San Francisco Giants: What Carlos Beltran Deal Tells Us About Team's Future
There were basically two schools of thought about what the Giants should or shouldn't have done leading up to the trade deadline this season.
One camp felt it was important to preserve the future and continue cultivating the farm system to ensure continued production of homegrown talent to keep the Giants competitive for years to come; the other felt strongly that it's all about the here and now, and the Giants have a title to defend.
Interestingly enough, Giants management started out with the first position, and ended up with the second.
Let's see what this tells us about the intentions of the front office with respect to the future of the franchise...
1. A Repeat Championship Is Very Important to This Franchise
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Andrew Baggarly, Giants beat writer for the Mercury News, pointed out that the Giants appear to be taking the position that a second consecutive World Series championship would "brand [the Giants] into the national consciousness".
Baggarly also points out that to accomplish this type of reputation across the country for a West Coast team is very rare, as the Los Angeles Lakers are perhaps the only professional team that currently occupies the upper echelon in their sport while being on this side of the nation.
More than that, to guide a club to a second consecutive title, something that hasn't been done by a National League team since the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, would cement Brian Sabean's place in the annals of baseball history.
2. The Giants Aren't as High as We Thought on Zach Wheeler
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Zach Wheeler was drafted by the Giants in the 2009 Amateur Draft, and was highly touted as a right-handed power pitcher with great strikeout stuff.
Certainly the Giants thought this kid had potential, but his numbers, while showing he can get the strikeout, weren't at all extraordinary in A-ball.
Wheeler is 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in his short minor league career thus far. The Giants were keen on developing him, but found it worth the exchange to get Beltran.
Following the trade, Giants GM Brian Sabean said that "we didn't think Wheeler would impact our situation in the immediate future" and "it's our job to find or develop another Wheeler."
The Giants appear to be confident about their pitching situation going forward.
3. The Giants Intend to Lock-Up Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain Long-Term
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With the trade of Zach Wheeler, San Francisco's top pitching prospect, the Giants are signaling an intent on keeping their current group of young pitching stars intact for the long-term.
The Giants don't have great organizational depth when it comes to pitching (Eric Surkamp not withstanding), and letting Wheeler go is a sign that the Giants are confident they can continue to keep their elite starters in a San Francisco uniform for years to come.
With Madison Bumgarner under team control through the 2016 season, the Giants appear to be counting on resigning Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain when they become free agents (Cain in 2013 and Lincecum in 2014).
Lincecum in particular could command a record contract, but the Giants plan on winning more championships and keeping AT&T Park packed over the next several seasons, providing some of the needed funds to secure the two-time Cy Young Award-winner.
Keeping the big three of Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner together in the starting rotation will be key to San Francisco's dynastic dreams.
4. The Giants Are More Concerned with Developing Position Players Than Pitchers
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Throughout all of the chaos of trade buzz before the Carlos Beltran deal was finalized Wednesday, Gary Brown's name was floating around as a potential candidate for the trade package in exchange for Beltran.
Brown, currently hitting .317 with eight homers and 58 RBI for Class-A San Jose, is a very highly-touted Giants prospect, and has a unique combination of power and speed that could make this outfielder a staple in center field for San Francisco in the coming years.
Brian Sabean's move to trade pitching prospect Zach Wheeler instead of Brown or another position player prospect signifies San Francisco's focus on cultivating a crop of hitting talent to compliment an already stellar pitching staff.
Sabean said after the trade that, "it became apparent no matter which way we turned, we’d take a hit on our prospect list. In this case, as we were getting close to make the deal, we crossed the bridge with trading a pitcher over a position player with almost equal potential."
Ultimately, Only Time Will Tell How the Beltran Deal Will Look in the Long Term
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How will history reflect on the Beltran trade?
We may have a better sense of that after this October. It's clear that the Giants acquired Beltran to win the World Series again in 2011, and anything short of reaching that goal will almost certainly cast a dark cloud over the move made on Wednesday.
Such is the life of an MLB general manager, and either praises of genius or criticism of ineptitude for Brian Sabean will follow the final Giants pitch of this season.