Sanchez-Alderson Trade Will Determine Future of SF Giants GM Brian Sabean

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Freddy Sanchez #12 of the Pittsburgh Pirates runs against the New York Mets on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

If anything, the San Francisco Giants GM has bought himself at least one more year as GM in the Bay Area.

Giants fans clamored for an offensive upgrade, as the team ranked second to last in the National League in runs scored, and Sabean came through as he was told.

On Monday, Sabean traded away minor league pitching prospect Scott Barnes for first baseman Ryan Garko from Cleveland.

On paper, Garko is what the Giants need in order to spark their inconsistent offense. With the Indians this year, Garko was batting .285 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.

The deal did not come without some costs though. Barnes, an initially low-valued prospect going into the year, has rose his stock considerably this season in Single-A ball. This season in San Jose, Barnes had a 12-3 record and a 2.85 ERA.

However, Sabean did not stop with Garko in terms of his decision to upgrade immediately.

Today, it was confirmed that the Giants would acquire All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez from Pittsburgh for heralded pitching prospect Tim Alderson.

The deal certainly comes as a surprise to many Giants fans. Considering that the Pirates practically gave Nate McLouth away to the Braves for practically nothing in return, many thought the Giants would acquire Sanchez at a relatively low cost.

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Many people thought in order to acquire Sanchez, the Giants would lose either second baseman Kevin Frandsen, outfielder/first baseman John Bowker, first baseman Jesus Guzman or at worst, all three.

Instead, the Giants parted ways with one of their top draft picks in 2007 in Alderson (the other being Madison Bumgarner).

While the Alderson trade does not cripple the Giants' farm system due to the amount of pitching depth the Giants have accumulated through their last few drafts, the move hurts the progress the organization was making with their farm system.

It is also a mixed signal from Sabean.

In many ways, Sabean had convinced Giants fans he was going to take a different route with the Giants' minor league players. He seemed intent on refraining from trading away their top prospects in order to get player who could make immediate, but in the end, brief, contributions.

It seemed that Sabean was sticking with that plan when he passed on making a run for Matt Holliday, and I was fine with it. As long as that was the definite long-term solution, I was up for seeing it being carried all the way through.

However, by trading away their second-best pitching prospect behind Madison Bumgarner, that solution has been dismantled at least a little bit for the time being.

Who knows why Sabean deviated so suddenly.

Perhaps he is convinced that Garko and Sanchez are indeed the missing pieces to this team, and he feels that their worth currently will outweigh Alderson and Barnes' in the future.

Maybe he believes heavily that the minor league pitching depth that they accumulated in the draft the last few years can overcome the loss of these two arms.

Whatever his reasons are, the bottom line is this:

Sabean's job will be determined on how Alderson and Sanchez pan out.

The Garko trade is also crucial to this team, but it is small peanuts compared to the trade that occurred this afternoon.

Despite how ballyhooed a prospect Alderson is, we still don't know how he will turn out at the major league level. He could be the next big thing, the next Matt Cain or the next Tim Lincecum.

Then again though, he could also be the next Kurt Ainsworth, Jason Grili or William Van Landingham.

In order for Sabean to keep his job two years from now, he will need Alderson to be closer to the latter, and he will need Sanchez to have an immediate impact when he becomes the Giants' everyday second baseman.

Sanchez needs to be as good as advertised, and worth the big prospect that was deemed "untouchable" at one point by the Giants organization months ago.

He needs to be closer to the All-Star infielder he was from April-June, and less like the player he has become in July.

Since July 10, Sanchez has suffered a 22-point batting average drop from .318 to .296. Furthermore, in the month of July, he has only batted .193 with only one RBI and scored only four runs.

His stats in San Francisco need to be a lot better than that in order for the Giants to continue to be Wild Card contenders, and for this trade to be worthwhile.

However, despite what Sanchez does during these last two months of the season, Sabean will still have a job next year.

Alderson is still a year away at the earliest in terms of making the jump to the Major League level (though considering how bare the Pirates are at this moment, he could see time at the MLB level midway through next year).

So you have to give Sabean the benefit at the doubt when his contract ends this year and they begin negotiations on his extension.

I can't imagine his extension will be very long-term. If anything, it will probably be very similar in structure to the two-year contract he signed in 2007.

Thus, fans better get used to seeing Sabean for at least the next couple of years in San Francisco.

If Sanchez ends up putting us over the top (very unlikely) and Alderson proves to be more of a bust than a breakout, it is safe to say Sabean will continue to be GM beyond his inevitable next extension.

If this Sanchez trade turns out more like the A.J. Pierzynski trade...well...

Hey, at least it will only be two more years.

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