Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy Lead The Giants' Brain Trust
The San Francisco Giants battled valiantly through an incredibly bad run of injuries. Finally, those injuries wore the team down and the Giants find themselves trailing Arizona by seven games with only 21 remaining.
Although not impossible, the odds that the Giants can catch the Diamondbacks is extremely slim. Arizona would need to go into a tail spin and the Giants would probably need to win 17 or 18 of their remaining games.
With the 2011 season slipping away, now is a good time to look at some potential players who could be traded this offseason. In order to be considered as trade bait, the player must be under contract for 2012 or, at a bare minimum, be arbitration eligible and, therefore, under the Giants' control.
Barry Zito has two years left on his contract
Before you laugh or change the channel on this article, hear me out. There is one potential deal that makes sense for both teams involved.
Barry Zito is owed $39 million for 2012 and 2013, plus a $7 million buyout, making it a total of $46 million remaining on his deal.
This deal, similar to the Aaron Rowand contract, were done by former owner Peter McGowan. This is a primary reason why Bill Neukom was installed as the managing partner in August of 2008. The Giants just released Rowand and will pay him $14 million to go away.
The Giants' management group has shown that they are not totally against eating large sums of money, but here's how they can limit their exposure and get a player who can help them.
The Chicago Cubs would like to dump Carlos Zambrano and he is owed $19 million for 2012. The Cubs are so annoyed with Zambrano's attitude that they are totally done with him.
If the Giants traded Zito for Zambrano, the change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered for both pitchers.
The contracts are a wash for 2012, so the Giants would only have to pay off a lot of the $27 million owed to Zito for 2013 and the 2014 buyout. If San Francisco agreed to pay off about $22 million of the remaining contract, the Cubs would probably make the deal.
Zambrano could very well flourish in San Francisco, where he could pitch in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Zito would get a fresh start in Chicago and this deal would be a potential win for both teams.
Dan Runzler has pitched as a reliever and starter in 2011
Left-handed pitchers are always a hot commodity, and Dan Runzler is a young lefty. He has split time between starting and relieving in the minors this year.
Runzler has a great arm, but has struggled with his command. If the Giants re-sign Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, Runzler will be expendable.
In Triple-A Fresno this year, Runzler has thrown 52 innings, and allowed 47 hits with a 3.98 ERA and 1.519 WHIP. Runzler's 59 strikeouts show the quality of his stuff, but his 32 walks also exemplify the control problems that he frequently struggles with.
Runzler will not bring a huge amount back in trade, although he could be included as part of a packaged deal.
Aubrey Huff helped lead the Giants to the World Series title
Aubrey Huff had a great year in 2010 and helped lead the Giants to a World Series championship. The Giants rewarded him with a two-year, $22 million contract.
Huff will make $13.6 million for 2012. The Giants have Brandon Belt and Brett Pill waiting in the wings to assume the first page award.
In 2010, Huff hit .290 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI. His 2011 numbers are substantially below the totals he built last year. At age 35, I believe Huff still has a lot left in the tank. He could also make a salary-cap drive in 2012.
I personally don't think Huff will get traded, but the possibility exists. If the Giants did move Huff, they would either need to go out and get another first baseman or be confident in Brandon Belt or Brett Pill.
Belt has struggled in the majors, currently hitting only .212. He and Pill are unproven as major-league hitters, so there would be risk in trading Huff.
With 2012 being a contract year, I believe Huff will bounce back and have a strong season.
Nate Schierholtz was having a breakout season in 2011.
Nate Schierholtz was having a breakout year in 2011, when a broken foot sidelined him a few weeks ago. Schierholtz had 335 at-bats and was hitting .278 with nine home runs and 41 RBI.
Schierholtz is still best suited as a fourth outfielder, as he does not provide enough power in right field. If the Giants can acquire a power-hitting outfielder, the likelihood of Schierholtz being traded increases.
Schierholtz is also an excellent defensive outfielder. He's fast and can run down fly balls and also has a very strong and accurate arm.
A fan favorite, Schierholtz had his best season with the Giants, but his limited power numbers make him a candidate to be moved. In order to make a deal involving Schierholtz, the Giants must first sign the arbitration-eligible player.
Jonathan Sanchez has been an enigma for the Giants.
Jonathan Sanchez pitched very well down the stretch in 2010, and all signs pointed to an excellent 2011 season. Unfortunately, the same problems that dogged him throughout his career resurfaced and Sanchez has been unable to overcome them.
Sanchez is having a very poor 2011 season and his trade value is very low. However, with Ryan Vogelsong emerging as a reliable starter, Sanchez is expendable.
In order to trade Sanchez, the Giants must first sign him. He is arbitration-eligible after making $4.8 million in 2011. Once the Giants sign him, they can trade him to any other team. However, unless the Giants have a trade lined up, I highly doubt they will sign Sanchez at this point.
In 101 innings, Sanchez has given up only 80 hits, so that proves he still has great stuff. The main problem is his control, as Sanchez has allowed 66 walks, nearly six per every nine innings.
I'm sure there will be some managers and pitching coaches who think they can turn Sanchez around.
Brandon Belt has struggled at the plate
Brandon Belt was supposed to be the next big young star for the Giants, and it could still happen. However, the 2011 season has been much tougher than Belt or the Giants envisioned.
Belt has proven that he can hit minor-league pitching, but he has struggled at the big-league level. He is currently hitting only .212 with five home runs and 12 RBI against major-league pitching. He has only 132 at-bats so, admittedly, it's a small sample size.
The biggest problem facing Belt seems to be his handling of inside pitches. Opposing teams have found a weakness that Belt has in his swing and are pounding him inside. At 6'5", Belt has long arms and likes the ball middle-away.
Belt stands in a crouch and his swing uncoils, which causes him to be late on inside pitches. Former Giant great Will Clark has suggested that Belt stand taller, which he theorizes will allow him to be quicker to the ball.
In any case, Belt is the Giants' top position-player prospect, and can play first base and the outfield. A bit of the lustre has come off his reputation, but he is still an excellent prospect.
Belt would bring a top player in return, so if the deal is right, Belt could be moved.
The Giants will pay big money to sign Tim Lincecum
This will be a busy offseason for GM Brian Sabean and the Giants. The Giants have several free agents and arbitration-eligible players on their roster.
A lot of tough decisions will need to be made by the Giants, as they decide who they want to retain in 2012. The Giants have already jettisoned Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, so the process is already beginning. Several other players most assuredly won't be back, including Mark DeRosa and Pat Burrell.
The Giants will have a strong nucleus on the field with Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez and probably Aubrey Huff. Their pitching staff will feature Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Brian Wilson.
Sabean can maintain the core of the roster with the arbitration-eligible players under the Giants' control, and can also add a few players to bolster their team. The Giants' biggest priorities heading into the offseason will be finding a quality, every-day shortstop and a top flight outfielder.
The injury bug bit the Giants hard this season, and the team just got worn down. If the Giants can stay relatively healthy in 2012, there is absolutely no reason why they can't be back in the playoffs in 2012.