San Francisco Giants: 5 Obstacles to Salvaging the Season
Hey Giants fans, how about those trade-deadline deals?
In 10 games with Carlos Beltran, the Giants are 2-8. They've scored an aggregate 23 runs—eight in one game, 15 in the other nine combined.
Not exactly the energy boost GM Brian Sabean had hoped for.
Based on Friday night's scrum with the Phillies, the Giants are clearly ready for a special pay-per-view MLB UFC smackdown (maybe it could supplement their ongoing Showtime series, The Franchise).
I'll bet the Giants' crack marketing department is all over it.
Meanwhile, Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy shuffle the deck, hoping to uncover (and recover) some 2010 magic.
Jonathan Sanchez is back in the rotation. Barry Zito has gone back to the disabled list.
Mark DeRosa has been activated. Brandon Belt has been optioned to Fresno.
This season is far from lost—being tied for first place with 48 games to play isn't reason to panic—but doesn't it seem as if the Good Ship Giants has stalled?
From this writer's outside-in view, things are in danger of getting even worse. Here are five obstacles standing in the way of a Giants NL West title repeat.
Aubrey Huff: Overpaid, Underperforming
No Giant regular has had a longer leash than Aubrey Huff. It's time someone yanked on it.
Perhaps he's worn out from lugging around the $22 million the Giants gifted him in the two-year deal he signed last winter.
Something is weighing Huff down. His bat is slow, his legs look tired and his demeanor gives off a clear "hey, I got paid" affect.
Only the Giants' overall offensive anemia makes Huff's numbers (.244, 10 HR, 49 RBI through Friday) appear passable. As a cleanup hitter with 439 plate appearances entering the weekend (his nearest teammate, Miguel Tejada, has 322), he should lead the team in most offensive categories.
More disconcerting is that the Giants have rolled him out day after day, allowing other options like Brandon Belt to languish on the bench (Belt finally was optioned to Fresno late in the week).
Meanwhile, surging Arizona has installed rookie Paul Goldschmidt at first base. Funny that they've handed the powerful (30 HR, 94 RBI in 103 games for Class-AA Mobile) Goldschmidt a legitimate shot to play every day in a pennant race, while the Giants treat their rookies like porcelain.
The Giants have two versions of Goldschmidt: Belt, and Brett Pill.
Pill, a seventh round selection in the 2006 draft, has dominated at Fresno (.319, 22 HR, 93 RBI in 103 games). He's big and strong (6'4", 210) and has hit equally well against right and left handers.
It could've been Pill, or Belt. But the Giants seem resigned to sticking with Huff. Haven't you seen enough of his soft ground balls to second base and weak pop ups to the left side?
I certainly have.
Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada: Retreads
When the Giants announced they were activating veteran Mark DeRosa and creating room for him by sending Brandon Belt to Fresno, how did you react?
You grimaced. Or groaned. Or cursed.
All justifiable reactions, because DeRosa symbolizes the Giants' seemingly incurable addiction to aging veterans.
It's not DeRosa's fault that he's had chronic wrist issues; the Giants knew he was damaged goods when they signed him in late 2009 to a two-year, $12 million deal.
It also isn't his fault that Sabean hoped DeRosa could duplicate his 2009 production (23 HR, 78 RBI) in San Francisco.
As is, the Giants have paid De Rosa nearly $1 million for each of his 13 RBI as a Giant. Now, he's supposedly backing up Aubrey Huff at first base—a position he has played sparingly in a 14-year career.
I've sufficiently flogged Miguel Tejada here that you know the drill: He's floundered at the plate and stumbled in the field. Tejada (thankfully) went on the disabled list in mid-July. Quite a bargain at $6.5 million, wouldn't you say?
At some point, Tejada will be reactivated; the Giants are running out of inventive excuses for keeping people on the disabled list.
DeRosa and Tejada are sunk costs to the Giants. It's delusional to imagine either of them being 2011 versions of Pat Burrell or Cody Ross.
There are capable, intriguing alternatives in the Giants' farm system, like Connor Gillespie, who could fill a reserve infield spot. Too bad the Giants aren't willing to try before it's too late.
Eli Whiteside: Passed Ball Machine
I've also flogged this one, but here goes: The Giants desperately need a better option at catcher than the current tandem of Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart.
Understandably, the Giants aren't going to make a financial investment in a veteran catcher with future contractual obligations. Buster Posey presumably (and hopefully) will take his job back in 2012.
Also understandably, the club has consistently supported Whiteside, a loyal backup who was asked to step into a difficult situation in the wake of Posey's injury.
So, the choice for Sabean was this: maintain trust in a veteran who isn't doing his job or make a move that could be critical to getting back to the postseason.
Thus far, the Giants have stood pat—to their detriment. Whiteside's seven passed balls in 59 games exceeds the club's total for all of 2010. What more evidence do you need to justify a change?
Several clubs figure to dangle veterans (like the Nationals' Pudge Rodriguez, pictured above) on the waiver wire prior to August 31, hoping to attract interest from contenders (roster additions after that date aren't eligible for postseason rosters).
There surely were opportunities for Sabean to trade for a catcher prior to the trade deadline; he reportedly wasn't willing to give up what sellers were seeking. It'll be a shame if his stubbornness costs the Giants in the end.
Barry Zito: Overpaid Misfit
Sorry, readers. Hate to pour acid on a wound, but no review of the Giants' holes is complete without a few words about Barry (Instant Rally) Zito.
Good Barry teased us with three solid starts fresh off of the disabled list before Bad Barry inevitably returned.
No way to say this politely: There's no viable role for Zito. It's better, honestly, to pay him not to pitch. The official term is Designated For Assignment (DFA).
Zito has shown he can't start. His makeup seems unsuited for relief. What else is there? He already throws batting practice—during games.
Last year's club was affectionately labeled "misfits," but the context was entirely different. Those guys performed. Zito is just getting paid.
As flammable as Jonathan Sanchez may be, he's a better option than Zito as the fifth starter—Friday night's debacle against Philadelphia notwithstanding.
(And, remember: Sabean didn't bring Zito to San Francisco; this one's on the Peter Magowan ownership group)
Clumsy Handling of Rookies, Prospects
Would it be risky to expose untested prospects into the heat of a pennant race? Of course.
Is it any less risky sticking with the same group of "experienced" underachievers like Huff, Tejada, Whiteside, Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres? Not to me.
One hundred and thirteen games is a pretty legitimate sample size from which to predict what's likely to happen over the remaining 49.
All of the above players have had at least 170 plate appearances. None is batting higher than .249; none has more than 49 RBI.
At this point in the season, we're consigned to seeing the same guys rotated in and out of the lineup as manager Bruce Bochy searches for combinations that can consistently produce runs.
Would it have been worth giving Brandon Belt a week or two of regular at bats to see if he could begin hitting consistently?
Might it have been appropriate to promote fleet outfield prospect Gary Brown for a week or two to test his ability to handle major league pitching?
Could Brandon Crawford have kept his batting average consistently above .200 if he hadn't been yanked in and out of the lineup and made to feel as if every at bat was a final exam?
If any of the above had been tried, and worked, the Giants would have had the financial flexibility to pursue a catcher at the trade deadline.
I've observed repeatedly that overpaying for past-their-prime veterans has backed Sabean and the Giants into a financial corner and adding payroll to acquire Carlos Beltran was an uncharacteristically bold (and perhaps desperate) move.
It doesn't appear there are any bold moves left. And it's unclear if the roster Sabean has given Bochy has enough to get it done.