Andres Torres

The Giants, potential trades and Brandon Belt

I wrote this headline early Tuesday afternoon. That was before I got wrapped up in writing a post about the Warriors’ Chris Paul pipe dream, followed by my wife and I heading out to the Warriorsworld/Lunch Box party in Oakland (a fiesta where one could eavesdrop on pretty much any conversation and hear Paul’s name mentioned every 0.7 seconds). On our way to the party, it was announced that the San Francisco Giants traded Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for Angel Pagan.

And you know what? The headline still stands.

The rumors were telling us yesterday the Giants were trying to trade Torres, Ramirez and Jeff Keppinger. I hoped the last guy mentioned would be dealt, and Torres and/or Ramirez could stay with the Giants. Alas, two contributors to the 2010 World Series winning team are gone.

Why the Giants probably weren’t the “mystery team” after Albert Pujols

Unless he comes at a price that’s impossible to resist, the Giants almost certainly won’t sign Carlos Beltran. Cody Ross appears headed to more “hitter-friendly” pastures, especially after Andrew Baggarly reported that the Giants never even made Ross an offer. Regardless, the Giants now have two starting outfielders acquired via trade (Pagan and Melky Cabrera), along with a bunch of would-be outfielders who may have to fight for playing time: Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt and Justin Christian. You can probably take Christian off that list, since if he’s on the Opening Day roster that means he either hit .850 with 15 HR during Spring Training or Sabean forgot what he said about Christian after the season ended.

Both Sabean and Bochy agreed that Surkamp wasn’t ready yet to contribute at the Major League level, and Sabean referred to Christian as “a callup type of player” who isn’t being realistically considered as an option for the open leadoff spot that Sabean mentioned as a major hole to fill next season.

Schierholtz has gotten several votes of confidence from Bruce Bochy since the season ended. So many that Nate should start watching his back like Norv Turner these days. Schierholtz possesses many tools, but has a reputation as a corner outfielder without dominant power or the ability to avoid nagging injuries, deserved or not.

Huff and especially Belt are better defenders at first base than they are in left field. Brett Pill isn’t moving away from first, partly because when you’re that old it’s hard to be as mobile as you used to be. What we have here is a glut at first base, and that doesn’t even account for Buster Posey playing there at least once or twice every week.

The Giants may free Belt, after all

Belt seemed to irk Sabean and Bochy throughout the 2011 season, even though his 9 home runs (in only 209 PA) were fourth on the team. The going story is the Giants were forced into making him a Major Leaguer earlier than they would’ve liked after Ross injured his calf in March. Then Belt, a fan favorite due to his sabermetrics-friendly skill-set and affable, almost childlike demeanor, fell out of favor after he failed to carry a terrible offense early on.

Weeks after he was the star of the first episode of The Franchise, Belt was back in Fresno. Then he was brought back to San Francisco, he broke his wrist, healed, found himself back in Fresno, then Belt was back with the Giants where he spent a considerable amount of time on the bench as Twitter timelines echoed with #FreeBrandonBelt hashtags.

In the season’s last month, Belt expressed a desire to stay home and rest instead of going to the Dominican Republic and playing winter ball. Bruce Bochy let the beat writers know that he wanted and expected Belt to head to the DR and get some extra at-bats (interesting note: the Mercury News removed Baggarly’s article on Belt’s reluctance to play winter ball from their website).

All year, the Giants were more than happy to broadcast Belt’s growing pains for the world to see in ways that weren’t exactly necessary or beneficial. First, it was the tearful promotion on a reality show where Bochy to offer Belt a beer from his own personal fridge. Second, on a later episode of said reality show we saw The Grim Bochy tap Belt’s shoulder and let him know he would be a Fresno Grizzly by nightfall. Months later, there was the previously mentioned winter ball dispute that really happened, I swear.

What’s up with all the public Belt-related discourse from a team that’s usually very calculated in what they make public (example: Huff’s conditioning)? Maybe the Giants really expect great things from Belt and are being extra hard on him (wax on, wax off, Brandon-san). Perhaps it’s a lack of respect or even resentment since he’s way too nice to ever be the kind of hardened, grizzled vet the Giants’ brass favors (Seriously, look at that photo!).

Does anyone really expect the Giants to name Belt the full-time starter at any position?

All of this makes me think that the Giants — who’ve been active in the trade market thus far — would seriously consider trading Belt to improve either at shortstop (Alexei Ramirez?) or in the outfield.

It’s hardly an inevitability that Belt will be traded, and one could say the same thing about Schierholtz — though Schierholtz wouldn’t net nearly as much in return as Belt would in a potential trade. However, with the Giants effectively holding out of the free agent market and open to moving pieces to improve their migraine-inducing offense, Giants fans would be advised to at least brace for the prospect of another fan favorite playing for a new franchise in 2012.

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