The San Francisco Giants don't score a lot of runs and have been mentioned in every trade rumor from Carlos Beltran to BJ Upton. The Giants have one of the league’s elite pitching staffs, especially when you take their bullpen into consideration and with even just an incremental upgrade to the offense they would be well on their way to defending their crown.
While making a splash in the trade market is always the exciting and preferred way of improving, sometimes an organization should take a step back and see what they have internally that could make them even a little bit better. The Giants have that opportunity.
When Brian Sabean calls teams about their available players, he is always asked about the same players without fail. Teams inquire about RHP prospect Zack Wheeler, CF speedster Gary Brown, 1B/OF power prodigy Brandon Belt, lefty reliever turned starter project Dan Runzler and left-handed starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.
Brian Sabean of course has his list of untouchables, which Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently may not be exactly as is perceived by the public. I have thought all along that his list probably does not include Wheeler, although it would have to be the perfect scenario to move him. I have faith that Sabean knows exactly what that scenario is and will stick to it.
The Giants have basically received zero offensive contribution from first base, shortstop and left field. Catcher is another area of offensive ineptitude. It appears that the team may be satisfied with settling for defense at catcher and shortstop while trying to upgrade at first base and in the outfield.
Andres Torres was very consistent last year and has been just as inconsistent this year. Cody Ross has battled injuries and is a nice player to have on the team because when he gets hot...look out, but he has not produced the way a left fielder has to. Nate Shierholtz has emerged as a very good hitter this year and has taken right field as his own; he's not going anywhere.
If Brian Sabean can find an outfielder that he can trade for that would be a significant upgrade, he will but he may have that significant upgrade on the 25-man roster already. Brandon Belt is a first baseman but has spent a significant amount of time in the outfield this year to better his chances of playing. Aubrey Huff has been less than a shell of his 2010 season so Belt shouldn't have to play the outfield to get at bats unless Huff can somehow find the magic.
Belt was overmatched and overwhelmed in his first stint in San Francisco this year. Now that he is back, he looks like a player who knows that he belongs and is ready to do what he does which is hit the ball with authority. Wherever Bruce Bochy chooses to play him, he just needs to play him. Belt is one of those players who takes some time to hit his stride, but once he finds his comfort level he is going to improve this offense immensely.
Brandon Belt is potentially worth the same as trading for someone like Michael Cuddyer or Melky Cabrera and he doesn't cost Zack Wheeler.
Brett Pill is a 26-year-old first baseman who is pushing the issue at Fresno this year. He is batting .315/.347/.545/.892 with 19 home runs and 83 RBI. Of course these numbers, like those of any AAA hitter, don't necessarily translate directly to the majors where the best pitchers in the world play. They do, however, show that he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues and it's getting to be now or never.
Theoretically, Sabean could promote Pill to play first base and play Belt in LF and see a minor to moderate increase in offensive production without having to give up anything in return except perhaps the egos of a couple of highly paid veterans on the current team.
Of course, Sabean may know something about Zack Wheeler that none of us know the way he knew something about Tim Alderson that none of us knew. In that case, I say trade Wheeler, bring in the veteran Beltran who is not a question mark and makes this team potentially the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series once again.
Brian Sabean has options; it's going to be interesting how he plays those options.