Rockies shopping Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins

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Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said yesterday that he’s not actively looking to trade Brad Hawpe, but admitted that he’s listening to offers for the 30-year-old outfielder just weeks after saying that “we have no desire to move him at all.”
Hawpe is signed for $7.5 million next season and the Rockies hold a $10 million option or $500,000 buyout for 2011, but he’s become expendable with Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Seth Smith providing younger, cheaper outfield options.
His outfield defense is awful, but Hawpe could be an attractive target for contenders looking to add a big bat to the middle of the lineup. Over the past four seasons he’s hit .288/.384/.518 with an OPS above .875 every year, and while Coors Field has no doubt padded his overall numbers Hawpe has batted .280/.375/.489 on the road. He’s a lifetime .283 hitter with 25-homer power and excellent plate discipline, and is essentially signed to a two-year, $17.5 million deal.
Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports that the Rockies also “continue to explore trade prospects” for Garrett Atkins and plan to release him if they can’t find a taker by November 20. Unlike with Hawpe, the market for Atkins figures to be non-existent. Or at least it should be. Saunders lists the Phillies, Angels, Rangers, and Orioles as possibly having interest, but over the past four seasons his OPS has dropped from .965 to .853 to .780 to .650 and he’s a career .252/.324/.411 hitter away from Coors Field.
Toss in poor defense at third base and Atkins is no longer starting material, let alone worth trading for and taking to arbitration following a season in which he earned $7 million. If the Rockies are interested in dealing Hawpe they should have no problem finding a taker willing to part with a decent prospect or two, but look for Atkins to hit the open market next week after being released. He’s now just a shell of the guy who hit .329/.406/.556 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs in 2006.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.