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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Giants, Sabean Leaning Towards Adding

The Giants got the second half started the way fans were hoping, as Chad Gaudin shut down the first place Arizona Diamondbacks and moved the Giants to within 5.5 games of first place. Now, as I expected, Brian Sabean is hinting that this team will be looking to add with eleven days before the trade deadline.

I've mentioned here recently that I still think it would make more sense for this team to try and deal away some of their pending free agents, and if they could get a nice package in return for Tim Lincecum, I'd even be open to dealing him. However, I just never really expected the team to go that route being within striking distance in the West and trying their best to defend a World Series tittle. Sabean said Friday that this team's top priority is still rotation help, and with Matt Garza (the one real difference making arm in this years market) likely ticketed for Texas or Oakland, the Giants have placed focus elsewhere. The latest name that Henry Schulman has been tossing out on Twitter all day has been Kansas City's Ervin Santana. The hard throwing righty is in his contract year, and has pitched beautifully for KC, rocking a 6-6 record, 3.18 ERA with 104 K's and a 1.07 WHIP in 19 starts. When comparing him to Garza, they both have similar track records, are a year apart in age and have each been throwing the ball well this year. I can definitely see the intrigue in Santana, under the right circumstances. Still, it's not even certain the Royals will deal him seeing that they're actually in a better position, standings wise, than the Giants.

The only problem with trading away prospects for Santana is that he's a pending free agent, and one thing the Giants shouldn't be doing this summer is adding players with the sole intention of making a run this year. If they make a deal, it should be for a guy who will stick around a few seasons. With that in mind, another guy who they've shown interest in, and one of the first guys I mentioned here two months ago when it was clear the Giants needed rotation help, is Bud Norris. Now Norris doesn't have the track record of Santana, but he's still got another year of arbitration which means he'd be around for 2014. With the Giants potentially losing Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito after this year, and without any starters who have shown they're ML-ready down in the minors, they're going to have some rotation spots to fill this winter. Norris is solid and dependable, but he's not what you'd consider an impact arm, more like a number 3-4 starter on a good team. Again, it's not like the Giants just need a small boost to help right this ship, they'll need two impact guys, in my opinion, and I'm just not sure there are two guys out there that make sense and are attainable. Santana would be a nice addition to the rotation, and I think Alex Rios could be had for relatively cheap and would look much out in left than the mess of guys Bochy has been using. Would it be worth it to take a gamble on a pair like that if you didn't need to part with many of your top prospects but knowing you'd take on a bunch of money and may only marginally improve? I still say no unless the price is absolutely right.

If the Giants do add a starter though, it's going to certainly make things interesting. I mean, it's not like you can replace Chad Gaudin right now, and there's no way Timmy's going to the pen after his latest outing. I guess they could try and stash Zito like they did at the end of 2010, but then they'll have Ryan Vogelsong set to return in early August as well, and he's not going into the bullpen either. With Jeremy Affeldt sidelined for the next 6 weeks though, moving Zito to the pen may make some sense anyway.

All that said, my money is still on the team standing pat and doing absolutely nothing.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Giants Alive, But Far from a Legit Contender

The Giants have gone 14-26 since June 1st and have played like one of the worst teams in the league. However, despite their 43-51 record, they sit just 6.5 games out of first place heading into the second half and are still very much alive in the NL West, putting Brian Sabean and Co. in a bit of a conundrum.

We've talked extensively over the last few weeks about what the Giants should do before the trade deadline, which is now under two weeks out, and I still think that if a move is made, it's going to be a last minute deal. Their deficit in the West is hardly a huge hurdle, but the teams deterioration over the last 2 months has been abysmal. It's been the longest stretch of bad baseball I've seen this team play since they won their first championship in 2010 and unfortunately, their just don't appear to be a whole lot of signs that would point to a drastic turnaround anytime soon. I was really hoping that Tim Lincecum no-no would maybe ignite something in the bunch, but we then saw them roll over and get shut down by Eric Stults the following day. It just seems like every time this team may get some momentum shifted back in their favor, they can't quite turn the corner all the way and continue to stay stuck in the rut. To me at least, these signs all indicate that things aren't likely to get better any time soon, and even though they're just 6.5 games back, this team may enter the trading season in a much different position than they have over the last 4-5 years.

Now, if the Giants start the second half on fire, and reel off a string of 7-8 wins in a row to get themselves back in the neighborhood of .500, then maybe I see Sabean pulling off a last minute deal that could help give this team a shot in the arm. Realistically though, I have a hard time believing that will happen. The offense, which was the one area of the team that was carrying them while the starting pitching struggled, has been dreadful during this downward spiral. It didn't help that Angel Pagan hit the shelf, but even when he was out there, you could see the holes in this lineup. Pablo Sandoval looked like he was in for a big year in April, hitting .333 with 4 jacks and 22 RBI. However, in the 2.5 months since then, he's hit .220 with 5 home runs and 20 RBI. When your without your everyday leadoff hitter, and getting that kind of production out of your third hitter, it makes for one rough top half of the order. Marco Scutaro has been Mr. Steady, but without anyone doing much in front of, or behind him, a lot of his efforts offensively have gone to waste. Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford are two other Giants' hitters who got off to solid starts the first 6+ weeks of the season, then really hit a wall since. The only two guys in the Giants lineup playing up to their capabilities have been Buster Posey and Scutaro and it's just tough to get any kind of offensive rhythm going when only 1/4 of your lineup is performing with any consistency.

At this point, the Giants pitching struggles have been well-documented and it would be beating a dead horse for me to keep harping on the fact their bullpen is paper thin and their starting staff is vastly under-achieving. If I had to grade this teams performance as a whole over the first half, they'd get a D. If it hadn't been for the hot start by the offense, then this team could easily be 15 or more games below .500 and that's the only thing keeping them from getting a lower grade.

With all that said, I just can't see a trade, or even two trades that would take this team from a sub-.500 squad and make them legit World Series contenders again. I hope like heck they come out of the break hungry and ready to make a run in the second half, but if they're in this same spot two weeks from now on deadline day, I'd hope they rid themselves of some of their pending free agents (Tim Lincecum's stock my be as high as it's going to get right now), and attempt to stock their meager farm system with some major league-ready talent.

First Half MVP's: Buster Posey (.325/13/56/.931), Madison Bumgarner (10-5, 3.02, 122 K's, 0.95 WHIP). The two guys really keeping this ship from absolutely tanking.
First Half's Biggest Bust: Matt Cain (5-6, 5.04 ERA) just hasn't been the ace the Giants need. Pablo Sandoval (.266/9/42/.714), plus time missed and under-performance due to poor conditioning.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, July 08, 2013

Giants Have Decisions to Make Before Deadline

Two weeks ago as they were treading above .500, it made sense for the Giants to look for outside help in effort to give them that boost that Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence provided last summer. However, as we inch closer to the deadline, and the Giants sinking further below .500 by the day, they may ultimately decide to go another route.

Now, there's still a few weeks of baseball left to be played before the July 31st deadline, and although the Giants are 7 games below .500, they're only 6.5 games back of the first place D-Backs and we haven't yet hit the all-star break. That 6.5 game deficit is hardly a huge hurtle with 3 months left in the season, but this team has steadily declined over the last month and it appears like the two teams that scare me in this division, LA and Arizona, are on the up. The surging Dodgers just dealt for Ricky Nolasco, and if that team continues to gel together and play like they have the last couple weeks, then they could end up running away with this division. If they get Kemp on track and can stay healthy, I think they're in for a big second half. The first place D-Backs who are in first place without getting a whole lot from their pitching staff, and some of their key players off to slow starts. Right now, the Giants are behind those two teams talent wise, and they'd need a big turnaround from Pablo Sandoval, someone to step up in the leadoff spot, and a few additions to their staff and/or lineup in order to catch up with those two teams.

At this point, I don't expect the Giants to try and counter the Dodgers' addition of Ricky Nolasco quite yet. If they head into the all-star break 10 games back, then it would be hard to justify trading away from their shallow farm system in order to try and make a run cause they have too many needs. Offensively, the top of the order, which was so strong during last year's tittle run, has become a major weakness. Nobody has sufficiently filled Angel Pagan's spot atop the lineup, and Pablo Sandoval is in one of his worst slumps of his professional career and is providing nothing in the 3-hole. It's been so bad for Panda that there have been rumblings of possibly sending him down to Fresno to maybe lose a few pounds and re-discover his strike zone. He's always been a notorious hacker, but he's never struck out with the frequency he has in this recent slump and he's making way too many easy outs. Whether it's sending him to Fresno for 10 days, or giving Tony Abreu some at-bats at third while Pablo gets his head together, they have to mix up that top of the order. Due to lack of options, I'd keep rolling with Blanco in the leadoff, but I'd try Brandon Crawford two and maybe move Scutaro into the 3-spot. Buster Posey has been heating up a bit, but without anyone getting on base in front of him, he's not getting many opportunities to drive in runs.

On a positive note, it looks like the Giants may be gaining at least some stability in the bullpen. Sandy Rosario has really stepped things up and has shown he can pitch in late innings, and Jake Dunning has been excellent since his blunder vs. the Marlins on a few weeks back with 8 straight scoreless outings. Hopefully Santiago Casilla gets back sooner than later and can bump George Kontos back to Fresno and then they should be OK in the pen. Not to say they can't use another late-innings guy who can shut down the 8th inning, but they're definitely not reeling there like they were for most of June.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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