To any rational person, it’s time for the Giants to realize that 2013 isn’t going to be their year. After three or four seasons of playing for the pennant (with extraordinary success) and making the necessary trade-deadline trades, the Giants’ farm system, at least as far as the high minors are concerned, has gotten pretty thin. The Giants need to trade off a few veterans for some prospects.
The main thing standing in the way of the Giants taking the most rational course of action is that the team won the World Series last year and will reasonably sell out AT&T Park as long as they pretend they still have a chance to win this year. Since baseball is ultimately a business, that’s a pretty darn good reason not to admit defeat and start building for the future now.
Still, it now seems clear the Giants aren’t going to the post-season this year. They just aren’t a good team. More important than the fact that they are in fifth place in the NL West and ten games out of first place, they have allowed 62 runs more than they’ve scored. The only teams in the Senior Circuit worse are the worst-in-the-league-by-far Marlins and the definitely-over-the-hill Phillies.
When the Giants’ bullpen was the best in baseball last year, they could win enough close games to over-perform relative to their runs-scored-runs-allowed ratio. No one who has watched the team this year would argue the bullpen is anywhere near good enough to win more than half of the close ones. Losing all three low-scoring, one-run games in a three-game series at home against the what-remains-of-the-sold-off-not-good-to-begin-with Cubs pretty much settles the issue.
The main three bargaining chips the Giants have are Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez. Word on the street has it that the Giants plan to give Pence and Lincecum $14 million qualifying offers this post-season and hope to re-sign Pence to a multi-year deal. mlbtraderumors.com rumors that the 36 year old Lopez hopes to sign for a team closer to his Virginia home.
While Pence is the kind of player who doesn’t inspire my confidence (he doesn’t walk much, he strikes out a lot, and he just looks terrible against any right-handed pitcher with a sharp, tight slider who knows how set up the strikeout pitch), his duly-weighted statistics suggest he’s probably worth a three-year $50 million offer this off-season.
In other words, even if the Giants don’t sign him, they will get a post-first round draft pick for him just by making him a qualifying offer. That’s worth something, even if the Giants haven’t proven recently they can produce productive major leaguers with players picked between 31 and 100 in their draft class. [Let me know if I’ve forgotten someone.] Any team offering for two months of Pence has to pony up more value than that draft pick.
Lincecum will probably accept a one-year $14 million qualifying offer for the obvious reason that despite his recent no-hitter and his fine outing yesterday in a losing effort, he’s still got a 4.61 ERA 104 games into the Giants’ 2013 season, following his 5.18 ERA last year. I’ll be very surprised if Timmy doesn’t accept a $14 million one-year offer if the Giants make it, with the hope that he’ll regain his lost touch and set himself up for a career payday during the 2014-15 off-season.
Javier Lopez, though, is worth something. Since the Giants acquired him around the trade deadline in 2010, Lopez has likely been the most effective and consistent left-handed short man in MLB, with a 2.23 ERA (and 2.85 run average) in 133.1 innings pitched and 212 appearances over that three-plus seasons (great ratios too). A team acquiring him now could get roughly 25 appearances from him in the regular season in which he’s reasonably likely to continue flummoxing most of the best left-handed hitters in baseball, plus the post-season hopefully.
That’s worth something, although it’s not exactly easy to quantify. I would hope for one really good, near major-league ready prospect, although that may be wishful thinking.
At any rate, Javier Lopez seems to be the most likely player the Giants might trade before the deadline.
P.S. The San Francisco Examiner’s Glenn Dickey recently wrote that the Giants’ would be “best served” trading Pablo Sandoval. Dickey has always been an over-the-top sportswriter, which may explain why he’s now writing for a free newspaper late in his career — the problem with trading Sandoval now is obvious: never ever trade a player with this kind of talent when his trade value is way down.
The time to trade Pablo was last off-season when he was coming off a world championship and a three-home-run World Series game matched by only Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols. This year, he’s a fat soon-to-be-27-year-old with a .728 OPS.
As another sportswriter recently said (sorry, can’t remember whom), Pablo is coming up on his free agent year after the 2014 season, which likely means his agent will be up on the treadmill with him this off-season trying to get him into the best shape of his life going into his contract year. Hey, even 5% of $100 million is a lot of money.
Pablo gets $8.25 million next year, which is extremely reasonable for the potential. If Pablo gets himself in shape this coming off-season and has a great 2014 campaign, he gets paid. If not, the Giants can let him go or make a one-year $14.8 million (?) qualifying offer so they get something no matter what. In short, I can’t see the Giants trading him now for relatively small potatoes.