etc. the Giants have a ton of good arms under team control for a while.
So the idea is to deal from strength and not give up one of the best arms (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Alderson).
And, to a degree, that makes sense.
However, how many times have we seen things go wrong? Look at the Blue Jays, who have had the following starting pitchers spend time on the DL this season:
That's seven starters in half a year.
I'm not trying to underrate the Giants' pitching, or predict injuries to all their studs. I'm just saying you can never rule it out.
In a scenario far less severe than Toronto's 2009, Scott Barnes would become an important rotation member in San Francisco.
You can never have too many good pitchers, and yesterday, the Giants traded away one of their best minor league arms for a player who is something less than a definitive upgrade.
It could come back to haunt them.