San Francisco Giants: Will Ryan Verdugo Be a Rare Mistake by Brian Sabean?
Brian Sabean has made many trades over his 14 years as the San Francisco Giants GM, and most have not hurt the team.
Sabean recently traded Jonathan Sanchez to the Kansas City Royals for Melky Cabrera.
Most baseball folks would agree the two principals in the trade needed to change teams and that the Giants and Royals both take on similar risk.
The Giants threw in left-handed pitcher Ryan Verdugo in the deal and no one knows what the future holds for him. He could become a force in the league or wrap his career up in the minor leagues.
His is the unknown, the risk, albeit calculated, in a seemingly small trade.
While Sabean has been much maligned for some of his moves, most of the questionable decisions have been made in the free agent market. While no GM is perfect in trades, Sabean has been fairly successful, beginning with his first trade.
That is when he sent fan favorite Matt Williams to Cleveland for, among others, Jeff Kent.
Fans may not be happy with some of the pick-ups—like Ryan Garko—but the vast majority of the players given up by the Giants have had little to no impact on the game of baseball.
Here is a list of seven trades made by Sabean, where the secondary players involved in the deal made some impact in the game at the major league level but not enough to make the GM lose sleep.
Keith Foulke and Bob Howry to the Chicago White Sox
In late July 1997, Brian Sabean's first July as the GM of the Giants, he saw a need to acquire reinforcements for a playoff push and found a willing trade partner in the Chicago White Sox.
Sabean actually sent Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Brian Manning and Ken Vining to the White Sox for Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez.
Foulke obviously had the best career of all the involved players, with Bob Howry a distant second.
Howry was a throw-in along with the other unknowns mentioned. The White Sox hoped some of them would pan out, but most did not.
Howry, the most significant throw-in of this trade went on to a 45 - 52 career record with an ERA of 3.84, a WHIP of 1.24 and 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched for seven different teams.
Not a bad career, but certainly not one that would cause a GM to regret trading him initially.
Jacob Cruz and Steve Reed to the Cleveland Indians
When Brian Sabean packaged Jacob Cruz and Steve Reed in a deal to Cleveland in return for Shawon Dunston, Jose Mesa and Alvin Morman on July 23, 1998, Reed was an established big league pitcher.
Jacob Cruz was a promising outfield prospect with 105 big league at bats under his belt.
Reed had been drafted by the Giants, was then taken by the Colorado Rockies in the expansion draft and signed as a free agent by the Giants after the 1997 season.
He was a good pitcher who had found his niche.
After the trade to Cleveland, Reed played for seven more seasons for six different teams. Reed's career stats were 3.63/1.25 while striking out 6.5 hitters per nine innings pitched.
Reed was a sweetener in this deal, the kind of low risk sweetener that Brian Sabean has become especially adept at including in trades without significantly hurting his team.
Jason Grilli and Nate Bump to the Florida Marlins
On July 25, 1999, Brian Sabean sent two young pitchers—Jason Grilli and Nate Bump—to the Florida Marlins in exchange for starting pitcher Livan Hernandez.
Jason Grilli was the key piece of this trade for Florida. The former first round draft pick (fourth overall) of the San Francisco Giants had great potential.
Bump was the throw-in of this deal and would prove to be just that. Bump pitched in the major leagues in 2003, 2004 and 2005, lodging 148 innings pitched.
His career ERA is 4.68, his WHIP 1.53 and for his career he struck out just 4.8 hitters per nine innings pitched while striking out only 1.23 hitters for every walk.
Neither of these pitchers panned out to be much, but Bump was the secondary player in the deal and Sabean knew what he was doing.
Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong to the Pittsburgh Pirates
Brian Sabean has a history of coming out on the happy end of trades made with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and this one was the best.
On July 30, 2001, Sabean sent Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong to Pittsburgh for Jason Schmidt and John Van Der Wal.
Not only did this trade turn out fantastically for the Giants in the short term, Vogelsong returned to the Giants organization in 2011 and enjoyed an All-Star season.
It wasn't always that good for Vogelsong, however.
After the trade to the Pirates, Vogelsong struggled, to put it kindly. 2005 was the only season in Pittsburgh where Vogelsong posted an ERA under 6.39. That season, he threw 81.1 innings with a 4.43 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
He didn't pitch at all in 2002 due to Tommy John surgery and spent 2007, 2008 and 2009 in Japan.
Ryan Vogelsong was a promising young pitcher when Brian Sabean decided to include him in the trade for Jason Schmidt, but one has to think Sabean knew more than most when he made that decision.
Jerome Williams and David Aardsma to the Chicago Cubs
Brian Sabean felt the need to upgrade his bullpen on May 28, 2005 by dealing Jerome Williams and young pitching prospect David Aardsma to the Chicago Cubs for established relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.
Of the two, Williams was the better known pitcher at the time. Aardsma had just been drafted two summers earlier in the first round by the Giants.
Williams went on to have an unmemorable career, while Aardsma would at least post decent numbers.
Aardsma's best season came in 2009, when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners. He boasted an ERA of 2.52 with a 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 38 saves.
Aardsma's inclusion in this deal was a greater risk than some of the others Sabean has made, and while he had okay career numbers, they certainly didn't make Sabean lose any sleep.
Jesse Foppert and Yorvit Torrealba to the Seattle Mariners
Brian Sabean sent promising right-handed pitcher Jesse Foppert and catcher Yorvit Torrealba to the Seattle Mariners at the 2005 non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for outfielder Randy Winn.
Foppert was certainly who Seattle targeted in this trade, as Torrealba had posted these numbers for the Giants—.251/.318/.393/.712.
Torrealba spent the remainder of the 2005 season with Seattle before ending up with Colorado the following year.
2006 marked the beginning of the Yorvit Torrealba revenge period, as he proceeded to become a Giant killer for the next five seasons with Colorado and San Diego.
It seemed when the Giants were playing his team, Torrealba always got the big hit or made the key defensive play to beat them. Giants fans were overjoyed when he left the NL West and the NL all together after the 2010 season.
Torrealba was a throw-in who has had a good career since the trade, but head-to-head, he has been a nightmare for the Giants since July 2005.
Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to the Minnesota Twins
After the 2003 season, the Giants decided they needed a catcher and the Twins had one to give.
The Giants had soured on promising right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan and sent him along with prospects Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to the Twins in exchange for AJ Pierzynski.
The trade was a disaster for the Giants and the main blemish on Brian Sabean's trade record.
At the time, I felt the same way the Giants did about Nathan.
He had pitched poorly in the playoffs in 2003, frustrating the team with his inability to consistently throw strikes. I was okay with them trading him, but boy was I wrong.
I was more worried about the possibility that Liriano and Bonser might make the Giants GM regret the trade. While Liriano has been one of the best pitchers in the AL when healthy, perhaps Sabean knew what he was doing.
Liriano has been fragile, which is disappointing as a baseball fan because he is fun to watch when healthy.
Bonser bombed, which I will admit I was upset over if for no other reason than MLB no longer has any real good names. And Boof Bonser is a great name.
The trade certainly did not turn out the way Brian Sabean planned, as Pierzynski was a horrible clubhouse presence. The Giants released him the following winter.
Nathan went on to a career as an elite closer, but the two secondary players given up by the Giants in the trade haven't amounted to much.