As the trade deadline approaches, a lot of people want the Giants to acquire the big power bat they need to shore up their sputtering offense. At this point, however, I just don’t see any way the Giants can put together a package for the kind of player who might actually make a difference without weakening the team just as much somewhere else, as they head into the last two months of the season.
Yes, an Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder would make a big difference in the lineup, but what exactly are the Giants going to have to give up to get a player of this caliber? The answer is obvious—one of their starting pitchers: Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, or Madison Bumgarner.
If that trade is made, who are you going to make the Giants’ fifth starter? No one that I can see, unless you are willing to take on Carlos Zambrano and the potential headaches and enormous future contract commitments he brings with him.
Or the Giants could trade away their future in the form of Pablo Sandoval or Buster Posey? Do you really see that happening? I don’t.
The problem is the Giants really don’t have much top-flight talent in their minor league system. I like Brandon Belt, who is still hitting a ton (.360 with a 1.130 OPS after 86 ABs at Class AA Richmond), but he’s a former fifth round pick with less than a season of professional experience. No one really knows if he’s for real yet.
I like Thomas Neal, also at Richmond, but he isn’t exactly murdering the ball (.289 batting average, .792 OPS as I write this).
Daryl Maday? Getting his brains beaten out at AAA Fresno.
Lefty Eric Surkamp at A+ San Jose? He’s on the DL for an indefinite period after injuring his hip fielding a ground ball on July 18.
Charlie Culberson is looking good in San Jose, hitting .327 with a .904 OPS, but he’s a long, long way from the majors. Even more so with young right-handed pitching prospects Jorge Bucardo and Jose Casilla. You don’t give up proven major league talent at the trade deadline for low, full-season Class A pitchers; there’s too much risk they’ll get hurt before they ever really amount to anything.
I could mention a few other guys I kinda like, but what’s the point? No GM would accept a prospect package centered around any of them.
So what’s left? Joe Rosenthal of Fox Sports thinks the Giants have some interest in the Marlins’ Jorge Cantu, although Giants beat writer Henry Schulman doesn’t agree.
At first blush, the thought of going after Cantu has a certain appeal. He might, in fact, be an extremely cheap acquisition, because Cot’s Baseball Contracts says he will be a free agent at the end of this year. If Cantu continues to play the last two months of 2010 the way he played the first four (he currently has .716 OPS), he won’t be a Type-A free agent, and in any event the Marlins won’t offer him arbitration for fear that he might accept.
As such, the Giants could conceivably acquire Cantu for less than what the Dodgers gave up today to obtain Scott Podsednik from the Royals (more on that below), particularly if the Giants are willing to assume the approximately $2 million left on Cantu’s 2010 contract.
So what if the Giants do acquire Cantu—does it really help them? Not much that I can see.
Cantu can play three positions: first base, second base, and third base. At third, his .716 OPS isn’t significantly better than Pablo Sandoval’s .706 OPS and is worse than Juan Uribe’s .776 OPS.
At second, Cantu beats Freddy Sanchez’s .660 OPS, but Freddy’s .328 on-base percentage is twenty points than Cantu’s. Also, Sanchez plays appreciably better defense, and the Giants aren’t paying Freddy $6 million this year to be a back-up, at least not to someone who isn’t significantly better. Of course, Juan Uribe can also play second.
At first, Cantu, a right-handed hitter, has a .722 OPS against left-handed pitching, while Aubrey Huff, a left-handed hitter, has a .929 OPS against left-handed pitching. The Giants also have Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Travis Ishikawa for platoons or when they want to play Huff in the outfield to get another bat in the lineup.
In short, Cantu would be unlikely to provide the Giants with much more than depth.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers move to get Scott Podsednik looks like a good move for both teams. Podsednik has a .353 on-base percentage so far this year, matching his 2009 mark. He still runs well, Mso he still has value as a top of the lineup hitter.
However, at age 34, Podsednik isn’t likely to be a good player long enough to help the Royals when they finally put together a winning team.
The two minor leaguers the Royals got aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible either. Catcher Lucas May is described as the best catching prospect in the Dodgers system by ESPN.com, but he’s unlikely to develop into a star.
May turns 26 in late October and currently has an .848 OPS at AAA Albuquerque, a good place to hit. My guess is that he develops into a useful back-up catcher at the major league level.
The Royals also received RHP Elisaul Pimentel. He turned 22 about three weeks ago.
Pimentel has a 9-3 record with a 3.49 ERA with good ratios in the Class A Midwest League. He’s another good young arm, but he’s nothing special.
If nothing else, the Royals turned an oldster into minor league depth, which they can certainly use as they continue to build for the future.