The recent series loss to the Reds makes the San Francisco Giants playoff prospects pretty clear: not terribly likely. Given this disappointing situation, one might feel trading their marketable soon-to-be free agents (Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez), or other players who might capture some interest and strong prospects at the trade deadline (Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval) would be a good idea.
Let’s start with the latter case. Romo and Sandoval are both under team control through 2014, which makes them even more desirable as trade bait. The Giants could expect to receive top-tier talent for either of these players. In my opinion, however, a trade like this only makes sense if the Giants are willing to concede the 2014 season as a rebuilding year — It takes time for prospects to make it to the majors and there is no one in the Giants system to immediately plug the holes a Romo or Sandoval trade would create. There are already holes in the pitching staff and outfield that need plugging. Creating more holes is counter-productive if you are looking to win in 2014.
The Giants possible rental players are less of an open and shut case. They would likely bring in mid-to-low-tier prospects, and most likely none of these prospects would be of value to the 2014 Giants. The other aspect to take into account, at least when it comes to Lincecum and Pence, is qualifying offers. Given the cost controls the new CBA has placed on draft picks, the draft is more important to a team’s long term success than ever. Any possible trades would have to be measured against the value of theoretical compensatory draft picks.
Lopez is one of the few Giants’ players that make sense to trade away: He wouldn’t generate a qualifying offer, so that concern isn’t in play. A lefty specialist can be replaced cost-effectively in the off season and a proven playoff stopper (clutch and grit!) like Lopez could generate some interesting prospects, even as a rental. But trading for prospects at the deadline says one thing to fans, and one thing alone: “We are out of it.”
Fans are myopic. Especially in August, I know this from personal experience. In August of 2011 I bought a playoff-ticket package, after the Giants had a good series against the Rockies.
“WE ARE STILL IN IT! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN BASEBALL! TAKE MY MONEY!”
In hindsight, this was the most wishful of thinking. If the Giants had dealt for prospects in July of 2011, I wouldn’t have had that glimmer of hope. And without those ridiculous glimmers of hope, ticket (season and otherwise) sales fall off… And that money directly influences how much the team has to spend on free agents in the off season.
So no, don’t trade away anyone at the deadline. Despite the poor showing this year, the Giants have a strong core and can be contenders in 2014. No realistic iteration of deadline dealing helps the Giants in 2014. Except for Lopez, go ahead and trade him. I love me some “Night Train” but he’s the only one it makes sense to trade away.
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~ Jeremy Lassen