The All Star break is here and that means that a little more than half the season has been played. It also means that the trading deadline of July 31st is getting closer and closer. At the break, the Giants find themselves in 3rd place in the worst division in baseball with a record of 40-55. Despite sitting in 3rd place and only being 7 games out, this team has major problems. The offense is weak, the infield defense is porous, and the bullpen has been unstable. The Giants have been a bad team, don’t mistake it, but not as bad as some predicted. Thanks, lowered expectations.
Here’s my recipe for a successful 2nd half of 2008. Feel free to add any steps that you think I may have missed.
1. Trade away older veterans (Durham, Aurilia, Winn, Roberts) at the deadline.
2. Let your younger players get AB’s in the 2nd half by filling in for these traded veterans. Players such as Burriss, Denker, Schierholtz, and basically anyone that you think can BENEFIT (keyword) from major league play. This doesn’t mean you should call up players from A-ball willy-nilly — I’m looking at you Brian Sabean — but it does mean that if you want to be aggressive with some older prospects in AA/AAA — Rohlinger, Downs, Ishikawa — that this is the time to move them and see what they can do. Think of this time as an extended Spring Training.
3. Keep your pitching healthy. This means no more bullpen appearances for Tim Lincecum and watching Jonathan Sanchez carefully to see how he handles his new workload. The trio of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez is one of the few things that the Giants have going forward that can count as a positive. We need to keep that advantage as we move forward. This is insanely vital and I don’t know how to stress it more.
4. Do not, I repeat, do not let Dave Roberts play any more than a late inning replacement or preferably, a pinch-runner for the slower players on the team. Even if a hole is created in the OF by trade, Roberts is still an expensive 4/5th OF. Resist the urges, Bruce.
5. Call up Justin Leone. Do it, it would make me happy.
This list relies on the all important step of trading away veterans, which for Giants of previous years, isn’t a very Giants thing to do. Let’s look at some of the players that the Giants might be able to move during this years trading deadline and see if anyone would want any of these players.
RF Randy Winn
102 OPS+, .280 EqA
Who he is: At the break Winn is hitting (.285/.355/.406) which is pretty close to his career line of (.286/.345/.423). Never a great base stealer, Winn has done an excellent job of swiping bags this year. He’s stolen 18 bases in 19 attempts. He should be able to surpass his season high of 27 bases stolen in ’08. He plays a solid RF — the Fielding Bible had him at +13 in ’07 and RZR has him as the 2nd best RF in the NL right now — and could play all three OF spots for a team needing some depth. His bat is weak for a corner OF spot but his defense and stolen bases add some value to his overall package and if you can stick him in CF, his bat plays much better. The negatives against Winn are that he’s due for $8.25M in ’09 and he has a limited no-trade clause to 10 teams. The Giants would have to eat some of his salary to move him. Hopefully Sabean was blowing smoke when he told the Chronicle that he wasn’t going to move Winn. He’ll be 35-years-old next season and the Giants are crammed full of potentially interesting OF prospects that would benefit from a Winn trade.
Potential Destination: If I’m Sabean, I’ll trade Winn in-division to the Arizona Diamondbacks. With Byrnes out for the year, the D-Backs need a LF that can play defense and steal a few bags. Winn has much of Byrnes’ skillset and he’s always hit well at Chase Field, owning a career line of: (.377/.419/.689) in 106 AB’s. The Diamondbacks have been rumored to have shown some interest in the Mariners Raul Ibanez. The Mets are also another potential landing spot for Winn.
Chance of Trade: I’ll stick Winn at 50% right now and that may be too high. I’ve got a couple of fears that Winn isn’t going to be heavily valued in this trade market and that Sabean might actually want to keep him.
2B Ray Durham
113 OPS+, .286 EqA
Who he is: Durham is a second baseman that could help a contender who’s weak at second or who needs a switch-hitting bat off the bench. Durham, who looked absolutely cooked in ’07, has bounced back this year. At the break he’s hitting (.293/.385/.414) and despite the loss of some power, he’s raised his OBP. He’ll never be confused for a good fielder and at times he’ll look very slow defensively but as long as he’s getting on base, you might be able to live with it. Because Durham is only signed for this year, he’s a cost effective piece for a team looking to add some more depth. The team would only have to pick up the remaining portion of his $7.5M contract for this year and then be done with him. For Durham, I’d love to get a C+/B- prospect and I’d even eat a little salary if it resulted in a better prospect.
Potential Destination: The Brewers, Mets, and Cardinals could all upgrade at 2B with Durham. The Brewers have declared that they’re going for it this year with the Sabathia pickup and might look to add some more pieces as Rickie Weeks has struggled this year. The Mets are currently using Damon Easley at 2B because Luis Castillo is injured. Even though Easley has performed decently, Durham has better numbers and the Mets could shift Easley back to a utility role. The Cardinals aren’t getting much from Adam Kennedy and might want to upgrade. On the surface, the Brewers seem like a nice match.
Chance of Trade: I’ll move Durham to 75%. He won’t cost much, is signed only for this year, and is hitting. I think a team with already good depth will pick him up to bolster their bench or a team with 2B issues could pick him up to start. Maybe our most tradeable player.
IF Rich Aurilia
99 OPS+, .263 EqA
Who he is: Aurilia is a utility player that has mostly rotated between 1B and 3B for the Giants. He could play SS in a pinch, though you wouldn’t want to put him out there much, and 2B if needed. Like Durham, he’s bounced back some from his ’07 and like Durham, his contract doesn’t extend beyond this year. Currently Aurilia is hitting (.273/.330/.426) which is respectable-ish for a utility man on a contender. Aurilia should be able to be had for little-to-nothing. Any contender that might need utility help could consider him.
Potential Destination: Everywhere and nowhere. I’m not really sure where I could stick Aurilia, maybe to the Phillies? I know they’ve been happy with Eric Bruntlett’s play but he’s only hitting (.232/.314/.317) and Aurilia would give them a little more pop off the bench and at the utility position.
Chance of Trade: This is a tough one because I’m not sure what the market is for Aurilia, I assume it’s there, but are utility men in huge demand? I’ll push Aurilia all the way to %55. Which again, might seem a little high, but he’s cheap and can play a few positions. He’s less than Durham but slightly more than Winn, that seems about right.
OF Dave Roberts
-23 OPS+, -.139 EqA
Who he is: A speedy 4th OF that should only hit against RHP. Roberts played all of 6 games for the Giants this year before he went down with knee surgery. He’s currently playing in Fresno and over 6 games he’s hitting (.313/.476/.688). Ignore the small sample size, Dave Roberts is back! You want him, you need him. Hey, did you know Dave Roberts once stole a base for the World Series winning Red Sox? It’s true, that actually happened and by my thinking, if you trade for Dave Roberts, you’ll win a World Series. You want to win a World Series, don’t you? Roberts is due the remaining half of $6.5M for this year and another $6.5M for next year, making any trade for him unlikely. If any team was crazy enough to pick up Roberts, they’d want the Giants to eat his salary, which they should do, no questions asked. Roberts truly has no place on the Giants with Fred Lewis’ emergence as a good LF and lead-off man. You can’t platoon him with Lewis because he doesn’t hit lefties and as a 5th OF and pinch-runner, he’s very expensive.
Potential Destination: The Red Sox! Just kidding but I can’t really think of a destination for Roberts. His combination of injuries and expensiveness don’t mix well. The Giants would have to eat a big portion of his salary and the interested team would have to be convinced that Roberts is healthy. That’s a lot of “ifs”.
Chance of Trade: 1%. Even if Roberts is a proven World Series Winner, he has too many roadblocks to overcome in a deal. The Giants might be able to move him over the winter but what they shouldn’t do is give him significant playing time in the 2nd half in an attempt to boost his value. This one is a sunk cost.
LHP Jack Taschner
140 ERA+, 3.81 FIP
Who he is: A left-handed reliever who’s experienced success this year. Taschner owns a shiny 3.03 ERA in 32.2 IP in ’08. He’s your classic two-pitch lefty reliever that works off of a low-90′s fastball and a sweeping slider. He’ll thrown a change on occasion but his slider and fastball are his bread and butter. The Brewers were rumored weeks ago to be interested in Taschner but any team that needed a lefty in their bullpen might give him a look-see. Because Taschner is 30-years-old, he has minuscule upside and the Giants might already have a better LHP in their bullpen in Alex Hinshaw.
Potential Destination: The Brewers have been linked with Taschner and that would be a good fit. Taschner is originally from Wisconsin. The D-Backs could be interested as they have only one lefty in their pen, Doug Slaten. Slaten has struggled some this year and has an ERA of 4.44 with a FIP of 5.06. The Cardinals have a pair of struggling lefty relievers in Ron Villone and Randy Flores, they could be interested in Taschner.
Chance of Trade: 70%. I think Taschner is one of the most movable bullpen pieces that the Giants have. He’s earning 400K this year and because of his age, this could be one of his last productive years. Hinshaw coming to the majors also makes him a little more expendable. I love Agent Jack but I think it’s his time to go.
RHP Tyler Walker
87 ERA+, 4.47 FIP
Who he is: Tyler Walker is a right-handed middle reliever who’s currently the setup man for the Giants. He profiles much better as a middle reliever than a late game pitcher. He throws a low 90′s fastball, a slider, and a split that he started throwing this year. He’s struggled lately and his value has to be really low but the Giants should field any offers that they get for Walker. He’s cheap — a team would only have to pay him the remaining portion of 750K — and he has some late game experience. He’s 32-years-old and won’t get any better. I don’t mind Walker in a middle relief role but the Giants continue to use him in high leverage situations. Fun fact, Tyler Walker is 2nd on the Giants for leveraged situations at 1.80, that’s barely behind Wilson’s leverage score of 1.88. That means that the Giants have been using Walker in some really important situations this year, that’s probably a testament to Bochy’s refusal to change bullpen roles. Walker has been a little unlucky this year, his HR/F% of 16.7% is above the 10-12% rate it should be. He has a career HR/F% of 10.8% and another positive Walker is striking out hitters this year at a good clip of 21.2%.
Potential Destination: The Giants have been rumored to let teams know that Walker is available. He could head to a team that needs a little stability in the middle of a bullpen. I doubt he’ll work 8th inning duties for another team this year. What about the Tigers? They rank 23rd in baseball for bullpen ERA. Zumaya and Rodney have both had injury problems this year.
Chance of Trade: It’s hard to get a grip on what Walker’s value might be in this market. I’ll stick Walker at 25%.
Most of the Giants trade pieces are older veterans who are winding down their respective careers. Durham and Aurilia fit this description perfectly. The team has a couple of bullpen pieces that could be moved but I’d prefer that they hang on to the younger players of Hinshaw, Sadler, and Romo. I didn’t include him, but despite Sabean’s claims on not trading any of our young starters, I’ve got the feeling that he could sell high on Sanchez if the price was right. I hope we hang on to him but I could definitely see Sanchez as a darkhorse trade candidate.
Comment Starter: Who would you like to see traded? Who will most likely be traded? Disagree with any of my percentages? Let’s hear it.
~ The Giants have signed 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic, Rafael Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who gets a $2.55M signing bonus, is a 6’5″ 198lbs outfielder who has drawn comparisons to Dave Winfield and Vlad Guerrero. Ignore the comparisons because they aren’t really fair. He is considered really raw and some have questioned if he’ll hit at the next level, but the Giants obviously saw something they liked, most likely his power and speed. Both rate as 70′s on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale. He should get into a few games in the Arizona Instructional League by the end of this year in September. It’s good to see the Giants remain active on the international market.
~ And here is your WBQOTW
“I think he’ll be a huge addition,” Bochy said. “With Dave’s experience and ability to play left and center, his speed, his left-handed bat, it would be similar to getting a free agent because we really haven’t had that all year. He has some weapons that can help us, whether it’s coming off the bench or starting.”