Alex Hinshaw

Giants shouldn’t trade unless it’s for a cleanup hitter

It’s pretty difficult to get too maudlin about how the Giants lost earlier tonight, which sounds weird since they lost on a walk-off homer in extra innings…to the Cardinals, no less. And this is coming from someone whose dad had World Series tickets in 1987 that went unused.

You just don’t bring the type of offense the Giants are packing and expect to sweep a 4-game series in St. Louis. Really, if the Giants won Wednesday night’s game in extra innings, Barry Zito would have a .0004% chance of winning tomorrow (in a game that starts at 6 pm local time…thanks a lot, St. Louis).

Can’t get too mad at that last Colby Rasmus at-bat either — that 2-2 pitch was borderline and the Panda was due for a humbling day. It’s baseball, even Barry Bonds had bad days. I think.

Nate Schierholtz is going to see a strict diet of breaking balls in the dirt for the time being, something he’ll need to make an adjustment to. Still, anyone getting their dri-fit boxers in a bunch because Schierholtz went 0-for-8 over the last two games needs to remember that before yesterday he was hitting like a mini-Pujols (14 hits in his previous 25 AB’s).

No, it doesn’t even take a tall can of Olde English to see that things are pretty swell for the Giants these days. They have a playoff pitching staff, a lineup full of average players and Pablo Sandoval. That’s why trading Merkin Valdez for Mark DeRosa made no sense to Brian Sabean, and why it shouldn’t make sense to anyone who looks at the Giants’ lineup.

This team isn’t devoid of offensive talent — they have plenty of players who can carry a team for a game or two. They just don’t have a cleanup hitter. Sandoval has been a revelation, but he can’t hit third and fourth. And while everyone envisions multiple batting titles for Fat Ichiro, it’s questionable whether he’s had a positive effect of anyone in the lineup yet. It’s not like the No. 2 spot has been a source of dependable run production this year, at least so far.

Adding a guy like DeRosa sounds great because he’s a proven Major Leaguer with versatility, but the Giants need a stronger infusion than DeRosa to really make a difference. That’s why Brian Sabean was hesitant to break up his precious bullpen (and you can’t blame the guy, after the bullpens of the last four years and how the Giants lost Game 6 seven years ago).

If the Giants had traded for DeRosa and stuck him in the cleanup spot, wouldn’t that be more embarrassing than inspiring? If DeRosa hit in his rightful spot of second, fifth, sixth or seventh, would he really make that much of a difference over what the Giants already have?

Wouldn’t it be more likely that all the lineup permutations would just confuse Bruce Bochy, causing him to have hallucinations telling him to start Rich Aurilia every other game anyway?

Unfortunately, Bill Neukom’s goal at the beginning of this season was go finish .500 with some nice prospects, and it’s going to take some REALLY NICE PROSPECTS to get a cleanup hitter worth moving Bengie Molina to the fifth or sixth spot in the order. Well, unless Buster Posey goes nuclear in the next month and Brian Sabean trades Molina for another rental player, an idea so preposterous if you called KNBR with it you would never get on the air, even with Ray Woodson filling in.

Victor Martinez is going to cost an arm and Angel Villalona, at least. Jermaine Dye was a good idea…in the winter of 2004, when they decided to sign Moises Alou instead (to a more expensive contract than Dye’s at the time). I’m also not sure how paying a 36-year-old Dye $12 million next year is better than paying Randy Winn $9 million this year. Dye’s more powerful, but Winn stays healthy and plays defense.

Both Dye and Winn are examples of overpaid outfielders whose careers could take sharp downturns at any moment, no offense to the Giants’ rich recent history of gambling on men who could be described in the same fashion (Ellis Burks, Reggie Sanders, Joe Carter, Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry, Moises and Felipe Alou).

The Giants don’t want to give up their best prospects, but since they’re rumored to be “in on every bat out there,” they’re going to have to settle for a (sigh) rental player. The Giants are the desperate guy/girl at the bar right now, wearing a t-shirt that says “Single And Ready To Mingle.” If they don’t want to pay for a cleanup hitter with a big-name talent, or even want to break up their bullpen, they’re going to need to open up the wallet if they expect a happy ending.

Too bad the only upcoming under-35 free agents worth targeting are:

Matt Holliday: Billy Beane would rather watch Holliday hit .270 and kick the ball around left field in front of 3,000 fans in the Coliseum in September than watch him save his close-to-being-ruined contract year across the Bay.

Jason Bay: The Red Sox are rolling — he isn’t going anywhere.

Nick Johnson: Same number of homers as Travis Ishikawa, and he’s an old 31.

Adam LaRoche: He’s more powerful than Johnson, but there’s only so much help a 2nd-tier lefty first baseman can provide.

Xavier Nady was who I figured the Giants would get all along, but now he’s out for the year. So there you go.

It’s all enough to make a guy wonder if the Giants will even make a trade at all, or if they’re gauging fan reaction to the possibility of making a trade. Years ago, the Giants could have gotten away with trading Madison Bumgarner and Roger Kieschnick for Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby, but not any more.

Many believe Jonathan Sanchez and either Nate Schierholtz or Fred Lewis aren’t long for this team. I’m not sure I believe that would be enough to procure anyone worth trading for, anyway. It’s tough to get a cleanup hitter when everyone knows you need a hitter and you have a half-dozen minor leaguers you’ve deemed untouchable. It will be interesting to see if the Giants can pull it off.

If they can’t, they might be better off rolling with what they have. Of course, if they lose a couple games in a row, the perspective you just read could change.

The Late Late Links

  • Bauche and Ragz hope Ryan Sadowski can stay in the starting rotation, so Jonathan Sanchez can become the next … Alex Hinshaw? Also, Wainright and Bumgarner look even more alike than Scott Rolen and Julia Stiles. (Extra Baggs)
  • Some are wondering whether Nate Schierholtz is just having a “Lindenesque flash-in-the-pan” moment. Why do I get the feeling the Schierholtz/Lewis feud has the potential to divide Giant fans like Michael Jackson vs. Prince dividied R&B fans in the 1980’s? (El Lefty Malo)
  • Albert Pujols is unquestionably the best hitter in baseball right now, but he still hasn’t reached the highs Barry Bonds did in his career. Oh, and I’m not the only one who’d rather the Giants didn’t trade for Dye. So there, Dye-lovers. (Bay City Ball)
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