2011 has been a tumultuous year in San Francisco for the 2010 World Champions. An injury-plagued season for San Francisco will make or break the chance to repeat the feat.
They have lost three of their greatest contributors throughout the season. Seemingly out of no where, they gained another member of their starting rotation whose performance has fit right in with the staff's success.
However in some of these cases, the loss of one player to injury has opened up opportunities to another. Some of the players who filled the void have been outstandingly successful, and others have showed tenacity and potential. Some have disappointed.
With all that has happened in San Francisco in 2011, all we know for sure is that, so far, the Giants have found ways to win games. The team entered the All-Star break with the fifth-best record in baseball and proudly sent five members of the franchise to the All-Star Game in Phoenix.
While San Francisco continues to hold their first place lead in the NL West, Manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean both know that the second half of the season can be a whole different ball game, and want to come out strong in the second half.
The pitching staff has been outstanding as everyone expected. While San Francisco is notorious for lacking offense, injuries have also created voids that the front office will be interested in filling before the trade deadline on July 31.
None of these moves intend to transform the Giants into an offensive powerhouse or replace Buster Posey. However, they should provide the stability that San Francisco needs to be a serious threat.
For everyone out there who still believes that San Francisco has a smaller chance of repeating in 2011 than they had to win it all in 2010, I present to you three trade targets that would address some of the defending champs' greatest obstacles to becoming World Champions again this season.
It makes sense that San Francisco's General Manager Brian Sabean's first priority before the trade deadline is acquiring a much needed offensive spark plug.
However, there is room for improvement around the diamond, and especially behind the plate where Buster Posey's season-ending injury left a gaping hole, offensively, and as a young leader on the team.
Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart, who are sharing time behind the dish for San Francisco are hitting .229 and .172 respectively. There is a lot of respect for both players especially among the Giants pitching staff, however, the Giants need to better fill the void left by Posey if they want to remain contenders.
Ramon Hernandez, who is currently sharing time behind the dish for the Cincinnati Reds with Ryan Hanigan, is the ideal backstop for the Giants to target.
Hernandez is hitting .322 and has 10 homers for the Reds in 2011, in 53 games played. Those are career numbers for Hernandez and an everyday role catching for San Francisco could allow the 35-year-old catcher to make an impact offensively for the Giants as well.
Hernandez will also be a free agent at the end of the season and would be a perfect "rental" for the Giants until Posey returns in 2012. He is a better option than what San Francisco has to offer as backstop from within the organization, if they are serious about going deep into the 2011 postseason.
The Reds are in dire need of starting pitching to stay in the tight NL Central race as their staff has struggled in 2011. The Giants have six starting pitchers. Jonathan Sanchez, who has struggled in SF, might be the answer for Cincinnati.
Sources say that the Giants are looking to acquire an impact hitter, regardless of position. However, it would behoove them to make a move that would also bring some stability to the middle infield spots.
Miguel Tejada has been less than effective at short stop and at third base. He has shown his age with minimal range and speed and is hitting just .243 with a dismal .276 OBP.
Brandon Crawford, who has provided relief defensively at short stop, has shown that there may be a promising future for him in San Francisco, but he has not developed the skills necessary to be successful against big league pitching. Crawford is hitting just .194 in 40 games with San Francisco.
The injury to Freddy Sanchez has brought the same problem to the right side of the infield where he distinguished himself as a leader offensively as well as in the clubhouse, while the three-time All-Star's presence is even more greatly missed defensively on the field. Sanchez will likely be out for the season after the dislocation of a previously injured shoulder.
The Giants should seek infield help not just as a rental for the rest of 2011, but a player to stick around for a few years while players like Crawford, who was brought up straight from San Jose Single A, take necessary time to develop. Rafael Furcal of the Los Angeles Dodgers has several of the characterstics that the Giants desperately need.
Furcal has not had the chance to get hot in 2011 because of first-half injuries. However, he has proved himself throughout his career as an infielder with speed who can contribute offensively. The Giants could use speed anywhere and everywhere, as well as a new leadoff guy with Andres Torres recent struggles at the plate. (.236 BA, 60 SO/ 27 W)
More importantly, the Giants have something that Los Angeles does not...Money.
Furcal is still owed $13 million by the Dodgers, whose financial situation could provide San Francisco the opportunity to purchase the player without having to give up much—other than money.
Jose Reyes has been the talk of trade between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants as he fulfills many of the qualities lacking from San Francisco's lineup. However, heads have turned to New York's other All-Star, who may be easier to acquire for the Giants.
The Giants rank 27th in runs scored. Although they keep finding ways to defeat opponents, it is obvious that they will be seeking offense to solidify their chances to continue their winning ways.
Jose Reyes, 27, and Carlos Beltran, 34, will both be free agents after the season ends. Although Reyes may seem like the perfect piece to the puzzle for San Francisco who in addition to poor offense lacks speed and middle infielders, Carlos Beltran is a better target for a "rental" trade that will bring a much-needed bat to the middle of the order for the rest of 2011.
The Giants can acquire Beltran for a much more reasonable price than the Mets will demand for a superstar like Jose Reyes. Although the Mets will not bargain their six-time All-Star right fielder, the Giants just might have the financial resources to pick up Beltran from a team in dire financial straits like the Mets, without giving up any highly promising prospects.
The Mets have already dealt their all-time, single-season saves record holding closer to Milwaukee. They aren't afraid to send out contributors, like Beltran.
The only glitch in this blockbuster rental is that the Giants already have five outfielders to fill three spots, a few of them with qualities that the Giants aren't ready to let go and others that just don't fit what the Mets are looking for.
However, if the Giants GM Brian Sabean can find a way to bring Beltran to SF, there is no doubt that Bruce Bochy will find a way to make things work.
Not to mention adding another outfielder, especially one with a powerful bat, might free up players like Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand as potential trade bait in other scenarios.