Westwood Blues

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Roundup

In years past, the Giants have used the July 31st trade deadline to bring a well needed infusion of talent for the stretch run. Between Andres Galarraga, Kenny Lofton, Ellis Burks, Jason Schmidt, Brian Johnson, and Roberto Hernandez, to name a few, the Giants management has consistently given the team an annual boost for last couple months of the season.

Things may be different this year. Revenue sharing has lead to a greater parity in baseball, meaning there are fewer sellers at the trade deadline market this year than in years past. Further complicating matters for the Giants is the fact that two of the sellers, Arizona and Colorado, reside in the Giants division. Generally speaking, teams don't like to trade their useful players to division rivals. Interestingly enough, some of the players the Giants are interested in are in the NL West. Several different sources have indicated that SF is interested in Steve Finley, with Danny Bautista another possibility. Reportedly, the twentysevenandahalfbacks have asked for either Matthew Cain or Merkin Valdez in exchange for Finley.

The Giants have publicly stated that they are not interested in trading either of their two top prospects, Cain and Valdez. They've even gone so far as to screen test the two phenoms for a baseball inspired remake of The Untouchables. The role of Eliot Ness will be played by Brian Sabean. Anyway, the Giants' reluctance to part with their two top picks is yet another reason not to expect a blockbuster on July 31st. Beyond Cain and Valdez the Giants prospect cupboard is pretty bare.

Hanging onto Cain is a wise move in my opinion. While I consider myself a disciple of the There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect school of thinking, and generally don't shed any tears when a minor league pitcher is dealt for a useful major leaguer, Cain has showed this year that he isn't just a run of the mill pitching prospect. Nineteen year-olds who make waves in AA aren't exactly a dime a dozen. The newly minted third best pitching prospect in all of baseball should command more than just a two month rental of a useful player on the trade market. If I ran the Giants, I'd hang onto him unless I could use him as part of a package to land a big time player.

The only big time player on the market, (assuming Beltran isn't dealt again) is Randy Johnson. Despite the pleas of Skip Bayless and despite Phil Rogers' report that the Giants are "stalking" Johnson, its very unlikely that RJ will be traded to the Giants, in my humble opinion. The D-Backs would face a PR disaster if they traded the face of their franchise and their first Hall of Famer to a divison rival. Peter McCheapskate isn't likely to pick up his bar tab, let alone over $20MM of RJ's contract over the next year and two months. And who knows if Johnson would even approve a trade to SF in the first place. From the land of hypotheticals -- if Arizona would trade Johnson for Cain and Valdez, I'd pull the trigger on the trade in a heartbeat if I were the Giants. Flags fly forever.

So, with the belief that the Giants will not part with their top prospects, and therefore not land a big player, the Giants will probably pick up a bullpen guy and possibly a bench player.

The Giants are among the teams that have been scouting the Pirates in recent days. Joe Roderick quotes two sources who say that SF is interested in Jose Mesa. Mesa is having a good year as the Pirates closer, a 2.35 ERA and 28 saves, although his peripherals aren't as good as his ERA would suggest (1.35 WHIP, 26 Ks in 42 IP). The trouble with a potential deal for Mesa is that he doesn't want to pitch in SF. If he doesn't want to be here, then there's no point in acquiring him.

Another interesting option at the closer's spot is Baltimore's Jorge Julio. Although 190 career IP isn't the biggest sample size in the world, it's worth noting that Julio is a bit better on the road than he is at Camden Yards. For his career, he has a 4.25 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP at home and a 2.62 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP on the road.

After all of the gossip and rumors about possible acquisitions, I'd bet that Sabean will end up trading for someone who is completely off the radar screen - like maybe another middle infielder. As part of their plan to eventually acquire every shortstop in organized baseball, John Shea reports that the Giants are interested in Orlando Cabrera, and Lawrence Rocca notes that Sabean has allegedly tried to trade Felix Rodriguez for Cabrera, although Joe Roderick discounts these rumors.

Another off the radar screen possibility is Larry Walker. Will Carroll reports that the Giants have inquired about Larry Walker, although SF has yet to make an offer. Walker's contract status and constant questions about his health make him a longshot to be traded to SF.

Again, I think the Giants will probably end up trading for a reliever and a bench player. With Tomko and Hermanson pitching well of late, I believe the Giants are content to stand pat with their current rotation. My official predicition is that they'll pick up a reliever from the Pirates (either Mesa or Meadows) and either Matt Stairs or Frank Catalonotto. Then again, in true Sabean stealth fashion, the Giants will probably wind up with someone who has yet to be rumored to be headed to San Francisco.

Editor's Note: After endlessly blogging about the July 31st trade deadline, it only makes sense that I'll be on vacation until the first week of August and unable to blog until then. In the meantime, if you're at Petco Park or San Diego's Gaslamp District next week and see some yahoo in a Lunatic Fringe shirt running amok, make sure to say hello.

News and Notes...

...Giants trainer Stan Conte will participate in an online chat at Baseball Prospectus next Tuesday at 11AM Pacific Time...
...Is Brett Tomko finally reaching his potential? For years, Tomko was regarded as a can't miss prospect. However, throughout his career, the only thing he wasn't missing was the sweet spot of opponents' bats. Since returning from the DL, Tomko has been very effective - consistently pitching into the late innings and allowing two or fewer runs in five of his six starts. As recently as a month ago, it was assumed that Tomko would not be back next year. The Giants hold a team option on Tomko for next season. If he continues to pitch well for the rest of the season, Tomko will be back for 2005...
...Once again, hats off to legendary Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. As Lon has mentioned many times, one of the truly rewarding aspects of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame is that he'll be reunited once again with his dear friend and fellow Hall of Famer Russ Hodges...


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Trade Winds
The Giants rumor mill continues to churn out some interesting gossip -- here's the latest:  the Giants management has told Giants fans to not expect any blockbusters at the July 31 trading deadline.  I'm still deciding if this is a strategic move with the eye on keeping ahold of the few prospects the Giants have, or if its an outright admission that the Giants farm system isn't deep enough to be part of a blockbuster deal in the first place. 
Knowing that the Giants won't acquire any sexy names, it looks like Sabean will make an effort to bolster the bench and possibly the bullpen.  Here are a few of the possibilities:
* Matt Stairs

For some reason the Giants are lugging around three and half shortstops on their roster.  Instead of wasting a roster spot, the Giants should drop one of their shortstops and replace him with a pinch hitter/corner outfielder type.  Stairs can fill this role and he'd probably come cheap.
* John Olerud
After reportedly vetoing a trade to the Giants a couple of months ago, John Olerud may reconsider his options now that he has been designated for assignment by the Mariners.  His options being 1) play for a team other than the Mariners, and 2) retire.
The Oakland Trib reports that the Giants weren't interested in acquiring Olerud per se, but that Olerud was to be part of a package that included a Mariners pitcher (Guardado? Garcia? Moyer? Gil Meche? Piniero?).  The Giants would've been responsible for paying the remainder of Olerud's $7.7MM contract this season.  The Giants interest in Olerud was merely "tied to their ability to acquire a pitcher from Seattle." 
If Olerud somehow does wind up on the Giants, he'll supplant Neifarious as the team's lefty pinch hitter, while filling in at first base when JT Snow takes another trip to the DL.

* Frank Catalanotto

Brian Sabean lusts after players who can play multiple positions.  Well, acquiring Catalanotto would be like hitting the utility player motherlode.  Catalanotto has logged games at every position except SS, CF, and C in his career.  F-Cat is having a strong year for the Blue Jays: .327/.363/.455.  I could definitely see the Giants acquire him.

* Scott Sullivan 

The Royals don't need him for anything.  Allard Baird owes Brian Sabean a favor for giftwrapping this years first round pick to the Royals.  Gimme.

The Giants: Offensive Juggernaut? 

While in the midst of their successful month of June, the Giants offense was clicking on all cylinders.  In an earlier post, I said we should re-evaluate the Giants offense after they went through a stretch where they faced the pitching staffs of the Red Sox, the A's, and the Dodgers to see if the Giants still had one of the top offenses in the league.  As a matter of fact, the Giants still have one of the most productive offenses in the NL (through Friday's games): 
News and Notes...
...The baseball world's prospect hounds  are officially high on Giants phenom Matt Cain.  In their revised, mid-season top prospects list, Baseball America named Matt Cain the 11th best prospect in the game and the third best pitching prospect in all of baseball...Some news on the Giants' other prospect:  Merkin Valdez has been promoted to AA...
...Baseball Prospectus notes that Barry Bonds would have to go 0 for his next 142 to see his OBP drop to the level of Scott Rolen's current OBP.  Amazing...
...At the season ticket holder meet and greet last Friday, Peter Magowan revealed that San Francisco has been awarded an All-Star Game, although he declined to state what year the Mid Summer Classic would come to SF.  The word on the street is that the Giants will likely host the 2007 All-Star Game...


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Westwood Redondo Blues: The New York Post Edition

If the successful month of June turned the Giants into buyers at the trade deadline bazaar, then the sluggish start to July reaffirms the fact that the Giants are a flawed team in need of an infusion of talent. Without further adeiu, we bring you even more gossip, rumors, baseless speculation, and innuendo.

* Kris Benson

I kind of glossed over Benson in my last post. If one were to judge Benson exclusively on his stats (particularly his most recent starts), acquiring Benson wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. The knock on Benson, whether it's fair or not, is that he is a head case.

Hmmm...a Giants pitcher with a million dollar arm and a two-cent head. Where have I seen that before? After suffering through the likes of Atlee Hammaker, Shawn Estes, Livan, Bomko, Salomon Torres, William VanLaunchingpad, Felix Rodriguez, et al. forgive me if I'm a little apprehensive about the idea of trading for yet another head case pitcher who does not pitch to his abilities.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Giants are among the teams that have expressed interest in Benson. Peter Gammons quotes an AL GM as saying that Pittsburgh is seeking "a position player who can step in soon" in return for Benson.

* Ben Sheets

For some reason his name is occasionally mentioned among pitchers who are available at the trade deadline, but the Brewers aren't going to trade him. So says Brewers GM Doug Melvin: "I wouldn't trade Ben Sheets. He's part of what we're trying to do. There's no way I'd (trade him)."

* Randy Johnson

Dream on, Carl Steward. At this point in time, it's unlikely that Johnson will be dealt. Thus spoke Colangelo: "I don't think we'd ever get involved in (trading) him without him coming to us and saying that's what he wanted, and I haven't heard that from any source."

Even if Johnson does demand out of Arizona, I have a tough time believing that the sixteenandahalfbacks will ship him to a division rival.

* Justin Speier, Kerry Lightenberg, Terry Adams

So, anyone else think the blowpen could use a shot in the arm? I'll personally volunteer to put Jason Christiansen out of his misery by unloading a few dozen rounds into his left arm.

Anyway, the Jays will be clearing house soon and Ken Rosenthal reports that all of these relievers are available. Lightenberg is having a disappointing season (4.72 ERA, 1.65 WHIP), but he's been a very effective reliever in each of his previous seasons in the bigs. Speier is also having a disappointing season (5.83 ERA, 1.43 WHIP), but he has been slightly above league average for the rest of his career.

* Eddie Guardado

There is some speculation that the Mariners are looking to deal Everyday Eddie, who has been one of the better relievers in baseball this year. He'd be an interesting fit with the Giants, as Felipe Alou would be tempted to actually use him every single day.

The drawback to a potential Guardado trade is his contract status. He has two years left on his three year $13MM contract and could make up to $17MM total if he reaches certain performance bonuses. It would be a risk to acquire a 33 year old reliever with that kind of contract.

* Jose Mesa, Brian Meadows

Both of these relievers are having fine seasons for the Pirates. I'd prefer Meadows because he has slightly better peripherals and he'd come cheaper since he doesn't have the Proven Closer® brand name that Mesa does. Either of these pitchers (or both) would be a welcome addition to the Giants bullpen.

* Kip Wells

While we're at it, why don't we just raid the entire Bucs pitching staff. Here's another case of a pitcher who has apparently regressed from his career norms. On the heels of two outstanding seasons in 2002 (3.58 ERA) and 2003 (3.28 ERA), Wells has struggled a bit this season, posting a 4.66 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. His troubles this year stem from the large number of walks he has issued (53 in just 92 IP).

* Waiver Wire

The Giants were reportedly interested in Jose Jimenez in the off season. Well, Cleveland has sent him packing, so he's free for the taking. The Giants may sit tight and wait for other players to be released before doing the patented Sabean handspring triple Lindy dive into the dumpster bin to sift through the castoffs and throwaways of other teams.

The Chickens Come Home To Roost

I'll probably burn in some god forsaken corner of 501(c)3 hell for criticizing a charitable endeavor, but the whole rubber chicken deal is just lame. Nothing says passionate baseball fans like a horde of yuppies swinging around a $10 hunk of rubber whenever the team's slugger is walked. And for those of you who get up and do some bizarre dance where you mimic a chicken, just stop, ok? You do not look like a chicken. You look like an idiot. In fact, you look like a mental patient who is about to tip over and is trying to regain his balance by sticking his elbows out.

When I first saw the chickens being waved around (in the 2002 playoffs) I thought it was a clever idea. But now, two years later, it's officially played out.

As I've said a few times before, the Giants management brought this whole mess onto themselves when they refused to acquire a legitimate power threat to hit behind Bonds. You want to express your frustration at Bonds' being walked when your at the park? Great. Direct your anger at the responsible party. Ditch the chicken motif and join the lunatic fringe by lobbing molotov cocktails into the owner's box.

Random Thoughts

...Craig Whitaker, the 34th overall pick in the 2003 draft, sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when discussing top Giants pitching prospects. Obviously one can't draw any conclusions from his 19 IP this year, but it's worth pointing out that he has had a fine start to his season with Salem-Kaizer. In four starts Whitaker has posted a 2.37 ERA with 22 Ks in 19 IP. Not bad for a 19 year-old...
...Remember when Brett Bomko was signed and he was hailed by Giants management as the revered eater of innings? Well, Bomko is averaging just over 5 2/3 innings per start...
...With the All-Star game looming next week, Giants fans are left to guess at what disaster will strike Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt. Giants pitchers have a long, long tradition of unmitigated meltdowns in the mid-summer classic. I've already exceeded the maximum allotment of Atlee Hammaker references in a post (sorry), so I won't detail each and every Giants All-Star game mound implosion in this space. Dear baseball gods, can Jason Schmidt please, please have an uneventful inning of work on Tuesday?...