MLB Trade Rumors: 10 San Francisco Giants Trades To Offset Philadelphia Phillies

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IDecember 22, 2010

MLB Trade Rumors: 10 San Francisco Giants Trades To Offset Philadelphia Phillies

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    The San Francisco Giants and their fans will have to get accustomed to reminding the Major League Baseball universe that the club is, in fact, the defending 2010 World Series Champion.

    That's simply the reality of the situation created by the raucous winters still being enjoyed in Philadelphia and Boston.

    First, the Red Sox crashed the Orange and Black victory parade with news regarding their impending acquisition of former San Diego Padres centerpiece Adrian Gonzalez. That clarion call was followed by another—the signing of Carl Crawford—and with it, the New Yankees sufficiently announced their return to prominence for all to hear.

    The Phillies were apparently listening and decided to do something about it over in the National League.

    So they one-upped everyone in the Show by snatching the prize of the free-agent class, the Cy Young southpaw Cliff Lee, out from under the noses of several bidders.

    With the departure of Jayson Werth, the Phightins can still argue that they haven't become the first Evil Empire in the Senior Circuit. However, few teams this side of New York and Boston have mega-deals in place for four players (Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley) in addition to sizable price tags attached to six others (Cole Hamels, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino).

    That's $123.5 million committed to 10 players and it includes a discount of about $7 million that the Houston Astros will contribute toward Oswalt's cost. What's more, Philly has over $100 million devoted to six players for 2012—Halladay, Howard, Lee, Oswalt (though there is a buyout option), Utley and Victorino.

    In other words, that's becoming a tougher argument to win.

    Regardless of what happens, los Gigantes will never keep pace with that sort of spending. They can, however, keep pace with that sort of talent considering the foundation has already been laid in the Bay Area and has been secured.

    Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Aubrey Huff, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Jonathan Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres and Brian Wilson will all be in The City for the immediate future. Additionally, there are some young prospects who should make an impact in 2011 or 2012.

    Nevertheless, some of those chips would have to be moved to bring in the kind of talent that would enable the team to compete with the veritable All-Star teams assembled by the abyss-like pockets in the Big Apple, Beantown and the City of Brotherly Love.

    The question is, which ones?

Primary Trade Chips—Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito

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    Alright, so the question isn't a tough one.

    The Giants aren't gonna move the Freak, Cainer, Gerald Demp the Third or MadBum for any deal cobbled together by a sane general manager. Furthermore, guys like Huff, Sandoval, Torres and Wilson are hugely valuable to San Francisco, but they're not the kind of primary lures who will draw out the big fish (with the possible exception of the celebrity closer).

    There's also the matter of the ongoing conversion of lefty Dan Runzler from reliever to starter.

    Now, there's a chance the move was predicated on the 25-year-old's knee injury suffered this year. It's always possible the nuances of the bugaboo make a starting gig less problematic than one in the bullpen. That doesn't seem to make sense, but I'm not an orthopedic surgeon.

    Or perhaps the party line of prepping him to be an emergency starter/long reliever might be sincere.

    That seems like an odd way of using a talent like the southpaw, though, so let's explore the question the decision begs: Could San Francisco be preparing to trade either Barry Zito or Jonathan Sanchez?

    Given Zito's hot start in 2010, his steady improvement in 'Frisco and his name's cachet, you might be able to swindle some sucker into giving up a big bat for a deal assembled around Zeets in a vacuum. But we all know he comes with at least $64.5 million guaranteed over the next three years.

    The Gents would either have to keep paying all that salary while Barry twirls for someone else or they'd have to reduce their asking price in return (to basically nothing). Both options are non-starters.

    And that leaves Jonathan Sanchez.

    Dirty is still only 28 and that lands him on the front slope of his prime years. He's coming off his best year to date, he's steadily improved across the board for three years since becoming a regular in the rotation and boasts a famous no-hitter on his resume.

    Yes, Sanchez is erratic and cataclysmic control issues are always a few bad breaks from the surface.

    Nevertheless, his profile compares favorably to all but the elite of the elite amongst young starters.

    All of the above makes Jonathan Sanchez far and away the most obvious candidate to be traded.

Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Sanchez for Nick Markakis

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    Why It Makes Sense

    Markakis is a 27-year-old threat across the board—he's got a five-year career slash line of .298/.368/.463, plays an excellent outfield and his throwing arm is a legitimate weapon. While his  power hasn't blossomed as planned and his speed hasn't translated to stolen bases, he's still a superstar in the making.

    The right fielder would immediately become one of the Giants' most productive hitters and a legitimate middle-of-the-order asset.

    However, Markakis is employed by a team that can't afford to waste any money considering the O's must compete with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, depleted-but-dangerous Tampa Bay Rays and the onrushing Toronto Blue Jays.

    And Nick the Stick isn't currently earning the $10.25 million he will take home in 2011, a figure that rises to $12 million in 2012 and $15 million for 2013-14.

    Unless Baltimore plans to open up its budget, that's a hefty sum to devote to one player and it might even be fatal in a division that requires a stacked deck simply to get in the contention conversation.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    The Orioles aren't exactly hurting for pitching, boasting several young studs like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. What's more, Baltimore trolls a not-insignificant market given its proximity to Washington, D.C.

    That is, there's nothing in stone that says the O's won't increase the payroll.

    With the Washington Nationals becoming a larger presence, that wouldn't seem likely. But never say never.

    Additionally, the brass might decided to go the treasure-trove-of-prospects route if they were ever to consider moving Markakis. Instead of opting for an immediate upgrade at the pro level, the Orioles could do what many other cost-conscious clubs do and swap him for a handful of blue-chip prospects.

    Finally, there's the matter of Dirty's inconsistency—even if the O's were to decide they wanted to translate Nick's contract into a more efficient marshaling of resources at the major-league level, it's possible they'd require a safer bet.

    Jonathan Sanchez could be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball if he could add consistency to his repertoire, but that's been the party line for several years now.

Cleveland Indians: Jonathan Sanchez for Grady Sizemore

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    Why It Makes Sense

    Again, Grady Sizemore is a superb ballplayer, but he's also overpriced since getting the big pay bump in 2008. That year was wonderful, but 2009 was underwhelming thanks to injury woes and 2010 was almost totally erased by the same.

    Making matters worse from a cost-benefit perspective is this double-whammy: he's only under team control until 2012 and that would require forking over at least $16 million in the next two years.

    The deal also seems to sync up with the Tribe's personnel—a healthy Sizemore would obviously be missed, but Cleveland has a good deal of depth in the outfield with Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe and even Matt LaPorta if need be.

    More importantly, even an inconsistent Jonathan Sanchez would become arguably the ace of a rotation led by Fausto Carmona. Let's be pragmatic and concede his numbers (3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, opponents' slash line of .204/.307/.343) would take a hit moving out of the pitching-friendly confines of AT&T Park and the National League West.

    Regardless of whether the filthy southpaw would be No. 1 or No. 2, he'd be an immediate and sizable upgrade.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    If Sizemore bounces back and is 100-percent healthy again, you might argue he's a bargain at only $18 million for two years (in this scenario, incentives would trigger a $2 million increase for 2012). Back in '08, he hit 33 bombs, stole 39 bases while getting caught only five times and he got on base at a .374 clip.

    Toss in the superlative leather and the 28-year-old is one of the best in The Show.

    Even if he doesn't, it seems Cleveland has a $500,000 buyout option at the end of 2011 so they aren't necessarily on the hook for 2012. In other words, the franchise "only" risks $8 million to see what it has in Grady.

    However, let's return to that gargantuan 'if' and take a look from the San Francisco side of the table.

    The Giants would have to be pretty flippin' certain that they were getting the real deal version of Grady Sizemore before parting with Sanchez. As noted, the dude is a stellar option even as is. At 28, he'd be pushing for the ace's mantle on a lot of clubs and that only enhances his value as SF's likely No. 4 starter.

    Can you imagine the nuclear fallout in Bay Area if general manager Brian Sabean shipped Dirty off to he shores of Lake Erie only to see Sizemore break down and Sanchez make the next leap?

    There wouldn't be enough torches and pitchforks to go around.

Florida Marlins: Jonathan Sanchez for Logan Morrison

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    Why It Makes Sense

    The Fish are loaded to the gills (ah-thank you) with outfield talent—in addition to the 23-year-old Morrison, they've got Mike Stanton (21), Chris Coughlan (25) and Scott Cousins (25) already at the pro level. The surplus was used up a bit when Cameron Maybin was sent packing to the San Diego Padres, but the dollar-wise Marlins clearly have an eye for recognizing/developing young stallions to roam the big green. 

    Granted, Morrison is the second youngest in the stable (for the mathematically challenged) and he's arguably the second most exciting behind everyone's favorite fantasy waiver-wire keeper (Stanton).

    But there is a cost of doing business to all trades and, as previously mentioned, Jonathan Sanchez isn't chopped liver.

    And he's also not scheduled to become a free agent until 2013.

    The lefty made $2.1 million last season and figures to get a considerable bump via arbitration, but he'll still be a bargain when you consider what starting pitching is going for on the open market.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    Florida is just as flush with young, talented starting pitching as it is in the outfield.

    With Josh Johnson firmly established as the team's ace and Ricky Nolasco's grip on the No. 2 slot equally tight, the front of the rotation can go toe-to-toe with its counterpart on most MLB clubs. Javier Vazquez and Anibal Sanchez are dandy Nos. 3 and 4, and the 24-year-old Chris Volstad has shown glimmers of greatness.

    But those hurlers all share something else in addition to a general pitching acumen; they're all right-handed.

    Jonathan Sanchez is left-handed and probably represents an upgrade to every member of the rotation not named Josh Johnson.

    There's also at least reason for San Francisco to pause—Morrison is far from a known quantity at this point, though he showed blinding promising in his first 62 major-league games. Nevertheless, the kid's true value still lies in his potential at this embryonic stage of his career.

    Sacrificing Sanchez to find out if Logan can reach his ceiling in the Orange and Black would be a considerable gamble.

Houston Astros: Jonathan Sanchez and Thomas Neal for Hunter Pence

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    Why It Makes Sense

    The 'Stros have put together the beginnings of a nice little rotation down in Houston while nobody was looking. Wandy Rodriguez is a step or two away from being a legitimate ace, Brett Myers had a fine year in 2010, J.A. Happ was a revelation after coming over from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal and Bud Norris is a promising 25-year-old.

    But the rotation needs a fifth member and the current options aren't all that appealing. Furthermore, neither Happ nor Norris are guaranteed to be long-term assets.

    Jonathan Sanchez and Rodriguez would give the team two scintillating southpaws to sandwich around Myers, making a formidable trio atop the rotation.

    Meanwhile, Hunter Pence totes around the perfect profile for AT&T Park—he's got speed to abuse Triples Alley, enough pop to juice it out when the conditions are right (and sometimes even when they aren't) and he plays with the boyish energy that immediately endears an individual to a clubhouse/fan base.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    Quite simply, Hunter Pence might be too valuable to Houston.

    Sanchez' talents should be clear and Thomas Neal is arguably the Giants' most exciting outfield prospect (assuming Brandon Belt is now a first base prospect), but the 27-year-old Pence is already a five-tool ball of energy and he should be entering his prime.

    Chuck in the fact that he's under team control until 2014 and you can see why the Astros would be loathe to part with him, even to turn the starting rotation from possible weakness to probable strength.

    And that's before factoring in the likelihood that Hunter is the heir to the Jeff Bagwell-Craig Biggio throne as the next great offensive centerpiece in Houston.

Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Sanchez for Billy Butler

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    Why It Makes Sense

    Ah, the Royals—what a beautiful disaster this club is.

    Just when they seem to be cobbling together some semblance of a contender, KC goes and pushes the plunger on the whole thing by moving their most valuable player. I know he was apparently disgruntled (who wouldn't be?) and I know he'll be a free agent in 2013, but Zack Greinke's departure leaves a gaping hole in Kansas City's meager hopes for relevancy.

    It also reduces the Royals' starting rotation to mere rubble—they've got to form a five-man set using Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, Sean O'Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro, Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow and...I don't know, duct tape?

    Jonathan Sanchez wouldn't exactly replace the former Cy Young winner, but he'd immediately and unquestionably become the ace.

    On other side of the equation, Billy Butler represents an immediate and substantial offensive upgrade. Not only that, but the 24-year-old is also the kind of thumper who shouldn't be nullified by the foreboding peculiarities of AT&T Park.

    Butler proved in 2010 that he doesn't need to hit home runs to be a superior threat with the splinter—he only launched 15 dingers, but he hit .318 with 45 doubles while posting a .388 on-base percentage. All of those numbers will play in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    Though he spent a fair number of innings at first base for the Crowns, Butler is better suited to be a designated hitter so he's not a match for the still-fragile and emerging philosophy in San Francisco that focuses on pitching and defense.

    The Gents already have one weighty issue that became a prohibitive defensive liability in Pablo Sandoval at third base. Inviting another opposite the hot corner might be a deal breaker.

    Additionally, Billy won't be a free agent until 2014 and it's not like any single player could turn the Royals into a 2011 contender so Kansas City might be content to sit on a relatively cheap, controllable commodity.

Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Sanchez and Travis Ishikawa for Prince Fielder

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    Why It Makes Sense

    This is the old standard in San Francisco—whenever longing eyes turn to possible offensive trade targets, the Prince is almost invariably the first name mentioned.

    That's because he's young at 26, he's got prodigious power (his 32 HR in 2010 represented a down year), he'll be a free agent after 2011 and his agent is that parasite Scott Boras which means he WILL hit the open market unless a team is willing to pay whatever absurd price the coprophagous agent can conjure up.

    However, touting Fielder's power as the big selling point might be underestimating Cecil's kid—the mountain of a man-child has a career on-base percentage of .385 and has posted consecutive seasons over .400 in the category. He set a career-high in walks in 2010 and—though it came at the expense of the big fly—Prince is showing signs of becoming a more complete, more dangerous hitter.

    San Francisco has the potential budget to lock down a Boras client.

    The question is whether the Giants' brass still has the stomach for it.

    As for Milwaukee, they'd be getting yet another flamethrower to fortify what has already become a strength (the rotation) and a defensive wizard who showed a true flare for timely offensive contributions in Travis Ishikawa.

    Neither of those skills should be dismissed by a team that already boasts enough firepower, but could use an infusion of flashy leather.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    The window for acquiring Milwaukee Brewers might've closed until further notice with the acquisition of Zack Greinke. It would be very odd for the Brew Crew to make a splash like that, only to jump immediately back out of the pool by trading their second fiddle to Ryan Braun.

    Further muddying the waters is the fact that Milwaukee's rotation is suddenly looking ferocious with Greinke joining Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum at the top.

    El Chupacabra (a nickname that sounds a LOT less badass when translated to English as "The Goat Sucker") in a bona fide ace at 24 and Marcum was one of the top young talents in the game before elbow surgery derailed his meteoric rise.

    Randy Wolf is a fine option at No. 4 and the Brewers could do worse than rolling the dice with Chris Narveson and/or the ever-present Manny Parra in the fifth slot.

    And don't underestimate Boras' shadow befouling the scene—even if the Giants were willing to pay top-dollar to keep Fielder around for the long-term, the prospect of doing so at his agent's customarily inflated prices might be too much.

New York Yankees: Jonathan Sanchez and Aaron Rowand for Curtis Granderson

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    Why It Makes Sense

    I took a couple shots at the Red Sox and Phllies on the opening slide, but—in truth—the Yankees are still in a universe unto themselves and it's a universe where money almost literally has no meaning. In other words, they are the only club that would take on an insanely bloated contract as part of a package deal on the off-chance that the player would be valuable in a role-player capacity.

    Granted, this deal still dies on the table if general manager Brian Cashman was being sincere when he said the Bronx Bombers are preparing to go to battle without acquiring another front-line starter.

    If that's the reality, then New York isn't desperately working the phones in search of a pitcher to soften the blow dealt by Cliff Lee's ink in Philadelphia.

    But considering the winter being authored in Boston—the Sawks have also added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler along with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford—and the ado raised by the Phillies, I'd say there has to be at least a tinge of panic to the pinstripes.

    With the ascension of Brett Gardner, the popularity and effectiveness of Nick Swisher, and the underwhelming first year in New York enjoyed by Curtis Granderson, there might be an opening for prying the fleet-footed center fielder away from the Big Apple.

    Sanchez would help fill out the rotation with a more dangerous array of arms and Rowand's just the type of player who the Yankees used to ride to World Series titles—a gritty competitor with a knack for big contributions in big moments.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    Even for the Yankees, Aaron Rowand is an enormously inefficient investment and would be virtually useless to the club until the postseason (and possibly even then) barring a jaw-dropping renaissance. Stranger things have happened, but generally not to New York.

    Of course, he might be pressed into everyday duty if Marcus Thames weren't a viable option and the Bombers couldn't pick up a more suitable option in the outfield before Opening Day. One of those three scenarios would be necessary, though, if Granderson were used to bring in a more reliable starter since the Yanks are surprisingly thin in the outfield.

    All of which means Jonathan Sanchez would have to have the extreme confidence of the New York front office before such a drastic move was entertained.

    Dirty is good, but he's not unassailable by any means and even his biggest fans would have to concede the image of him in front of an unforgiving (and unrealistic) New York crowd is...unsettling.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jonathan Sanchez and Darren Ford for Andrew McCutchen

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    Why It Makes Sense

    From the haves to the have-nots; the Bucs are on the opposite end of the budgetary spectrum from the New York Yankees. Whereas the Bombers barely see costs, increasing dollar signs generally scare the Pirates into action when most teams would be enjoying the growth of a prospect.

    Which brings us to McCutchen—this kid is 24 and already has 262 games under his belt. In those contests, he's posted a slash line of .286/.365/.459 with 61 2B, 14 3B, 28 HR and 55 SB. Furthermore, he's done a lot of that damage as Pittsburgh star attraction despite his young age.

    He's also a wizard with the glove; the dynamo gives new definition to the phrase "he plays a shallow center field," yet seldom gets burned on balls over his head.

    All of that means Mr. McCutchen might threaten to break the Pirates' fragile bank when he hits arbitration for the first time following the 2012 season.

    Remember, Ryan Howard got $10 million in his first trip to arbitration despite only 2+ years of service (the 2006 NL MVP helped). Miguel Cabrera got $7.4 million in his first crack at arbitration with 3+ years of service (which is what McCutchen will have). Alfonso Soriano lost his case against the Washington Nationals and got $10 million.

    Andrew might not have the power that these guys possess, but he's already a more complete baseball player because of his defense and his bat only figures to get better.

    And can you imagine Pittsburgh paying a single player—any player—that much money?

    Neither can I.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    Even though the Buccos are the team that gave San Francisco Rajai Davis and another player for Matt Morris in 2007, they can't be completely brain-dead.

    The powers-that-be must realize what they have on their hands in Andrew McCutchen.

    If ever they were to keep a promising young kid, this would be the one to keep. So Pittsburgh would be bargaining with a bit more leverage than the franchise typically wields when it comes to the bargaining table. The brass might feel it can bluff its way to a bigger haul of talent than a major-league proven left-hander and a blur of base-stealing speed who is otherwise unrefined.

    And they'd be right.

    If you turned Jonathan Sanchez Big League prowess into unproven blue-chip talent, you could probably get two can't-miss prospects or three top-tier ones.

St. Louis Cardinals: Jonathan Sanchez for Colby Rasmus

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    Why It Makes Sense

    All kinds of grumbling have been coming out of St. Louis ever since it came to light that the 24-year-old Rasmus wasn't entirely happy under the Gateway Arch. The issue seems to have been publicly squashed, but any time the face of the franchise (Albert Pujols) blasts you in the permanent record, it can't ever be far from the surface.

    What happens if Colby has a strong start, begins to feel his oats again and starts speaking out of place? What's Prince Albert gonna say then? And how is manager Tony La Russa—by most accounts the genesis of the tension with Rasmus—gonna react?

    That's one hell of a potential mess with which to open the 162-game season.

    Given the cantankerous nature of both first baseman and manager, there's a decent chance little hot spots will emerge during the regular-season marathon so why invite trouble before it even begins?

    And even though St. Louis is fully stocked in the rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse, only the first two would be obviously better options than Sanchez.

    Garcia might become a more reliable starter, but he's not there yet.

    Plus, Jonathan would add a bit more lefty-righty balance to the rotation.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    The Cards missed the playoffs in 2010 for a variety of reasons, but you'd be hard-pressed to find much fault with the starting rotation.

    In fact, thanks to a down year from Pujols and an uneven one from Matt Holliday, St. Louis was offensively very similar to the Giants and that ain't good. It's not horrible, but the front office probably has more of an eye toward improving the batting order at this juncture.

    Such a reclamation project might get off to a successful start using Lohse or Westbrook as seed money (in the event STL moves Rasmus for a pitcher), but those are two pretty gnarly contracts to move. Lohse will make almost $12 million for the next two years while Westbrook just re-upped for two years and $16.5 million.

    So, yes, Jonathan Sanchez represents a much cheaper and much more effective weapon than either Lohse or Westbrook.

    But swapping the problematic Rasmus for hitting help would be a much more direct route to improving the Cardinals' biggest vulnerability.

    And that's all assuming Colby is still on the block despite the public posturing.

Texas Rangers: Jonathan Sanchez and Thomas Neal for Nelson Cruz

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    Why It Makes Sense

    Here's another team that might be on tilt after Cliff Lee shocked the baseball world and signed with the Phillies. Let's face it—the Texas Rangers don't make it to the World Series without the special southpaw.

    He might not have been Cy Young-caliber down the stretch of the regular season, but he cranked it up in the American League Division Series and Championship Series. Lee climbed inside the New York Yankee and Tampa Bay Ray skulls, and he didn't leave until they were quivering masses of human gelatin.

    And now he's gone.

    In his place, he leaves a rotation that still could be pretty good, but is in need of another intimidating weapon in the event Derek Holland doesn't materialize quickly enough (or ever) as a starter.

    Jonathan Sanchez is not Cliff Lee, not by a long shot. But he is good and getting better, plus we've covered his relatively cheap price tag and team-friendly contract situation.

    Additionally, Thomas Neal would soften the offensive loss of Nelson Cruz. He wouldn't be ready to contribute right away, but the Rangers have thump to compensate in the short-term for the loss of a dangerous splinter and they've routinely needed to do so even while Cruz was on the squad.

    The big bopper has yet to play a full 162-game slate thanks to physical maladies of the nagging ilk.

     

    Why It Doesn't Make Sense

    The last time the Rangers saw Dirty, he didn't look very good as the big stage of the World Series seemed to rattle the southpaw's cage a bit.

    Further complicating the issue is the fact that Cruz finds himself in a team-friendly contract situation as well—he's not eligible to become a free agent until 2014 and doesn't figure to get beastly raises via arbitration until he plays a full season (or closer there to).

    But there would also be some hesitation on the San Francisco side.

    After all, Cruz is a special ballplayer, but his biggest asset is his power and we've all seen how that value gets reduced by the heavy fog and spacious dimensions of AT&T Park. Not to mention his health concerns—the Giants would be giving up a potential ace and possible star in the outfield so they better be sure they're going to be able to use the bauble they'd get in return.

    With Nelson Cruz, that's not a given.

     

     

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