G.M. Sabean's offensive priorities may be evolving
A realistic assessment of the 2011 San Francisco Giants leads you to one inescapable conclusion: The club needs more offense.
Prior to losing Buster Posey for the season, G.M. Brian Sabean figured to be shopping for a shortstop to replace Miguel Tejada, who appears to have nothing left in the tank.
The eye-opening play of rookie Brandon Crawford has made that a somewhat lower priority. Pablo Sandoval's imminent return will settle things at third base, and Aubrey Huff's homer-fest Thursday in St. Louis suggests he may be back on his game.
But two serious gaps remain.
One is at catcher. Eli Whiteside is a liability (batting .200) on a club that needs offense.
The other is in the outfield. Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell have virtually played themselves out of meaningful roles, leaving Bruce Bochy with limited flexibility.
Here are seven trade targets for the Giants, suitable to filling both voids.
Paulino has plus-offensive skills
Paulino can hit (.275 career, .327 this year sharing playing time with Josh Thole) and is adequate defensively, throwing out 31 percent of base runners.
The Mets, likely sellers as the trade deadline nears, may be willing to move Paulino to give the younger Thole more playing time.
And, with Posey likely to return in 2012, Paulino is an acceptable short-term option. He is under contract through 2011 at $1.3 million per year.
Doumit's ankle injury may give Sabean pause
The Pirates' Doumit is another decent-hitting right-handed catcher who, until recently, was splitting time with switch-hitting Chris Snyder.
In late May, Doumit suffered a non-displaced left ankle fracture (a far less severe injury than Posey's) and is likely out until early July.
Assuming he is medically cleared, Doumit is another decent option for the rest of 2011. A career .269 hitter, the 30-year-old Doumit has never approached his 2008 career bests of 15 HRs and a .318 BA.
The Pirates signed Doumit to a three-year, $11 million contract extension after his career year in 2008. He hasn't lived up to it, and a move might be good for all concerned.
Olivo spent one season in the NL West, with San Diego
Olivo would cost slightly more than Paulino or Doumit, and is under contract for 2012 (second year of a two-year, $7 million deal). His offensive numbers are roughly comparable.
It's less clear if the Mariners, involved in a tight AL West race, will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Olivo had a productive 2010 as the Rockies' starting catcher (14 HRs, 58 RBIs, .269). His knowledge of the division would be a plus.
The 32-year-old Olivo is defensively solid; he threw out 42 percent of would-be base stealers in 2010.
Kubel would be a high-cost rental
Acquiring Minnesota's Jason Kubel is a high-risk, (possibly) high-reward option. In essence, the Giants would rent Kubel for a few months, hoping he jump-starts their offense toward another title. And he wouldn't come cheap.
Kubel is a proven run producer (career .274 hitter, 103 and 92 RBIs in last two years), has an expiring contract, and plays for a club that is far out of playoff contention and likely ready to retool.
The Twins would be especially interested in dealing Kubel to San Francisco if they can acquire pitching in return. The Twins have major league baseball's worst ERA (4.87), and Brian Sabean has more pitching to offer Minnesota than most G.M.'s.
That, of course, assumes that Sabean is willing to give up pitching for a guy who will be a free agent at season's end and a likely target of big-budget clubs. Giant fans remember all too well the last time Sabean made a deal with Minnesota, giving up pitching for a big bat. (Can you say Pierzynski?)
(Side note: Kubel is on the 15-day DL with a foot injury not believed serious.)
Cuddyer is likely to be moved by the Twins
The Twins' Michael Cuddyer is an older, somewhat safer and more versatile option than Jason Kubel.
Like Kubel, he becomes a free agent at season's end. Unlike Kubel, his productivity has declined since signing a four-year extension in 2008. After driving in 175 runs over 2009 and 2010, Cuddyer has slumped noticeably this year (13 RBIs through 49 games).
Cuddyer would also be a rental, but brings added versatility. He plays multiple positions (outfield, second base), giving Bruce Bochy added flexibility and insurance if Freddie Sanchez goes down.
Sabean could likely acquire Cuddyer for less than Kubel.
Murphy could join 2010 World Series foe
The Rangers' David Murphy has been a productive (career .276, 65 RBIs in 2010) fourth outfielder in Texas. He could be 2011s version of Pat Burrell, providing a power and run-producing boost to the Giants.
Rumors have had the 30-year-old Murphy on the Arizona Diamondbacks' trade radar. He is slumping (.224, 14 RBIs) and relatively low-risk, with an expiring 2011 contract paying him $2.4 million.
Brian Sabean may gamble that rookie Brandon Belt can provide steady offense in a four-man outfield rotation (with Ross, Torres and Schierholtz), but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the G.M. acquire a veteran for insurance. Murphy fits the mold.
Hardy has had his best years in the N.L.
San Francisco Giants rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford has made a big splash since his recent promotion. Giants brass (and fans) hope he solidifies a position that has been staffed with aging fill-ins for several years.
It's conceivable that G.M. Brian Sabean would like an alternative if Crawford fades and needs more minor-league seasoning. Utility infielder Mike Fontenot (when healthy) is an alternative, but Orioles shortstop J.J.Hardy would bring more offensive pop.
After a promising start, the Orioles have faded to the bottom of the competitive AL East. They'll be in a selling mood as the trade deadline approaches. And with 2010 first-round draftee Manny Machado killing it in A-ball, the O's may be willing to move Hardy for prospects.
Hardy had five decent years in Milwaukee before going in 2010, via trade, to Minnesota. His one-year deal with Baltimore expires at the end of 2011. He may be one of those guys who is better suited for one league (in this case, the NL) than the other.
A couple of other A.L. shortstops, including the Red Sox Marco Scutaro, have been mentioned as possible trade options for San Francisco, but Hardy's familiarity with the senior circuit makes him a better option.