As the July 31st trade deadline looms, it brings an interesting dilemma to the defending champion San Francisco Giants.
Should they be buyers and go after big league talent to try to make a run towards a division title? Or should they be sellers, acquire minor league talent and look forward to next season?
There are many questions for the Giants front staff to consider. What if they give up talent in the minor leagues, all for a second place finish in the division (a la 2011)? But what if they think that a player or two will be enough to push them over the edge?
The Giants’ performance over the rest of this homestand and where they sit in the NL West division standings may indeed determine how aggressive they are at the trade deadline.
My answer? If the Giants are within five games of the division lead on July 31st, then they should be (minor) buyers.
If there is a chance to make a late-season surge, their fanbase deserves to have a team that could make a run into October.
However, they should not freely give away highly touted prospects for the best pitcher or outfielder on the market. Instead, they should take the approach they took in 2010 and solidify their bullpen. Too often have the Giants let close games get out of control when handing the ball over to the bullpen. Plus, acquiring a reliever does not cost as much talent in the farm system.
I think it is smart to acquire big talent to help a team leading the division that is looking forward to a playoff run rather than trying to make that one player be the catalyst to help a team that is behind in the race.
So, the Giants front office may get a strong feeling that this simply is not the year?
The two names that have been swirling around trade rumors are Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, two players who have completely different histories in the Giants organization.
Pence was acquired last August, and ever since wearing the orange and black, his hustle and leadership has been embraced by Giants players and fans. Pence is having a solid season, as while he may not be the high-average player, he drives in runs. He has been the ironman for San Francisco, starting every single game this season.
Lincecum has had a roller-coaster history with the Giants. In his first two full seasons, he was the 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young award winner. He followed those seasons an equally impressive 2010, winning the Babe Ruth award for the MVP of the entire playoffs. After an above-average 2011 in which he posted a 2.74 ERA, Lincecum was wildly inconsistent in 2012.
However, he did pull it together in the playoffs, transitioning to the bullpen, dominating, and proving to the baseball world that this may be his next role as a major league pitcher.
If the Giants are out of contention, then they should seriously look into trading “The Freak”, a thought that would have sounded absurd a few years ago.
As much as Lincecum has given to this organization, it would be unwise to sign him to a long-term contract based on his success in the past, stats that Lincecum and his agent would constantly bring up in negotiations. The Giants might only want him in a reliever-type role, a transition that Lincecum may not be ready to make.
The Giants are loaded with stellar pitching prospects — such as Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton — in their minor league system who will be major league ready in a season or two. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, two aces, are locked up for the next five seasons, and the Giants may want to build their rotation around them.
Surely, there are many teams that are interested in bringing on Lincecum as a late inning reliever. Teams that are in contention may jump the gun and be willing to offer a lot of talent in order to get Timmy.
As far as Pence goes, San Francisco should keep him through the rest of the season and try to sign him to a three or four year contact. He is the energetic and all-out type of player that a team needs. He is durable – Pence is the one player that Bruce Bochy doesnt have to ask if he is good to go on any given day. The fans love him, he loves the fans, and he is a player that the Giants should at least put in the effort to keep.
This trading deadline is as hard as it gets for general manager Brian Sabean and staff, and it is anybody’s guess on how the roster will look at the end of the 2013 season.