Giants closer Wilson is a better pitcher and entertainer than personnel man
Relax, everyone. No truth to the rumor that former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is advising San Francisco Giants G.M. Brian Sabean on strategies for recruiting Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is expected to be dealt by next weekend's trade deadline.
Besides: Sabean has no need for traditional recruiting intermediaries like tattoo parlors or car dealers. He's got an ace-in-the-hole: his closer (and surreptitious player personnel adviser), Brian Wilson.
First, Beltran joined Wilson and the rest of the Giants' large All-Star contingent on their charter flight from San Francisco (where the Mets had just concluded a weekend series) to Phoenix for the July 12 game.
Then, Wilson announced live—during Fox's All-Star game telecast—his endorsement of acquiring Beltran to boost the Giants sagging offense.
Wilson later told Giant beat writer Andy Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News:
"You know, talking facts. I guess we're in talks, and we're talking about Beltran," he said. "Everyone knows he's a perennial hitter. He can only help our squad. I think we have a good thing going already—we are in first place."
Is Wilson as shrewd at assessing trade possibilities as closing games? Here are four reasons this writer thinks not.
Alderson wants top-drawer prospects; the Giants won't part with theirs
According to ESPN New York writer Adam Rubin, the Mets are prepared to absorb all of Beltran's remaining 2011 salary, roughly $6 million, preferring to trade him for top-tier prospects.
That might make sense to Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson (pictured above). Not, however, to Brian Sabean, who has made restocking the Giants' farm system a top priority since the Barry Bonds era ended in 2007.
The Giants rode the Bonds train as far as it could take them, and the price to the organization of that "let's-win-now" approach was steep; the club had no reservoir of young players to succeed the aging veterans the club had acquired to complement Bonds.
Developing pitchers was the club's first priority. Last year's World Series title was the first tangible return on that investment.
Developing position players (and more pitchers) came next. That is a work still in progress. It's difficult to imagine that Sabean would deal precious blue-chip prospects for a bat—even one as productive as Beltran's—with his club gradually expanding its lead in the NL West.
I'd bet the farm that Zach Wheeler, Gary Brown and Brandon Belt—three of the organization's most prized players—are staying put.
There's painful irony here. Bolstered by season-long sellouts and rising ancillary revenue streams, the Giants are finally willing to spend what it takes to bolster their roster. Unfortunately (perhaps), Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson doesn't appear to want their cash as much as their prospects.
Beltran puts up impressive numbers - but is he durable?
Imagine deciding to buy a pre-owned luxury car after years of settling for economy and practicality.
You find the model you want and are willing to pay the asking price. But you know the car has mileage on it. And your budget won't allow you to replace it in the event of a major breakdown.
Substitute "Carlos Beltran" for "luxury car" and you see the dilemma facing Brian Sabean: can Beltran be counted on to stay healthy through the rest of 2011 and what the club hopes is a lengthy postseason?
Let's stipulate: Carlos Beltran would help the Giants offense. He'd help any offense. His career numbers are impressive and eerily consistent.
He hits everywhere (home/road): .283/.281 BA, .363/.357 OBP, .476/.512 SLG.
He rarely slumps (first half/second half): .277/.289 BA, .354/.369 OBP, .480/.515 SLG.
He is consistent: 145 HR's, 558 RBI from April to June; 149 HR's, 563 RBI from July to October.
Projected over a full season, Beltran's 2011 numbers would be: 25 HR's, 107 RBI. His career average? 28 HRs, 106 RBI.
Through the first 10 of Beltran's 13 major league seasons he was a model of durability, appearing in fewer than 140 games only once: in 2000, with Kansas City (98 games).
But in 2009-10, Beltran missed more games (179) than he played (145). And that's Sabean's dilemma: can he count on a 34-year-old to remain healthy less than a year removed from a serious injury?
Promoting prospects like Belt makes more sense than trading for Beltran
While Beltran probably is headed out of Queens, the New York media machine has turned speculation about his likely destination into a circus. Were he a Kansas City Royal or Seattle Mariner or Cincinnati Red, this would still be a big story—but not nearly as big.
The general hype surrounding Beltran, added to surprisingly superficial knowledge of the Giants' situation among some national baseball writers, has elevated the Beltran-to-San Francisco rumors beyond credulity.
A sober analysis of this situation is in order.
As has already been noted, the Giants have altered their previous approach to building a roster: Pay Barry, surround him with decent (affordable) talent and hope for the best.
That got San Francisco within an eye lash of the 2002 World Series title, several playoff appearances, a history-making home run chase and a spectacular flame-out when age caught up to Bonds. It didn't help that several free-agent acquisitions were busts, and there weren't adequate internal replacements.
The farm-system-first approach has brought the franchise its first World Series title in San Francisco history and positioned the club to contend for years to come. Adding selectively through free agency or trade is part of the plan—see Tuesday's trade for infielder Jeff Keppinger as evidence—but splashy, high-priced players like Beltran don't fit the formula.
Keppinger can play multiple positions, and was hitting .300
The list includes several clubs with plenty of dough to toss around, and others with plenty of prospects to dangle.
Problem is, fewer than a dozen clubs entered the week out of contention in their division or wild card races to clearly be trade-deadline sellers. The rest are clear contenders or unprepared to admit otherwise.
That means demand for talent, for now, exceeds supply. And that drives up prices for clubs seeking to add depth or fill a critical need.
San Francisco G.M. Brian Sabean knows his club needs an offensive boost. He's already taken small steps to address the need: promoting Brandon Belt (who drove in three runs with a homer and double against the Dodgers Tuesday night) and trading for Astro infielder Jeff Keppinger.
Sabean knows how dangerous it is to get into a bidding war against clubs with deeper pockets and farm systems. He's likelier to hunt and peck for versatile players offering incremental improvement than go for the proverbial home run.