The San Francisco Giants are in a spot they haven’t been in for awhile. Well, if you exclude the last five-or-so seasons.
They busted out to first before looking like the absolute worst. After taking what may have appeared to be an unyielding grip on first place, San Francisco gave it up to the rival Dodgers, and don’t appear readily able to reclaim it. And they need to re-tool in the worst way.
The Giants farm system is weak. How weak? Baseball Prospectus has them at 22nd best. No, there are no Buster Posey-type players coming up, not in the next five years. Unless general manager Brian Sabean takes a drastic turn — one he should have taken last year.
If it weren’t for the extreme depth of free agents available at the end of this season, the narrative would be different. But when guys like Jason Hammel and Jorge De La Rosa hit the market — and unlikely to re-sign with their current teams — it behooves oneself to take a big chance.
Don’t get it twisted, giving up someone like Matt Cain for the likes of Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos is a bold move. Castellanos is a youngster who entered the bigs at the beginning of the season with a huge burden. Asked to take over for Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner, he’s undoubtedly blinked.
But Castellanos has big upside. He can play third base as well as left field. Both positions carry huge question marks for the Giants moving forward, as Pablo Sandoval could depart for greener, or perhaps bluer, pastures.
It wouldn’t be shocking for the Dodgers to give Sandoval the big money he desires, and left field has been a need since Barry Bonds quit baseball in 2007.
The Tigers, meanwhile, lack much for pitching. And the trade market does too.
Moreover, Cain simply isn’t the guy who threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history. Would Detroit do a deal, Cain for Castellanos, straight up? Probably not.
But if Sandoval were thrown in, well then, it’s certainly a solid proposal.
Before we get too far ahead, it’s understood that both are fan favorites. They’re two players who will forever live among guys like Bonds, Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda.
Cain, a serious catalyst for two World Series titles. Sandoval, the guy who ruined Justin Verlander’s confidence for the foreseeable future, belting three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 Fall Classic.
But these are tough times, and when the going gets tough, the guys who can’t produce get going. Elsewhere.
It’s not like Sabean deems anyone off limits, either, as the big dog in San Francisco’s office told Tim Kawakami:
“There are no untouchables in our organization.”
Perhaps first baseman Brandon Belt, catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford shouldn’t be looked at as trade bait. But anyone else, they should be used like chits at summer camp.
Angel Pagan for Boston middle infielder Mookie Betts or Detroit second baseman Devon Travis. Send Marco Scutaro away for a top pitching prospect, which is seemingly everywhere, depending on who you ask.
Sign Jason Hammel, De La Rosa and Yovanni Gallardo during the offseason, who’d join Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson.
Add Norichika Aoki or Denard Span as the leadoff hitting center fielder. Perhaps a bet on Alex Rios at left field would pay off.
Aramis Ramirez or Chase Headley can man the hot corner, or maybe even Castellanos. JJ Hardy, Emilio Bonifacio and Ben Zobrist are eyeing the market, and can be solid middle-of-the-lineup hitters with the right club.
Not to mention the insane power available in Adam LaRoche, Paul Konerko and Corey Hart. There’s others, Adam Lind, Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez.
The only drawback is fan support. It’s a big one. No long-time Giants fan wants to see Sandoval traded away. They’ve invested in Panda hats, too much of their energy has been spent riding the ebb and flow of Giants baseball. The downs, which have been severe, are only remedied by the love fans have for the players.
The Milk Men of 2012, for instance, became fan lore around the nation. That hurt, Melky Cabrera testing positive for PED’s and never returning to AT&T Park as part of the 25-man roster.
Juan Uribe, who pushed the Giants all the way through the 2010 postseason and into the championship light, departed for white and blue during the following season.
Sandoval appears next in line to fulfill the heartbreak and angst at the hot corner of Dodgers stadium.
It’s become abundantly clear that this is the year, if there was any, to make bold moves. So unless Sabean gets the green light to match the Dodgers spending — which he won’t — the only move is to send certain players packing.
It’s realistically the only way the Giants can compete within the division, because to the outrage of Giants fans everywhere, Los Angeles has things locked down. Don Mattingly’s Dodgers will presumably keep spending until they have what they’re looking for, too, which may never come.