With 2015 now upon us, we are only a couple of months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
The San Francisco Giants and general manager Brian Sabean have made some moves this winter, but nothing overly bold. The Giants signed two of their own free agents, Sergio Romo and Jake Peavy. They also traded for third baseman Casey McGehee to replace Pablo Sandoval.
Sabean has yet to pull off a blockbuster deal, but there is still time. Although not a truly epic deal, the Giants appear to be hot on the trail of Ben Zobrist, who is currently on the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist is a very solid utility players who is primarily a second baseman but can also play third base or left field.
The Giants have a large hole in left field, and if Sabean can acquire Zobrist, he would help to fortify the position.
Bill Baer of Hardball Talk discusses the potential of the Giants making this trade.
Although Zobrist will be 34 years of age in late May, he has been very durable. He has played in at least 146 games every year since 2009. This past season, Zobrist hit .272 with an OBP of .354 and OPS of .749. In 570 at-bats, Zobrist had 10 home runs and drove in 52 runs.
These are not superstar numbers by any means, but Zobrist's versatility would be an asset for Giants manager Bruce Bochy. In 2014, Zobrist played 79 games at second base, 38 in left field, 31 at shortstop, 19 in right field and seven in center.
The main issue is what the Giants will need to give up in order to make this trade. Ideally, the Giants do not want to give up any of their top young players such as Andrew Susac, Joe Panik or minor league pitcher Kyle Crick.
In addition to Zobrist, the Giants were interested in starting pitchers James Shields or Cole Hamels.
However, as Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors reported, assistant GM Bobby Evans had told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that the Giants were no longer looking to add a top starting pitcher to the rotation. Schulman tweeted the information following his conversation with Evans.
This is understandable as it regards Hamels, as the Giants will not want to part with their top young players and prospects for him. The asking price from the Phillies will undoubtedly be very high.
The Giants could rethink their stance on Shields. Starting pitcher Tim Hudson recently underwent ankle surgery to remove bone spurs from the same ankle he injured in 2013. In addition, Hudson will be 40 years of age in July and faded in the latter part of the 2014 season.
Matt Cain is coming off two surgeries, one on his throwing elbow and the other on his ankle. Until he proves he can pitch effectively, this makes Cain a question mark.
Peavy, who signed a two-year contract to return to San Francisco, will be 34 years of age in May and struggled in the first half of 2013 while with Boston. After being traded to the Giants, Peavy pitched well down the stretch.
Peavy was instrumental in helping the Giants make the playoffs but was not nearly as effective in the postseason. There is uncertainty as to whether he can put together an entire season of quality outings.
In addition, fifth starter Tim Lincecum had a miserable second half of 2014 and lost his spot in the rotation. The jury is still out as to whether he can regain the ability to be an effective starting pitcher.
Outside of World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have question marks at four of the five spots in the starting rotation. It would be unrealistic to expect that all four of these concerns would go smoothly for the Giants.
Even with Yusmeiro Petit standing by to step in, not adding another quality starting pitcher is a risky decision by Sabean and the Giants.
Jim Bowden of ESPN tweeted that the Giants were out of the running for James Shields. However, in light of the Hudson surgery, Sabean could change his mind and get back into the fray.
If the Giants do not add a starting pitcher now, they could also be in the market for one at the trade deadline. This is what Sabean did last year when he acquired Peavy. We could see a similar type of move this time around also.
If the Giants do not land Zobrist and another starting pitcher, it is very uncertain if they have done enough to make the playoffs in 2015.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.