Zack Wheeler may or may not become the Mets ace of the future.
The San Francisco Giants made a significant move at the July trade deadline when they acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. The trade was both lauded and derided at the same time by many professional baseball analysts and fans alike.
Most felt that as the reigning World Series Champs with a stagnant offense the Giants had to give up a piece of the future in order to take advantage of their current position to defend their title. Major injuries to Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez had stymied an already challenged offense but their great pitching still had them in the position to win the NL West and play bonus baseball come October.
Some felt that as a true rental, Beltran was in no way worth giving up a player with the potential of Zack Wheeler for the realistically minute chance that he would be the player who pushed the team over the edge to be able to coast through the post season and raise the World Series trophy once again.
While I believe that both are valid arguments, I side with the first opinion. I believe that if you have an obvious strength as a team and you have a glaring weakness as a team and you can improve on that weakness by giving up a small part of your strength, it is a move that absolutely has to be made.
Here are the five reasons that I believe the San Francisco Giants will not regret trading Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran.
Gary Brown remains in the Giants farm system.
A farm system is designed to feed the big league club with players that can help it win. Whether the player that is helping you comes straight from the farm system, such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval among others or by trading those farm hands for major league proven players who can be plugged into voids in the lineup, the farm system has to make the big league club better.
For some time now the Giants philosophy has been to hold onto all prospects and mold them into the stars that you see in San Francisco today. Winning the World Series allowed the team to change the philosophy slightly and give up Zack Wheeler for a sorely needed middle of the order bat even if that player could potentially only play on the team for a few months.
Brian Sabean was able to make the trade for Beltran while only giving up one prospect, albeit a very highly touted prospect in Zack Wheeler. Other teams that improved their offense, Atlanta and Philadelphia specifically had to give up a large part of their future in number of prospects to land Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne respectfully.
Brian Sabean maintained his big league proven pitching staff while improving his lineup.
When, as an organization you have an obvious strength as the Giants have in pitching while also dealing with an even more obvious weakness as the Giants do in their offensive offense, the sensible thing is to use that strength to improve the weakness.
Did the Giants improve their offense by sacrificing a piece of their strength? Yes they did. Carlos Beltran instantly became their best middle-of-the-order hitter and once his wrist injury heals, he will undoubtedly be their offensive leader. They did this by giving up a potential star pitcher who is yet to be proven past the Single A level. Brian Sabean did not have to disrupt the pitching staff that got them the World Series title last year, while making his team more dangerous offensively.
Zack Wheeler may go on to an All Star career but that is not a given at this point, while Carlos Beltran is a proven run producer. Run producers have been in short supply all year in San Francisco.
The Giants once traded their top pitching prospect for Freddy Sanchez
Zack Wheeler has been a highly touted prospect ever since he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. He has progressed nicely through the minor leagues since his professional debut and could one day make his mark in the major leagues.
Tim Alderson was also a highly regarded San Francisco Giants pitching prospect several years ago and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline in 2009 for Freddy Sanchez. At the time, there was a lot of disappointment among Giants fans, a feeling that Brian Sabean had given up too much in trading their top pitching prospect for a potential free agent who may only play for the Giants for a few months and then sign elsewhere who had a history of injuries. Sound familiar?
My point is that the Giants obviously saw something in Tim Alderson that caused them to deem him expendable and it has proven out. Alderson is still pitching in the Pirates minor league system with their AA affiliate where he has struggled mightily.
I'm not suggesting that Wheeler will be a flop; I think that we can all agree that his ceiling has always been higher than Alderson's ever was. There is something to be said though when a team is suddenly willing to take a potential star off their untouchable list the way the Giants did with Wheeler. Time will tell on this one.
Brian Sabean's decision to give up Zack Wheeler was a calculated risk.
Sometimes teams have to take a chance. The risk in that decision is usually well thought out and the end result is carefully conceived. When Brian Sabean and his team sat together and discussed their needs, potential targets and what it would cost in prospects to land those players they also made a decision on who they would regret losing regardless of the contribution of the new player they brought in.
Players like Gary Brown, Francisco Peguero and Eric Surkamp made their list. Surkamp most likely because they decided that they could afford to give up Wheeler based on the strength of the pitching staff at the major league level and the potential for Surkamp to develop into a back of the rotation type of a pitcher.
This is not to suggest that they felt that Wheeler doesn't have an upside, but that they knew it would cost something to get something and Wheeler became expendable because of the overall organizational strength at the position of pitcher. They decided that they would not regret trading Wheeler even if he went on to an All Star career and Beltran got hurt and never contributed to the team.
The Giants did what they felt puts them in the best position to be the last team standing once again.
The title of this slide says it all. As an organization, one that wants to move into the realm of being an elite sports organization, you have to make bold moves and take calculated risks. The Giants could have played it safe and stood pat, allowing Zack Wheeler to grow and become another in a long line of fantastic arms coming out of their farm system.
They could have used the easy excuse that they lost two of their star hitters for the season to injury and it just wasn't their year. Instead they decided to assert themselves as one of the teams in baseball that is going to do what it has to win. If they are able to somehow repeat as World Series Champions, they will live on forever in baseball lore. No National League team has repeated as champs since "The Big Red Machine" of the mid 1970's.
I appreciate the boldness of the Giants in going for it in their first ever opportunity in San Francisco to defend a crown. That is what you do, you play to win and when you are one of the teams with a legitimate chance to win it all, you sacrifice a bit a the future for a piece of the puzzle that may get you there and you know that you will not regret the move no matter the outcome.