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Carlos Beltran Trade: Great, but 4 Issues Still Linger for Giants

Barry ShillerContributor IIIJuly 27, 2011

Carlos Beltran Trade: Great, but 4 Issues Still Linger for Giants

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    Numerous media sources, including csnbayarea.com, are reporting that the Giants and New York Mets have agreed in principle to a deal that would bring Carlos Beltran to San Francisco.

    The price for renting Beltran for the rest of 2011 reportedly is prized pitching prospect Zach (not Zack) Wheeler, chosen sixth by the Giants in the 2009 amateur draft. 

    Acquiring Beltran is being hailed in some quarters as a coup for the Giants, whose offense has scuffled all season. 

    CSN Bay Area insider and columnist Ray Ratto, today called the deal a "feather in Brian Sabean's cap." For those who know Ratto's cynical outlook on most things, that's high praise for a GM who's taken his share of bashing from media and others over previous player personnel moves.

    Assuming it is a done deal—and, as Al Gore knows, it's best to wait for official confirmation—the Giants offense benefits.  

    I recently questioned the legitimacy of Beltran-to-San Francisco rumors; looks like I was wrong.

    Could be wrong about this, too, but I'm unconvinced that adding Beltran will be enough for the Giants to make a serious run at a repeat.

    Here are four other issues that need to be sorted out.  

Sorting out the Outfield

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    Carlos Beltran has appeared in 98 of the Mets' 103 games this year after missing over half of the team's games in 2009-10.

    Sabean didn't acquire Beltran to platoon with anyone; he figures to play regularly, with occasional rest. That'd be a smart way to manage a 34-year-old with balky knees and recent injury history.

    Let's assume, therefore, that one corner outfield spot is taken care of for the duration of 2011.

    That leaves a cluttered, largely unproductive group to fill two positions. 

    Bruce Bochy has clung—stubbornly, in this writer's view—to the notion that his veterans will come out their season-long slumbers if given enough chances.

    So, we've seen a jumbled mix of Torres, Rowand, Burrell, Schierholtz, and Ross. And Bochy has seemed resistant to plugging Schierholtz—his most consistent producer in 2011—into one corner spot and leaving him there.

    My vote: Make Beltran and Schierholtz everyday regulars in the two corner spots, give Cody Ross some starts in center field to see if he can manage the defensive demands (he's played there in the past, without issues) and make Torres and Rowand reserve outfielders.

    I don't see where Pat Burrell fits into this picture. 

    My parting shot: Leaving the Torres/Rowand rotation in center field doesn't cut it. 

Solidifying the Shortstop Situation

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    I've been cheerleading for Brandon Crawford since his arrival in San Francisco in late May.

    The more Crawford plays, the more his arm strength, range and overall defensive skills separate him from any of the Giants alternatives.

    But Bruce Bochy manages the Giants, not me. And he's taken a different approach, which this writer believes has kept the shortstop position a glaring area of vulnerability. 

    If Carlos Beltran's arrival meaningfully boosts the Giants offense, there's a legitimate case to be made for installing Crawford at shortstop and living with his offensive deficiencies.

    This argument is a bit like swimming upstream; Bochy seems hell-bent on trusting his veterans over his youngsters (hmm...now that's a trend, explored a bit more in the next slide).

    Before he was DL'd, watching Miguel Tejada play SS was like watching one of those slash-and-bleed films where you know someone is going to be bludgeoned to death every eight minutes or so. 

    Every ball hit to Tejada was a potential butcher job. The play on which he was injured was classic: go into the hole, struggle to get body and feet set, grab for the ball, pivot to throw, and....fall down. Other times, it was a bobble of the ball, errant throw, or no throw.

    Mike Fontenot is serviceable, but lacks Crawford's range and capacity to make the spectacular play, especially the throw from deep in the 5/6 hole.

    I'm holding my breath waiting for Tejada to return to the active roster; I fear Bochy will give him additional chances, perhaps platooning with Fontenot.

    That will hurt the Giants defensively, and impede Crawford's development. More on that in the next slide. 

Resolving the Rookie Dilemma

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    I'll be blunt: Play your rookies, or demote them.

    And this really isn't an issue where there's much room for nuance. 

    Brandon Belt has been mishandled. So has Brandon Crawford. You want evidence?

    Belt has appeared in 24 games in San Francisco, and had 80 plate appearances. In 47 games with Class-A San Jose and Class-AAA Fresno, he had 202. So, conservatively, Belt missed at least 100 plate appearances while sitting on the bench with San Francisco.

    And he hasn't been watching the 1975-76 Cincinnati Big Red Machine. Belt has been observing hitters who have combined (conspired?) to score fewer runs than all but two NL clubs. Some education. 

    Same can be said lately about Crawford, who has played sparingly since the Jeff Keppinger acquisition and Mike Fontenot's return from the DL.

    I could vent about Aubrey Huff's lackluster season, and wonder why Belt sits while Huff scuffles. But, truthfully, the Giants aren't likely to bench a presumed run producer in the first year of a generous (being diplomatic here) two-year deal.

    Could you justify giving Belt a week's worth of opportunities and let Huff stew for a bit on the bench? Sure. But Bochy won't do that.

    So, if Belt and Crawford are going to be consigned to roles ordinarily reserved for marginal (and older) utility players, send them down and let them play—somewhere.  

Settling on a Fifth Starter

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    So much for the "new" Barry Zito, huh?

    After his latest disaster in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Zito has clearly retreated to the one-man conflagration Giants fans have become accustomed to watching, and lamenting.

    After three very encouraging starts, he's been blown up twice.

    New definition of an eternal optimist: Anyone who insists "Zito will be fine once he gets himself sorted out."

    It's not inconceivable that Zito makes one more start, especially with the rotation thrown out of whack by Tim Lincecum's stomach virus. (Lincecum was skipped a second successive day on Wednesday.)

    So, what becomes of the Giants' fifth rotation spot?

    The easy answer is, reinstate Jonathan Sanchez. That's the likeliest near-term step once Sanchez clears his last hurdles in rehab. He reportedly will start for Class-A Fresno tonight (Wed.). Check tomorrow's Fresno Bee box score.

    If Sanchez's struggles truly were due to biceps tendinitis, he should in time be the guy with wicked stuff who fans grew to love last season. If he struggles, then Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti have a dilemma on their hands.

    With eight weeks remaining in the regular season, this isn't a grade-A crisis. The Giants figure to carry four starters into the postseason, anyway. But if the division race remains tight, this is a situation that could require a fix. 

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