With eight days to go before the MLB trade deadline things are finally starting to crackle like sizzling brats on a hot grill in Milwaukee.
For a while it seemed that too many teams were holding their cards tight in anticipation of the extra wild card opportunity in each League. But in the last 24 hours everything has loosened up.
I will pinpoint the exact moment the reluctance to trade started to fade away: when the Oakland A's completed their recent four game sweep of the New York Yankees-- their first sweep of the Bronx pinstripers in 40 years. And the last time the A's swept the Yankees at their home park? Try 99 years ago, in 1913 when "home" for the A's was Philadelphia, a place the Yankees would have gladly rather been (RIP W. C. Fields).
I'm convinced that series contributed to the Yankees pulling the trigger on a deal for Ichiro Suzuki today with the Seattle Mariners.
In reality, three factors played into this improbable deal: 1) current Yankee lead-off hitter and left fielder Brett Gardner looks like he will be on the DL for another month; 2) the Yankees scored 10 runs in their four losses to the A's which likely fried owner Hal Steinbrenner and General Manager Brian Cashman; and 3) the Mariners inexplicibly agreed to give up Ichiro for two middle of the road right-handers, Danny Farquhar and D. J. Mitchell.
Earlier, the American League Central Division leading Detriot Tigers solidified their starting pitching and offense by snagging Florida Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante in a multi-player deal. Which means the Marlins have officially raised the international sign for "we give up" to the rest of Major League Baseball, whose general managers will now be looking to carve up the rest of owner Jeffrey Loria's cooked Fish.
Other trades pending involve the feisty Atlanta Braves who are looking to give up 22 year-old super pitching prospect Randall Delgado to the Chicago Cubs for the accidently recently good veteran starter Ryan Dempster. The Braves are serious about making the post season and look to challenge the Nationals for the NL East title or grab one of the NL wild card slots by October 1st.
Which brings us to the San Francisco Giants.
The two ongoing problems dogging the Giants in the first half of the season are back again in full force: 1) having a reliable closer, and 2) the lack of production at first base. Now that Santiago Casilla finally got a save last Saturday against the Phillies he's only blown 5 of his last 9 save opportunities. The Giants' brain-trust must come to the conclusion that Casilla has demonstrated he cannot be a consistent closer.
Fans might be wowed by Casilla's 94-95 mph fastball but when that's all he throws, opposing hitters also enjoy seeing it. And hitting the hell out of it. Getting a proven closer has to still be #1 on GM Brian Sabean's hit list during this final week.
MLBTradeRumors reported the Giants may be interested in Cleveland closer Chris Perez. But Perez is an experienced closer with 26 saves and a 1.04 WHIP and it's very hard to see what the Giants could possibly offer the Indians other than a combination of something like Hector Sanchez and a high end prospect.
It may be that San Francisco has to settle for a lesser piece to upgrade their bullpen, like Seattle's Brandon League.
The first base issue has recently grown into a first base problem. SF Chronicle beat writer Henry Schulman notes that Brandon Belt is currently 3 for 41 at the plate with 18 strikeouts, and has only 9 hits in his last 66 trips to the plate. If Manager Bruce Bochy and his coaches feel that Belt has really lost confidence at the plate it will be a green light for the Giants to really turn things upside down.
After all the years and effort the team put into keeping Pablo Sandoval in shape to play third base, they may grudgingly conclude it's finally time to move Sandoval to first base. And send Belt back to Triple A Fresno to get his mojo back. It would be a defeat for the Giants' future because Brandon Belt has shown extra base hit power and an ability to sustain a high OBP, while Sandoval is coming into his own defensively at third. Simply put, that scenario is a big step backwards.
But this is all about what's needed right now-- for the Giants to make the playoffs, and for the Giants to win in the post season.
The question remains, if Pablo moves who would play third base. Joaquin Arias has mirrored Santiago Casilla-- he really hasn't shown he can be an offensively productive everyday player. The key here would be for the Giants to trade for a front line, signable third baseman who would be under the team's control for at least several years. That would justify what San Francisco would have to do to pull off a trade of that magnitude: give up a top prospect (like Gary Brown or Heath Hembree) and likely one player off the current roster.
Names? Other than established starters, the only real potential impact player out there who might be Giants affordable is Hanley Ramirez of the sinking Marlins.
Note: now that Nate Schierholtz has finally managed to put together two good games in a row for the second time this season, can the Giants front office please package him in a deal and move him off the roster. Being consistently unproductive at the plate his entire career is one thing, but whining to the media about not getting playing time? Please.
I am amazed that apparently all it takes to be a fan favorite is to have a rhyming nickname. Except for one small thing: Nate ain't that great.