With Brandon Belt coming back and Angel Pagan seemingly on the mend, GM Brian Sabean may be focusing his efforts on acquiring a second base upgrade first and foremost. And with the persistent need for outfield depth, he may be able to fill two needs with one player. There are two players might fit that bill perfectly in addition to a few other candidates for second base given the fact that Dan Uggla is clearly not the answer.
With Thursday's trade deadline looming, and the Giants having already acquired a starting pitcher in Jake Peavy, it's time to review other candidates GM Brian Sabean has been rumored to be considering to help round out the Giants' roster for a stretch run.
In particular, the Giants could use a second baseman. Neither Joe Panik nor Ehire Adrianza have proven they're ready for a full time role, and combined with four other players, the Giants have combined for a .179 average and .539 OPS at the position. It's clear the Giants can't rely on Marco Scutaro to remedy the situation, much less ever play consistently again.
In addition, Angel Pagan's inability to stay healthy makes finding outfield depth more of a priority. Tyler Colvin was an intriguing flier, but he's offered next to nothing so far, and Gregor Blanco loses value the more the Giants overextend his playing time. Pagan should return soon, but as back ailments go, there's no telling if he'll make it through the rest of the season.
Finally, despite the addition of Jake Peavy, the rotation could still stand to improve. Before Matt Cain went down, the Giants were already seeking rotation depth to ensure they didn't have to rely on Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong through the stretch run and potentially the playoffs. Peavy's addition has done nothing except lessen the sting of Cain's loss. The original predicament persists, even if Vogelsong and Lincecum have both pitched well recently. Adding another starter would allow them to move one of Lincecum or Vogelsong to the bullpen, another group that could use a boost, and give the Giants the firepower in their rotation they need to compete with the Dodgers in the NL West.
It's no secret the Giants don't have a great farm system aside from their arms in Double-A, but that doesn't mean they don't have any pieces to trade. And it's entirely possible that some of the current players on the roster could be expendable as well in an attempt to improve the team. So, who is out there?
Here are the trade candidates, in no particular order, based on recent rumors and speculation:
Well, that didn't go exactly as Giants fans had hoped. The Dodgers had their way with the Giants at AT&T Park, knocking them off the perch in the NL West with a three-game sweep in the final series between these two teams until September.
No one expected much in game 2 with Kershaw on the mound, even if the futility displayed by the Giants offered cause for concern even against an elite talent like Kershaw. But game 3 left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, and not just because it meant the Giants got swept.
No, Sunday's game was a game the Giants could, and probably should have won. Instead, poor defense, a few pitches in the dirt, and sloppy play all left the Giants 1.5 games out of first place by the weekend's end.
All in all, it's hard not to like what Jake Peavy gave on the mound yesterday. He's a fiery, emotional competitor. He pitched well enough to win, and the Dodgers really didn't hit him all that hard. Furthermore, his stuff should play well in a pitcher's park (and league) again. None of this alleviates concern over whether Matt Cain will pitch again this year, but at least the Giants won't be rolling out Yusmeiro Petit every fifth day.
As for Cain, I'm not exactly sure why he didn't have his elbow opened up and the bone chips removed years ago. There's probably a good reason, and as long as his "cranky elbow" was going to prohibit him from being productive, the Giants might actually be better off with Peavy for the stretch run. Still, Cain was the Opening Day starter and staff ace just two years ago, and the Giants are a better team when he's a healthy part of it.
So, what did we learn from this weekend's disastrous series against our division rivals? Well, one silver lining may be this:
"Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said over the weekend that his club “may not do anything” at the trade deadline, and Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles thinks this might not necessarily be a concern given how the current roster performed in sweeping the Giants."
Ah, gotta love a false sense of security. Then again, perhaps we are the fools. Only time will tell, but the idea of the Dodgers standing pat at the trade deadline instead of adding a David Price or bullpen arm is comforting, even if their team is finally looking as good on the field as they do on paper. Adding Price (or anyone of note for that matter) would make their roster border on video game ridiculous given the talent they already employ. It's clear they have the best 1-2-3 of any rotation in baseball, and Josh Beckett and Dan Haren have proven more than capable when they're healthy.
The Giants, on the other hand, can't seem to keep their key players healthy. Angel Pagan probably won't ever play more than 130 games again; Marco Scutaro might be finished; Brandon Belt can't catch a break; and we probably won't see Cain again until 2015. All four players were major contributors to the Giants success in 2012, and there is no depth behind them in the system to compensate for their loss. Hence why GM Brian Sabean traded for Peavy, and why he will hopefully land another outfielder and a second basemen before Thursday's deadline.
- Brandon Crawford's season has been quickly going down the tubes, but his 2-4 day and RBI are hopefully a sign that better things are to come.
- Hunter Pence continues to be the team's MVP, notching his signature infield single to give the Giants a run.
- Jake Peavy. No one truly knew what we would get. What we got should do, so long as it lasts for as long as Cain is out.
- Mike Morse. 1 home run in over 40 games with 6 RBI? He's gone from middle-of-the order asset to extreme liability. His swings have become ugly, and he just looks lost at the plate now. His defense has probably cost the Giants 1 or 2 games last week alone.
- Dan Uggla. Someone was going to take a chance. But Uggla's errors may have cost the Giants the game yesterday. Unless he runs into a pitch and hits it over the wall, he's sinkhole both in the field and in the lineup. In defense of both Uggla and Sabean, had Scutaro and Adrianza not ended up on the DL, Uggla would probably still be in Fresno getting warmed up. But for a team that's built to win with pitching and defense, it's entirely inexcusable to have clank mitts in left field AND second base when neither player is hitting a lick. And it's not Bochy's fault - it's a failure of the organization as a whole to have so little depth in their system that they can't compensate for the loss of a starter with any capable Major League prospects.
- Buster Posey - His home run was a thing of beauty and it pulled the Giants within a run, but his sorry attempt to keep one of Peavy's wild pitches from bouncing between his legs and his failure to look Dee Gordon back to third on Adrian Gonzalez's strikeout (another pitch he failed to catch) cost the Giants a run, and in the end, they lost by a run.
ESPN posted an interesting graphic during this nationally televised game in which they compared Posey's offensive statistics when starting at first base vs when he catches. Put simply, he's hitting over .360 when he starts at first but below .300 when behind the dish. And while the sample size is small, it's not that small. Unlike Joe Mauer, who no longer catches after a foul tip led to a concussion that ended his 2013 season, the injury risk to Posey may no longer be the most compelling argument to move him out from behind the plate. Posey may actually be a better player when he isn't catching.
But where would the Giants put Brandon Belt? If he isn't traded first by Sabean in a wild attempt to save this season, left field is a possibility, especially considering Belt wouldn't be any worse the fielder that Mike Morse is and he won't be a free agent next year like Morse will. Plus, Andrew Susac's call-up could mean the Giants real catcher of the future is already on the roster. Again though, this is all wild speculation.
As wild as the pitches in yesterday's game that helped sink the Giants out of first place.
OK, it's been AWHILE.... I know. But I was busy on assignment. And I'm proud to announce that I have signed the hottest Superstar on the market today...
Baby Harlow Leigh-Ann was born on Tuesday, July 15th, making her an All-Star! She joined Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner to represent the Giants this year. And now that she's joined the ranks, the Giants should have all they need to overtake the Dodgers and make a serious run at their third World Series in 5 years.
Ok... so maybe that's light years beyond even wishful thinking. But hopefully the new addition to my family will at least earn me a pardon for being away for so long.
That being said, what better time to start transmitting behind enemy lines again than with this weekend's series against the Dodgers. A lot has transpired since the last transmission (Lincecum's no-hitter), namely the historic collapse and obliteration of a 9.5 game lead over the Dodgers. It is safe to assume no one wants to rehash that anyway, so let's just pick up with where we are now, shall we?
The Giants "welcomed" LA into town for a 3 game set to establish who the real top dog is in the NL West coming out of the All-Star break. The Giants took 2 of 3 from Miami and 3 of 4 from the Phillies, but neither of those teams are true playoff contenders. Bruce Bochy arranged his rotation so staff ace Madison Bumgarner would get an extra start in the second half, which really only amounts to about 60 games or so. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to arrange his staff around this weekend's series with the Giants, ensuring the G-Men would face Greinke, Kershaw and Ryu in order. This move seemingly backfired when the Dodgers stumbled out of the gate coming off the break to find themselves 1.5 games back of the Giants heading into this series.
Mattingly may get the last laugh as the Dodgers thoroughly humbled the Giants last night to the tune of an 8-1 debacle that featured a record amount of triples. Tonight's game may not go much better with embattled Ryan Vogelsong facing arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw. Thus, the Dodgers appear poised to walk out of San Francisco in first place after all.
Or do they?
Vogelsong actually has pretty decent numbers against LA, and he seems to really step it up when facing Kershaw. The real concern might be the rash of injuries that have decimated the Giants of late. Angel Pagan probably won't be back for another week or two. Marco Scutaro is back on the DL (was he truly ever off?) Just as Ehire Adrianza had been finding his stroke (batting over .300 in his last 11 games), he pulls a hammy and lands on the DL as well. Starting first baseman Brandon Belt got hit in the face during infield practice a week ago, courtesy of a ball thrown by Scutaro no less. Concussion symptoms continue to keep Belt out of action, costing the Giants another middle-of-the order bat in this all-important series with their division rivals. Matt Cain is out indefinitely with elbow inflammation, with GM Brian Sabean saying he'll be "out awhile." And just yesterday, the beatings Hector Sanchez routinely takes behind the dish in service of Tim Lincecum finally took its toll as Sanchez has also landed on the concussion DL thanks to a ball off his face mask.
Not one to panic, Sabean certainly felt the need to accelerate his pursuit of help via trade rather than simply letting the market come to him. Most of us felt whatever starting pitcher Sabean acquired before the deadline would probably replace Lincecum or Vogelsong in the rotation, but sadly, it's Marco Scutaro and Matt Cain's inability to stay healthy that truly prompted Sabean's hand. Hence, the Giants picked up Dan Uggla off waivers and will be sending Jake Peavy to the mound for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball extravaganza in the series finale against the Dodgers. Uggla will cost the Giants essentially the Major League minimum. And Peavy? All it cost the Giants was a pair of prospects in Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.
Wait? Wasn't Escobar an emerging prospect who had dominated Single and Double-A? Wasn't he the de facto "depth" for the rotation this season? Well, Escobar got rocked in the spring and he hasn't faired well since, posting a 5.11 ERA with a 7.8K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. That doesn't mean this is a one-sided deal. Escobar was the most Major League ready of the starters the Giants have, and he still profiles as a strong middle-of-the rotation starter. He remained a top 5 prospect in the Giants' system, but the Giants probably felt he should have been ready by now if he was to realize the upside they saw in him. As for Hembree, the Giants have done well to add more power arms to their farm, and Hembree's inconsistent off-speed stuff and struggles with command have kept him from being the closer of the future many fans thought he would. It's possible both pitchers achieve mightily with the Red Sox.
As for Peavy, he's had a rough year in Boston, but his fly ball stuff will translate well at AT&T Park, and he reunites with former manager Bruce Bochy. At the very least he gives the Giants better rotation depth than Yusmeiro Petit can, and with any luck, he'll provide even more starting tomorrow night. Plus, the Red Sox are sending some $ the Giants way, which means the Giants are only on the hook for about $2 million of Peavy's salary this year.
Finally, with Sanchez struggling even before landing on the DL, the Gaints have called up No. 2 prospect Andrew Susac to replace him on the roster. Susac brings good power and plate discipline to the backup catcher's role, slugging .268/.379/.451 in Triple A Fresno so far. It's interesting to see both Joe Panik (returning any day now from a sprained ankle) and Susac on the active roster. The Giants of the future are quickly becoming the Giants of today.
Hopefully, winning is in the cards for tonight and tomorrow.
The Padres may have won the war, but man oh man, did the Giants win this battle. For the second straight year, Tim Lincecum has tossed a no-hitter against San Diego.
Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti met privately with the starters on Tuesday and stressed how important it was that they stop pressing. They had a combined ERA of 5.05 in the month of June, and the Giants were staring down the barrel of 3-11 over their last 14 games, having watched the Dodgers whittle their deficit from 9.5 games down to 3 coming into today's game.
The Giants starters, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong in particular, probably were not going to continue to pitch as well as they had before that stretch. But conversely, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum shouldn't be as bad either.
Lincecum came into this game having gone six frames and giving up 4 runs in his last start. He wasn't sharp in that game, and the Giants were in danger of being swept by the worst offense in baseball after surrendering 13 runs to them in two games while only scoring 2 of their own. The Giants desperately needed a quality start from Lincecum, and he gave them a memory that should last a lifetime.
Lincecum had electric stuff. For the most part, the Padres didn't hit anything too hard, and there weren't any diving catches or miraculous grabs to preserve his no-hitter. In fact, even Lincecum's walk to Chase Headley came on a pitch that wasn't too far out of the strike zone. His fastball didn't seem to touch much higher than 90 mph, and there were one or two over the plate that he got away with in the 8th and 9th inning. That being said, he was able to locate that fastball today, and when he can do that, the rest of his arsenal plays up. Timmy's struggles in recent years are likely a direct result of his inability to command and locate his fastball.
Today, he was masterful.
And as joyful as it was to watch him no-hit the Padres in San Diego last year - the Giants' home away from home - it was far more appropriate that he was able to celebrate such mastery at AT&T Park, amidst the very loyal fans that prompted GM Brian Sabean to resign Lincecum at the price he did despite the fact that it probably wasn't fiscally responsible to do so.
Tim Lincecum is now the only pitcher in the Giants' San Francisco era to throw two no-hitters. And unlike his previous no-hitter, where he needed 148 pitches, he was able to get all 27 outs with a reasonable 113 pitches.
So, now what?
The Dodgers seemed to get their act together right after Josh Beckett tossed his no-no a few weeks ago. They even took it to another level when Clayton Kershaw threw one too, all while the Giants continued their precipitous fall from grace. Perhaps now, the Giants will rally behind Lincecum and start playing a better brand of baseball. They're still 3 games ahead in the NL West, and it's not too late to put some distance between them and their division foes before the All-Star break. With the Cincinnati Reds (6-4 over their last 10 heading into tonight's game) on tap for a four game series, the Giants needed to find their mojo again.
When a team gets its mojo back, it usually has to start with one player.
And for Tim Lincecum, today was a magical as it gets.
On a personal note, running errands with my pregnant wife forced me to keep up with this game through various forms of media and multiple electronic devices. It was all worth it to capture my unborn child's first no-hitter moment!
- It wouldn't be fair to leave out Buster Posey's 4-4 day, especially since his 2-run double in the bottom of the 7th inning to give the Giants a 4 run lead probably help ease some of Lincecum's nerves.
- Tim Lincecum. Obviously.
The recipe was simple. The Dodgers had already lost to the Kansas City Royals, and the Giants were in prime position to extend their dwindling lead over LA to 5 games. They were playing the worst hitting team in the National League. They were facing a pitcher with a bloated ERA in the minors who was making his first career Major League start.
Apparently, Matt Cain either can't read or is allergic to something in that recipe. It took him only 4 innings to throw up the ingredients of victory. His slow descent into a shell of his former self continued as he let the feeble Padres smash the ball all over the field while he struggled to locate his fatball (I meant fastball).
First, he gave up what looked like a 3-run home run that replays revealed was not a home run thanks to a fan who reached over the wall in right center to snatch the ball with his cap. The umpires gave the Giants a gift by putting two runners back on base and only awarding the Padres with one run. San Diego manager Bud Black angrily protested and got tossed, but leave it to Matt Cain to serve up another fatball for the next hitter to rope down the left field line and score the other two runs anyway.
Seemingly everything Cain threw, the Padres drilled, sending bullets flying all over the field. Some were hit right at the Giants who leaped and dove to snatch the line drives out of the air. But many landed where no one could catch them. This would have been easier to overlook if the Giants could do anything more than dribble routine grounders right at the Padres or loft lazy fly balls for the Padres to kick up their feet and wait under. It wasn't until Brandon Crawford's two-out single to right that the Giants could hit anything hard.
The excuse that the Giants had reason to struggle since they had never seen Odrisamer Despaigne pitch before only goes so far. By that logic, every minor league pitcher would pitch like Cy Young on his first outing. Despaigne does deserve some credit for mixing his pitches and his speeds, but this is still a guy who had a 7.61 ERA in the PCL before his call-up. "But tonight, Despaigne has been absolutely mystical" Mike Krukow quipped during the broadcast. Leave it to the Giants to make Despaigne the first Cuban since Luis Tiant in 1964 to throw 7 or more innings of shutout ball in his MLB debut.
I guess every dog has its day. Once again, an opportunity squandered. Now the Giants will have to win the last two games in a row to avoid losing a series to one of the worst teams in baseball.
- Pablo Sandoval made some stellar catches at third to prevent Matt Cain from looking even worse.
- Everybody in a Giants uniform.
The Giants took the series in Arizona, and despite the Dodgers victory on Sunday, the Giants maintained their 4 game lead over the Bankrollers in Blue.
Joe Panik, the young upstart second baseman, shined in his debut start with a single and a double to earn his first career RBI. Madison Bumgarner turned in a brilliant start to begin what will hopefully be a strong turn through the rotation with San Diego coming to AT&T Park. With any luck, the brutal 10 game skid is finally over. The damage has already been done in the standings, but the Giants will look to rectify that with some help from the Kansas City Royals, who will take on the Dodgers while the Padres roll into San Francisco.
The Giants will continue holding their breath in the hopes that Angel Pagan will return to the lineup following his epidural for a sore back. Mike Morse should rejoin the lineup to give the Giants some added punch. Both will be re-evaluated back at home. Sadly, the Giants don't have an outfielder in the upper minors who his playing his way onto the Major League roster, so the team will have to weather the storm brewing in Pagan's back and hope it clears up sooner rather than later. Since 2013, they are 70-53 when Pagan plays but only 50-63 when he does not.
Until then, the Giants will have to make due with Tyler Colvin and Gregor Blanco in the outfield and hope that Panik continues to produce at second base to help make up for Pagan's absence. So far, it's worked.
- Tyler Colvin doubled home Brandon Crawford from first base in the fifth inning. He was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple, but he raised his average from .235 on June 11th to .267 just 11 days later. If he can just stay hot long enough for Pagan and Brandon Belt to return...
- Brandon Crawford has 7 triples. He hit 8 triples in the previous three seasons combined. It's good to see him driving the ball.
- Sure, it's only been two games, but at least Joe Panik brings some pedigree. Brandon Hicks was a great Cinderella story while it lasted and Ehire Adrianza is intriguing, but neither player is the 1st round draft pick that Panik is. If so many scouts had not been skeptical that Panik would develop into anything more than a utility infielder, then perhaps more fans would be expecting his successful start to a Major League career. For now at least, the Giants will carry three second basemen for the first time in recent memory, giving coach Bruce Bochy more options than he probably knows what to do with.
- Hunter Pence's 2-4 day drove his average over .300, and he's truly flourished in the 2-hole with Marco Scutaro ailing. Buster Posey is a natural 3-hitter, and Pence's speed makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the base paths whenever Posey drives the ball. Getting Mike Morse back into the lineup will alleviate any pressure Pence, Posey, and Pablo Sandoval could face, and Crawford's surge also picks up some slack as well.
- Madison Bumgarner was an ace when the Giant needed him to pitch like one. Seriously, entering the ninth, the guy was one earlier infield away hit from going for a no-hitter. He would fail to turn a complete game shut-out, but you can't take anything away from his stellar performance today. Snot rockets galore!
- Sergio Romo couldn't escape the ninth without giving up a run, but he didn't give up the game for the second straight night, this time getting Paul Goldschmidt to ground into a double play before striking out Aaron Hill. He will carry that momentum back to AT&T.
- Brandon Crawford. It's rare a guy will end up in both boxes here, but Crawford's error in the ninth is something that baffles even the announcers. There's no explaining how he can perform defensive wizardry on a consistent basis at shortstop but still boot a routine ground ball. Truly baffling.
- Gregor Blanco went 0-4 and his average has dipped to .248. Blanco has done a fine job filling in for Pagan, but the more he plays the more he gets exposed as the fourth outfielder he truly is. Pagan needs to get healthy so Blanco can return to the role for which he is best suited, a role in which he excels at more often that not.
With Arizona properly disposed of, the Giants will have an opportunity to feast on another lesser team. The Padres have struggled to score runs all season, and the Giants need to take advantage of this opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their division foes. Although the Giants might not be operating at full health on Monday, Matt Cain will be looking to rebound and finally get himself back into a successful rhythm.
Now is the time to Panik! And for once, that's a good thing, folks.
The Giants hit the ball hard against the D-backs in game 1 of this series, and they finally got the big hits in game 2. They attacked, smashing the ball all over the field. The Giants scored 6 runs to win this game despite the fact Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Mike Morse stranded 11 runners on base. Those three players also scored 5 of the 6 runs as well, thanks in large part to Tyler Colvin's 3 RBI.
Numbers aside, the Giants won the game, and that's all that matters, especially since the Dodgers look poised to make short work of the Padres for the duration of their series. It's concerning that the Giants will have to sit another player due to a back ailment in today's game, as Mike Morse came up lame after a hard swing on a down and in pitch. With Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan icing up as well, it sure makes you wonder if the Giants need some training on finding their sleep numbers when it comes to hotel mattresses.
Interestingly enough, we've spent quite a bit of time speculating on how the Giants would address the second base position. Despite fans clamoring for Joe Panik's promotion from Triple-A, the prudent move seemed to be to let Panik continue to flourish in his best professional season and make Brandon Hicks and Ehire Adrianza split time more regularly so the Giants could see what they had in Adrianza. Perhaps Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean took one more look at Adrianza's uninspiring minor league stats and deduced that as capable as the kid is with the glove, he's always going to be a .220 hitter with little to no .OPS. Sabean has never been one to pull off a panic trade (no pun intended) this early in the season with the deadline nearly 6 weeks away, so the Giants bolstered the position by promoting Panik. The irony is that Panik made his debut in this game and drew a walk right after Adrianza, the player he will be replacing, doubled.
If Joe Panik's game can translate at the Major League level, then the Giants won't need to target a second baseman on the market this July. Instead, they can focus all their resources on acquiring the pitching needed to be successful for a stretch run at the postseason. Many scouts continue to speculate the Panik's ceiling is nothing more than a utility player at the big league level, but clearly the Giants saw a capable starter to draft him with their 1st round pick in 2011. Well, now is Panik's chance to seize the opportunity. The incumbents are either injured (Marco Scutaro) or not producing enough (Hicks and Adrianza), so before exploring trade options the Giants have decided to see if Panik is truly ready for the big stage.
- Tyler Colvin's 3 RBI were a huge contribution. With Pagan's injury and a potential DL stint looming, the Giants are short-handed in the outfield, particularly after optioning Juan Perez back to Fresno to make room for Panik. Colvin could find himself with a starting gig in the interim, so getting him hot at the right time will be paramount.
- Hunter Pence's monster shot home run gave the Giants the insurance they needed to run away with this game.
- Ehire Adrianza hit his 4th double of the season to raise his average to .213. For the sake of comparison, Buster Posey only has 7 doubles. Adrianza is swinging the bat well, which is why Panik's promotion was so surprising. I suppose the Giants want to give themselves as much time as possible to evaluate Panik before the deadline so they can make some informed choices.
- The bullpen was downright nasty, as Jeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi, and Santiago Casilla held the D-backs scoreless for three innings.
- Sergio Romo didn't alleviate much concern with his shaky ninth inning, but slamming the door for his 21st save might have been all that was needed to get him back on track, and thus, the Giants as well.
- Ryan Vogelsong wasn't sharp past the first inning, and even though he only gave up five hits, four of them were doubles. Two bounced off the walls in the outfield. He gave up the four runs and no more that we've come to expect from a fifth starter, but it's concerning how much his pitches are getting drilled.
- Mike Morse's back has been hurting, and he won't play today. Losing what has been the backbone of this lineup for an extended period of time would be a brutal blow with a tough home stand coming up.
The Giants will ride staff ace Madison Bumgarner out of Arizona today with the aim of taking the series from the Diamondbacks. And that's what they should do because that's what good teams always do - beat up on lesser opponents and take advantage of the match ups. The Giants blew an opportunity to do that against both the Rockies and the White Sox, and their lead over LA has been cut down to four games because of it. They'll probably need to strike first again to put the D-backs on the ropes, especially since the lineup won't have as much punch with Morse out.
The real treat, however, should be watching Joe Panik's first start. With any luck, the second baseman of the future has just arrived.
Marco Scutaro took a few cuts the other day during batting practice, but he admitted that he has no idea how to remedy the bulging disc in his back, and as good as he might look, swinging the bat one day, the "next day I show up like I'm 75."
At this stage, you can start betting the over-under one whether Scutaro will ever play another game for the Giants again, which is depressing for two reasons:
1) Marco Scutaro is a fine human being, from what I've read, and his performance in 2012 will forever endear him to the hearts of Giants' fans everywhere.
2) The Giants don't have an insurance policy on him and will have to play him nearly $13 million between this season and next.
When GM Brian Sabean made that deal, many of us were skeptical Scutaro would ever live up to the contract, and while most thought he would decline and spend a few stints on the DL, it's fair to say virtually no one thought the first year of the deal would be his last. In fairness to Scutaro, no one should be writing him off as left for dead just yet. But the Giants need a contingency plan if they hope to compete this year after spending most of this season as the best team in baseball.
The two internal options - Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Hicks - were examined recently, and the consensus was that Adrianza has earned a longer look, but with neither player possessing a proven track-record, they are probably best used as part of an even time-share. Regardless, most agree that upgrading second base is probably Sabean's primary objective at the trade deadline, barring any unexpected surges from the two guys they have in-house or a miraculous recovery by Scutaro.
So to the market we go!
TOP SHELF: Where Sabean never shops, since the last time he paid top dollar (see: Beltran, Carlos), his shiny "new" toy broke.
Chase Utley: He can still rake (.305/.364/.474) even if his power is waning, but he has knees made of jello now and his range is limited. The Giants would still have Adrianza or Hicks as a late-inning defensive replacement, and either player could spell Utley when necessary. The biggest issue here is the cost since Utley is guaranteed $10 million next season with vesting options based on plate appearances, which he possibly won't ever meet if the DL has anything to say about it. Either way, that's give or take $23 million committed to two 2nd basemen over the age of 35 next year, which probably strikes everyone as beyond absurd. Plus, Philly will want quite a haul of prospects considering Utley's name value and productive season so far.
Ben Zobrist: Another veteran with waning power, you could argue that Zobrist would be only a marginal upgrade over Hicks and Adrianza. After hitting 20 long balls in 2010 and 2011, Zobrist hit only 12 last year, but his .275/.354/.402 slash line and hot start made him an All-Star. So far, he's only got 5 dingers to go along with a .248 average, but he's also knocked in at least 70 RBI every year since becoming a starter. He only has 15 so far this year, and there's no guarantee Tampa Bay is even open to dealing him, but at least he brings a decent glove and the ability to play all over the infield; coach Bruce Bochy loves versatility. However, since Zobrist brings competent defense and an impact bat with a price tag of only $7.5 million next year, it would take wagon full of blue chips in order to flatter Tampa Bay enough to trade him too.
WELL: This is where Sabean usually goes bargain shopping to find that perfect complement to the party at AT&T.
Gordan Beckham: The Giants saw firsthand what Beckham could do when he launched a home run off Matt Cain in Chicago. Beckham may not ever be an All-Star despite being the number 8 overall pick in the 2008 draft, and the White Sox have grown impatient with him. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason, and he's also under team control through next season. Expecting Beckham to live up to the hype that surrounded his draft slot is probably foolish, but this is a player that could probably use a change of scenery and shouldn't cost too much. He's everything Brandon Hicks is but with tons more upside. A broken hamate bone in his hand caused Beckham to lose some power and only play 103 games last year. The Giants have a lot of experience with the effects of broken hamate bones (see: Sandoval, Pablo), and despite the dip in power, Beckham has seen his average rise from .234 in 2012 to .267 last season to .273 so far this season. This is a player that might finally be figuring things out when his stock is at its lowest, making him a prime Sabean trade target.
Daniel Murphy: The Mets already fleeced the Giants for Zach Wheeler (see: Beltran, Carlos), so Sabean will probably be reluctant to hand over another one of the Giants' best pitching prospects, especially for a player like Murphy who doesn't have great range, defense, or speed, but he can hit (.297/.355/.412 so far this season). The Mets would probably take Adrianza and a pitcher from Double-A the Giants could live with losing. No one will give them a top flight prospect - certainly not a pitcher, anyway - regardless of what they might be asking. Essentially, the Giants would be getting Brandon Hicks with less range and glove work but a bat that puts the ball in play more often, usually where no one catches it.
COMES IN A CAN: The bottom shelf options nobody else wants.
Emilio Bonafacio: This is a player that one could argue does not represent an upgrade at all and would just clutter the roster with more mediocrity. The journeyman has had one good season (2011 for the Florida Marlins) in his career, and doesn't offer anything Hicks and Adrianza do except more experience. Acquiring Bonafacio would be essentially making a move for the sake of making one, so the Giants would be best served not even considering this deal.
Of the players on that list, Beckham and Murphy are probably the best fits with the Giants. Unless...
The Giants aim higher. Perhaps the best, most premier option at second base is a guy no one is even sure is on the market right now:
Neil Walker: He's everything the Giants want in a second baseman. He's competent with the glove, he's hitting .280/.353/.452 with 11 homers right now, and he's under team control for the next two years. The switch-hitter is in the prime of his career, and if the Pirates keep sinking in the standings, perhaps they will listen to offers before he becomes arbitration-eligible after this year. The last time the Giants traded prospects to the Pirates for a second baseman, that player helped them win a World Series (see: Sanchez, Freddie). It would behoove Sabean to put in a call now and test the Pirates' interest, for if Pittsburgh falls out of contention by the All-Star break and Walker is an All-Star, the asking price could go through the roof. Or maybe it won't. All things considered, every GM knows the Pirates probably don't have the payroll to keep Walker much longer, so this is a deal where Sabean would simply have to send over the right package of players and prospects. In the end though, that could make the difference between making the postseason and watching it at home.
Nobody likes losing. But the Giants keep doing it anyway. Tim Lincecum only struck out 1 batter, and although he didn't serve up another homer to Paul Goldschmidt, the first baseman continued to eat Lincecum alive with a double, single, and a walk.
The Arizona Diamondbacks only needed four runs to beat the Giants, and that's why they lost. Despite his struggles, Lincecum gave the Giants what most of us have come to expect from him: four runs in six innings of work. But the Giants couldn't drive in any of their own to make this a ball game. It's not that they didn't have their chances (they stranded 11 men on base). Seeing the team scuffle prompted Bruce Bochy to finally call a team meeting to address the slide. He reminded the players of who they are and urged them to go out there and get it.
The Giants got lucky when the Padres came back in the ninth to beat the Dodgers last night. Perhaps that alone is a sign of good things to come.
- Ehire Adrianza hit a double, and the extra base power might convince Bochy to give him more starts at second.
- Pablo Sandoval roped a triple to score Buster Posey with two outs. That was the last big hit the Giants would get, but it's good to see Sandoval isn't pressing too much despite his team's struggles.
Mike Morse stranded four runners on base. It's unfair to chide the guy after he's been the best run producer on the team this season, but he needs to keep doing that if the Giants are ever going to get out of this funk.
The Giants will hope Ryan Vogelstrong can keep the D-backs in check while the bats heat up. Hunter Pence barely missed a two-run homer in the fifth inning yesterday, and Brandon Crawford was robbed of extra bases and RBIs when Gerardo Parra made a leaping catch. Gregor Blanco couldn't make that catch when Martin Prado doubled off the center-field wall to give the D-backs a 2-1 lead they never gave back. And that's been the story of the last 10 games - other teams doing what the Giants can't.
The point of Bochy's pep talk was to remind them that they can. And it's time now for them to remind everyone else.