SF Giants Can't Afford to Play It Safe at MLB Trade Deadline

Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2015

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The San Francisco Giants might be the most incomplete complete team in baseball.

Which is to say: The defending champs don't have any glaring weaknesses, but they can't afford to stand pat at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Buster Posey anchors San Francisco's lineup once again.
Buster Posey anchors San Francisco's lineup once again.Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

Yes, after finishing a three-game sweep of the cross-bay rival Oakland A's on Sunday, San Francisco has won five straight and nine of 10 to creep within one game of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.

But if the Giants are going to end talk of odd-year curses and become the first repeat World Series winners since the 2000 New York Yankees, they'll need to act boldly on the trade market.

First, some good news: After years of building around pitching, these Giants can hit. 

Entering play Monday, San Francisco leads the Senior Circuit in team batting average and on-base percentage, and is second to Colorado in runs scored. 

Look up and down the lineup and there are few, if any, holes. 

The infield is an embarrassment of homegrown riches, with Brandon Belt at first, Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at shortstop and the surprising Matt Duffy at third.

Each ascended through the Giants' system, and each owns an OPS of .805 or higher.

Of his current roster, skipper Bruce Bochy says, "I like this group."
Of his current roster, skipper Bruce Bochy says, "I like this group."Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

San Francisco is also set in the outfield, with Angel Pagan charging hard, Hunter Pence back from the disabled list and Nori Aoki set to return from a fractured fibula as soon as Monday. 

Behind the dish, meanwhile, they've got a guy named Gerald Dempsey Posey III, who has quietly slid into fourth place in the NL with a .328 average.

On the pitching side, the Giants have a surplus of arms in the rotation, and they own the seventh-best ERA in the National League (3.68).

"Right now I don't see anything," manager Bruce Bochy said during the Oakland series, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I just keep my focus on these 25 guys we have. That's the way I look at it. I can't say I expect something. I like this group."

So where are the weaknesses? 

To begin, the Giants' bench is paper-thin. With Pence and Aoki back, Gregor Blanco returns to the well-cast role of above-average fourth outfielder.

After that, however, San Francisco's reserve corps is stocked with the likes of journeyman Justin Maxwell (.216/.268/.370 slash line) and utility infielder Joaquin Arias (he of the .207 OBP).

Reserve outfielder Justin Maxwell is hitting just .216 on a thin San Francisco bench.
Reserve outfielder Justin Maxwell is hitting just .216 on a thin San Francisco bench.George Nikitin/Associated Press

So a position player or two could be in the cards. One like, say, jack-of-all-trades switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, who was in San Francisco with the A's and can capably play the outfield and infield.

The Giants' antenna is raised, but the chances of an Oakland-San Francisco swap are slim, per Paul Ladewski of the San Francisco Examiner:

Multiple sources say the Giants are among the slew of teams that like Zobrist a lot, but history says there’s almost no chance they’ll get him. The A's and Giants haven't completed a trade since the 1990 season. Oh, the two sides do talk, but their track record is more than a bit strange. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers make trades every so often. So do the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the New York Mets and Yankees.

So why not the A’s and the Giants then?

Could be because the A’s and Giants have feuded over territorial rights in Silicon Valley for years, and unless one can flog the other, all deals are off.

There are other options, of course, including Atlanta Braves outfielder Cameron Maybin, whom San Francisco at least "discussed" earlier this month, per ESPN's Buster Olney

The bigger need, though, may be in the starting five. Yes, the Giants have an extra starter, Ryan Vogelsong, stashed in the bullpen. And another, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, is on the DL with hip issues.

The Giants have been linked in trade rumors to David Price and other marquee targets.
The Giants have been linked in trade rumors to David Price and other marquee targets.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press/Associated Press

But overall, San Francisco's rotation consists of World Series hero and unmitigated stud Madison Bumgarner, overachieving rookie Chris Heston and a host of question marks.

Granted, Matt Cain threw six solid innings in his last start July 22. But the 30-year-old right-hander and former workhorse is coming off a pair of surgeries and a forearm issue.

Salty veterans Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy, meanwhile, own ERAs of 4.80 or higher.

Not surprisingly, the Giants have been linked to elite arms like Cole Hamels and David Price by Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. 

Whether they could land a talent in that tier with the chips in their farm system is an open question. Certainly they'd be unwise and unwilling to cough up any big league pieces such as Panik or Heston.

At this point, though, the Giants must give serious thought to being deadline players—not merely tinkering at the margins, but going strong after marquee names that would make them complete, silence the odd-year chatter and cement their dynasty beyond a doubt.

 

All statistics current as of July 26 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.