As the 2011 trade deadline approaches, the San Francisco Giants once again find themselves in a provocative situation, deciding whether or not a deadline deal to acquire some offensive help would benefit them, an organization struggling to score runs.
The defending World Champions find themselves atop the National League Western Division, poised to return to the playoffs using similar methods as they did when they won it all last year: peerless starting pitching, a sturdy bullpen, and timely hitting.
Coming into this season, many experts and fans throughout the league felt the Giants were the favorites to win their division again in 2011, yet substantial injuries to key players as well as sub-par performances from other vital components have rendered such predictions questionable.
A major question mark coming into 2011 was the offense. Even with their stellar pitching, could the Giants muster enough run support to return to the World Series, let alone make it back to the playoffs?
Based on the upgraded Giants roster during the 2010 playoffs, many felt that they could.
However, as the 2011 season has moved into July, the Giants offense once again remains at the bottom of the league, and it is costing the team winnable games. Currently, the Giants team batting average is .242, 11th in the National League. They've managed to score a total of 315 runs, good for 13th in the NL.
Those numbers do not boast of a playoff-caliber club.
For many fans, this team is hard to watch. Three total runs can seem like a lot for these Giants, and with pitchers like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Ryan Vogelsong, three runs can be enough from time to time.
Yet the fact remains that if the Giants continue to fail to provide sufficient run support for their pitching staff, the team's win column will suffer. Giants fans need not be reminded that it took all 162 games last year for the Giants to clinch their division.
One loss can be the difference between the postseason and the golf course.
Yet as these frustrations have irritated the Giants front office and fans alike, the Giants should be careful not to make moves that may compromise the franchise's future success.
In previous years, the Giants have attempted to boost offensive support by trading away top prospects and emerging young talent, doing so with marginal success.
AJ Pierzynski in 2004 cost the Giants a budding closer in Joe Nathan and a potential stud starter in Francisco Liriano. That trade turned out to be a disaster. Two years later, the Giants traded promising reliever Jeremy Accardo for a soon-to-be-forgotten Shea Hillenbrand.
In 2011, the Giants are once again seeking to improve an offense beset by injury and slumps—losing catcher Buster Posey and (potentially) second baseman Freddy Sanchez for the year are major setbacks.
In addition, disabled list stints—including those by a resurgent Pablo Sandoval and 2010 NLCS Most Valuable Player Cody Ross—have also hurt.
It is easy to assume that these Giants need a bat or two to remedy their offensive woes—and need it soon.
Let us not forget about the future of this franchise, however.
The Giants still boast one of the top starting rotations in all of baseball, and with starters like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain under contract for the foreseeable future, there is no reason to worry about pitching for the next few seasons. In all likelihood, the bullpen should also remain serviceable.
Despite their offensive woes, the Giants should hopefully be able to count on a few key players to cornerstone their position slots in years to come.
Posey will return from his injury and should emerge as a top catcher in baseball, and if Sandoval can keep off the weight that he worked so hard to lose last offseason, he should also be a consistent threat.
Despite their early struggles at the major league level, infielders Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are also tagged as potential stars. Outfielder Gary Brown—currently playing at the Giants Single-A affiliate in San Jose—has also been touted as a future Giants star.
Lastly, those huge contracts being paid out to starter Barry Zito and outfielder Aaron Rowand will in time be no more, leaving the Giants with a ton of cash to spend on free agents in the future.
However, with a team like the Mets eager to rebuild for the future, one can only speculate what the acquisition of a player like Reyes would cost the Giants. Certainly other teams will be in on the high bidding, and it could be disastrous to see San Francisco trade away some of their key pieces for offensive help that may very well disappear at the end of the season in free agency.
The best option, therefore, may be to sit tight in 2011 and let the cards lie where they fall.
Fresh off a their first World Series Championship since 1954, some Giants fans may state that acquiring that big bat mid season is the only way this team can return to the playoffs again in 2011.
Yet trading away tomorrow's future for a brief time today may be the only way the Giants can sabotage the magic they enjoyed in 2010.
Most fans would probably tolerate a season frustrated by injuries and poor offensive performance for a bright future in which the Giants would be perennial postseason favorites.
Trading that away is the worst thing the Giants could possibly do.
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