Tackling the trade deadline: San Francisco Giants

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Over the next few days, I’m going to look at the needs of some contenders as we approach the July 31 trade deadline.

San Francisco Giants
First-half record: 52-40
Standings: Leading Arizona by 3 games in NL West

Needs

Middle infield: The Giants are hoping to get Freddy Sanchez back from a dislocated shoulder at the end of the month, but season-ending surgery remains a possibility there, and the Giants have gotten a combined .229 average, one homer and six RBI in 140 at-bats from their other second basemen.  They’ve also had a horrible go of it at shortstop, where Miguel Tejada and Brandon Crawford have contributed to an overall .221/.288/.324 line.

Catcher: Eli Whiteside has quietly hit .265 with two homers, 11 RBI and nine walks in 68 at-bats since the beginning of June, so Buster Posey’s absence hasn’t hurt as much as anticipated.  Still, the Giants need help here.  Whiteside, who was injury-prone in the minors, has never caught regularly in the majors and figures to wear down.  Chris Stewart hasn’t hit at all as his backup.

Outfield: A healthy Carlos Beltran would look really good in the middle of the Giants lineup.  However, the outfield is a lower priority for the team.  Nate Schierholtz has been a great surprise with his .807 OPS in right field, and Cody Ross has been well above average at .789.  While Andres Torres has been quite a disappointment in hitting just .226, he is walking and playing excellent defense, making him something close to an average regular in center field.

Target

Jose Reyes (SS Mets): It just doesn’t get much more obvious than this.  The Giants, more so than any other contender, would benefit from a big upgrade at shortstop, and Reyes is the best position player with a chance of changing teams at the deadline.

Proposed deal

Reyes for 1B/OF Brandon Belt, RHP Zack Wheeler and RHP Mitch Lively

Is it enough? Belt isn’t an ideal fit in New York, and the Mets might prefer 2010 first-round pick Gary Brown instead.  The speedy Brown would become the team’s center fielder of the future.  Belt has outfield experience, but I don’t know that the Mets can afford to play him and Jason Bay in the corners at the same time.

I doubt the Giants would give up both Brown and Wheeler, their No. 1 pitching prospect, in the same deal.  Perhaps they’d do Brown if the Mets were willing to take Jonathan Sanchez instead of Wheeler.  Sanchez, though, isn’t as attractive of a trade possibility as he once was, as he’ll be eligible for free agency after 2012.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.