Giants GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy look to win again
Brian Sabean made several great moves in 2010 and along with manager Bruce Bochy, helped guide the Giants to their first world championship in San Francisco. The Giants are actually in better position to win their division this year than at the same time in 2010.
However, the Giants are not just looking to win the NL West but are trying to defend their World Series title. In order to have the best chance of advancing through playoffs against the likes of Philadelphia and Atlanta and also to beat the American League team, some roster enhancement is recommended.
The Giants made an excellent move earlier this week by acquiring infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros. They gave up minor league pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel, neither of whom were considered top prospects.
Keppinger is a very good contact hitter and can play second, short and third base. He will be used mostly at second base, enabling Mike Fontenot to move to shortstop when the Giants want to sit rookie Brandon Crawford.
The acquisition of Keppinger was particularly important because both Fontenot and Crawford are left-handed hitters. Keppinger bats right and is particularly tough on left-handed pitchers, with a .421 batting average against southpaws.
Coming to San Francisco, Keppinger was hitting .307 overall.
Giant fans will like this guy as he will remind you of Freddy Sanchez. He has good bat control and will hit line drives all over the field. Defensively, he is not as good as Sanchez, but he is decent.
Keppinger's addition also means the Giants are very unlikely to make a serious run at Jose Reyes. I'm sure they inquired about the Mets' star shortstop, but the asking price was undoubtedly very high.
Let's now take a look at the top five options remaining for the Giants as the the trade deadline approaches.
Hunter Pence is a budding star
Hunter Pence is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He is also the Astros' best player, and the outfielder could be available for the right offer.
Pence has a career average of .291 over five seasons and is currently hitting .315. Pence also has hit 25 home runs in each of the past three years and currently has 11 in 2011.
The Giants would need to offer an attractive package to the Astros to get Pence, which would include a top prospect or two. A package along the lines of Zack Wheeler, Dan Runzler and Gary Brown or Thomas Neal might be required to pry Pence out of Houston.
Acquiring Pence would be expensive but worth it. He is one of the top hitting outfielders in the game today.
Unlike a rental type player such as Jose Reyes, however, Pence has two more years where he would be under the Giants' arbitration control. This is significant because the Giants can actually sign Pence to a one-year deal and see if they want to invest bigger money in a long term contract for him after 2012.
He currently makes $6.9 million and would likely jump to somewhere around $10 million to $12 million in 2012. I believe Pence would be worth it and give the Giants their starting left fielder for as long as they have him.
Carlos Beltran of the Mets is on the trading block
Carlos Beltran is one of the sexiest names being tossed about in trade discussions. The financially troubled Mets have already dealt closer Francisco Rodriguez and are listening to offers for Beltran and shortstop Jose Reyes.
Beltran is being pursued by a number of teams, making the price to make a deal pretty high, even though he will be a free agent at the end of the season. Beltran currently makes over $20 million in 2011, so the Giants would need to add roughly $6.6 million for the remainder of the season.
In addition to the financial ramifications of getting Beltran, the Giants would likely need to part with one of their top prospects, plus other decent players or prospects.
A package along the lines of Jonathan Sanchez and Gary Brown or perhaps Santiago Casilla and Brandon Belt might be what it takes to get Beltran. Either of these scenarios would be a lot to give up, but the time is now for the Giants to try and win another world championship.
At age 34, Beltran does not run like he used to and has suffered through various knee injuries. He is healthy now, however and playing some of his best baseball in years. Beltran is a difference maker and someone that can carry a team when he's hot.
The All-Star outfielder is currently hitting .293 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI. He would be a great fit for the Giants in left field, albeit for likely just the rest of 2011.
The Giants need to be cautious about a long term contract for Beltran, due to his age and injury history. On the flip side, Beltran will be looking to get another big pay day, so signing him to a long term deal would be problematic for the Giants.
General manager Brian Sabean will need to carefully weigh the price tag in terms of dollars and players before pulling the trigger on a deal for Beltran.
It may be that with several other teams making overtures to the Mets, the cost may be deemed too high for the Giants to make a deal.
Michael Cuddyer is a solid hitter and versatile defenisive player
Michael Cuddyer is a solid hitter and versatile defensive player. Offensively, Cuddyer is hitting .297 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI. He impressed the Giants during interleague play when he came to San Francisco and just raked the ball all over the yard.
Defensively, Cuddyer can play first or second base and the outfield. With the recent acquisition of infielder Jeff Keppinger, I project Cuddyer as a left fielder in San Francisco.
Cuddyer would not come cheap, even though he is eligible to be a free agent at the end of this season. His 2011 contract is for $10.5 million, so the Giants would be on the hook for roughly $3.5 million for the remainder of this year.
Although he is eligible to be a free agent at the end of 2011, it's also important to know if Cuddyer would be willing to sign an extension with the Giants, at least for 2012. The Twins are asking a lot for Cuddyer and the Giants were negotiating with them, prior to acquiring Keppinger.
It will likely take a top prospect and a mid-level prospect for the Giants to get Cuddyer. The risk is that he will stay for just the remainder of 2011 and leave as a free agent.
If the deal requires someone like Brandon Belt or Gary Brown, I would have to pass, but if the Giants can get Cuddyer for something along the lines of Thomas Neal and Chris Dominguez, I would go ahead.
I am also not convinced that the Twins are going to be dumping players at this point. They are only five games out of first place in the tightly bunched AL Central, so it remains to be seen if the Twins will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.
Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez would be a good fit for the Giants
The Cincinnati Reds are hoping to make a run at the playoffs and in the very closely bunched NL Central, are still in the hunt. Cincinnati has plenty of offense, but where they need help in on the mound, especially in the bullpen.
The Reds have a surplus of catching talent with Ryan Hanigan currently splitting time with Hernandez, along with minor league catcher Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco, at triple A in Louisville is hitting .300 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI, excellent numbers especially for a catcher.
He appears ready to make the move to the majors.
Ramon Hernandez would fill a big need for the Giants. Eli Whiteside is not an everyday catcher. I have noticed that when he plays several days in a row, he begins to miss the ball, and his defense falters.
Chris Stewart is a better defensive catcher than Whiteside, but he is very weak offensively.
Whiteside is currently hitting .238 with three home runs and 12 RBI. Stewart is hitting only .185 and has no home runs to go along with four RBI. This is not an aberration for Stewart, as he is only a career .186 hitter in the majors.
If the Giants were to acquire the veteran Hernandez, he could share the catching duties with Whiteside and also provide much more offensive potential. He is hitting .312 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI.
The Reds, in dire need of bullpen help might be willing to trade Hernandez for a pitcher like Dan Runzler or Santiago Casilla. The Giants do not want to let Casilla go, but the need for a solid catcher is very real in San Francisco.
Hernandez is making $3 million this year. So financially, the Giants would only be on the hook for about $1 million for the rest of the season.
He will also be a free agent and assuming Buster Posey appears ready to step back in as the starting catcher next year, the Giants will have the ball in their court if they wish to sign Hernandez, who is 35 years of age.
Ronny Paulino would be an upgrade at the catcher position
Ronny Paulino is a very good offensive catcher and someone that would make an impact in San Francisco. He is currently hitting .315 and has a career batting average of .277.
Defensively, Paulino has thrown out 23 percent of base runners trying to steal this year and has a career average of 30 percent.
This compares to Eli Whiteside who is throwing out 22 percent on steal attempts and his career average is 29 percent. Paulino also has six passed balls, compared to Whiteside's 12.
If the Giants acquire Paulino, he will share the catching duties with Whiteside and journeyman Chris Stewart would head back to the minors.
As mentioned earlier on the Carlos Beltran slide, the Mets are in a cost cutting mode and would probably not keep Paulino into 2012. He is arbitration eligible and would probably earn about $2 million to $3 million next year.
I believe the Giants could get Paulino for a couple of low to mid level prospects, and if so, he would be an excellent addition.
Brian Wilson earns another save for the Giants.
In 2010, the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco. They moved from New York in 1958, and the last time they won was in 1954.
The Giants are built around great pitching. Starters Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and surprise journeyman Ryan Vogelsong lead a rotation that is one of the best in baseball.
In addition, the Giants' bullpen has collectively been their unsung hero. Closer Brian Wilson, of Fear The Beard fame, is one of the best in baseball.
The Giants have also received strong contributions across the board from Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla and Guillermo Mota. One of the main reasons the Giants have such a good record in low scoring, one run games is because of this bullpen.
Outstanding pitching can be a very fleeting thing, therefore, when you have a chance to win, you must take advantage of those opportunities. It is incumbent on general manager Brian Sabean to bolster the offense in any way possible.
He has already begun the process with the trade to acquire Jeff Keppinger. This is a typical Sabean type trade, where he gets a solid major league player and does not give up a whole lot in return. This is very reminiscent of the past deals for Freddy Sanchez, Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez.
Do I realistically think the Giants will make a big splash in the trade market before the July 31 deadline?
My gut feeling tells me no because the price to pay for the top talent like a Beltran, Pence or Cuddyer will be very steep. However, I do expect them to make a move to pick up a catcher, and that will be an important addition.
Again, we must realize that although the Giants are in first place in the NL West, a trade is not done with the sole idea of making the playoffs.
The mindset of the Giants is that any trade is made with the idea of strengthening the team for another deep run in the postseason.