San Francisco Giants ownership has to be assessing the team’s position regarding 2010 trades, and that means not waiting to make a move just prior to the 2010 MLB deadlines. The deadline to trade players without securing waivers is July 31, 2010, and the trade-by-waiver deadline is August 31st, but the Giants should be thinking about what they might do in the next three weeks.
Which MLB teams are motivated to trade early? Teams that, 1) are going absolutely nowhere and want to get an early start on salary savings and rebuilding; and, 2) a team willing to make a tactical strike now, rather having their GM stand in line with a dozen other GMs just before the trade deadlines.
Word has surfaced the Giants put out some preliminary queries about Kansas City Royals center fielder David DeJesus. At first glance DeJesus does not seem to fit the Giants’ three greatest needs: power, more power, and a lot more power. This year, DeJesus is batting .323, with a .393 OBP, and a .874 OPS; he’s played in 71 of KC’s 73 games, and has 5 home runs and 31 RBIs.
But DeJesus is on track for 200 hits, and he put up 159 hits in 2008, and 157 hits in 2009. Just to compare, DeJesus has 132 total bases this year, Aubrey Huff has 129. A trade like this would likely involve the Giants giving up a pitching prospect (that’s almost mandatory), and one or two very inexpensive outfielders (Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker, or Andres Torres come to mind).
DeJesus is in the final year of a $13.8 million, five year contract with the Royals; he’s making $4.7 million this year, with a club option in 2011 (when DeJesus either gets $6 million from his club, or a $500,000 buyout). Since Schierholtz is making $416,500, and Torres is making $426,000, the price is right for both the Giants and Kansas City.
David DeJesus has been with the Kansas City Royals his entire 7 season career. In the past three years, he primarily batted lead-off (1,299 times) and hit 3rd (152 times); in the field he plays center field and some left field. While DeJesus is not a base stealer or a power hitter, AT&T Park would play perfectly for his batting style: line drives, extra base hits, high average.
Who is selling what the Giants should be buying? The Milwaukee Brewers are probably the number one trading partner on that list. Desperate for any kind of legitimate pitching help, the Brewers have legitimate hitting to trade— and this is exactly the kind of match up that would immediately improve both teams.
Setting aside the “never trade within your Division” theory, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a great fit for what the Giants need (power) and what the Dbacks need (starting and/or relief pitching). And Arizona is apparently in full out selling mode.
The Snakes’ Mark Reynolds solves two major problems for the Giants: the need for a power hitter and the need for a third baseman. Not only would the team's home run power increase, Pablo Sandoval could be moved to first base where he really belongs. The Diamondbacks are desperate for a starter like Jonathan Sanchez and a couple of pitching prospects. But, the silly tradition of teams refusing to trade within their own Division probably makes this otherwise attractive transaction unlikely.
There are many other trade possibilities out there, but two questions have to be answered first: does the Giants front office have the ability to successfully assess available players for value and need (this has been a problem in the recent past), and do they have the will to get it done. That means, invariably, giving up quality pitching to get quality hitting.
As far as ability, the Giant's front office has a dismal track record in the trifecta of building a winning ballcub: free agent signings, trades, and developing a solid minor league base and promoting from within (although that's getting better).
In terms of the will to get things done, ESPN.com's Buster Olney recently conducted a poll among a group of MLB GMs who ranked the Giants' Brian Sabean as "the most difficult GM to trade with."
Several weeks ago I heard a commentator on KNBR, the Giants flagship radio station, pose the following question: if they could, should the Giants trade starter Matt Cain for Milwaukee Brewers power hitter Ryan Braun? The commentator hesitated, and finally said the Giants should probably not make that deal, because they just can't give up Cain.
Absolutely unbelievable, and it accurately reflects the mind set of team management. This is exactly the kind of deal that could turn the current Giants team into legitimate playoff contenders, and it would give them a real chance to make the 2010 World Series. But the Giants, frozen in indecision and clutching their pitching for dear life, simply cannot part with a starter like Matt Cain, who is 50-56 in his six year career with the team.
Nothing better illustrates the hostage mentality that grips the Giants front office, keeping ownership from pulling the trigger on the type of trades needed to move this team forward (while they still have pitching talent to deal).
Here is a quick reminder of what good pitching, without power and the ability to score runs, has gotten the Giants the past three seasons:
2007 – last place, 91 losses
2008 – 4th place, 90 losses
2009 – 3rd place, 74 losses.
But, hey, they still have Matt Cain.