San Francisco Giants could upgrade by trade deadline
By Matthew Lottice
Jason Hammel could be the pitcher targeted most by the Giants over David Price and Jeff Samardzija.
The Los Angeles Dodgers finally earned their first three game win streak of 2014. It didn’t happen until the end of June, but it’s arrived at an opportune time. The San Francisco Giants have slid back after a torrid first two months. Injuries, mediocre pitching, and a regression from some good luck have wiped a once 9.5 game division over the Dodgers. They have dropped 14 of their last 18 games now and their N.L. West lead is down to one.
Trade rumors are exploding as they do every June and July. Contenders need to bolster their rosters and bottom feeders are looking to unload players to free up payroll and acquire picks or highly regarded minor leaguers.
Los Angeles’ no limit budget won’t prevent them from being aggressive in the market. Their roster has All Star caliber names with histories of injury. It’s no surprise Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford are dealing with shoulder and ankle issues respectively. Juan Uribe pulled a hamstring, but recently came back this week. So their returns to the lineup when they happen instantly upgrade their roster from within.
The Giants can’t worry about what the Dodgers do, or even look over their shoulder at the moment. It’s approaching three weeks of frustration for San Francisco, which started with a home series loss to Washington beginning June 9th. Fast forward to June 28th and they have dropped 13 of their last 17 contests.
Despite promotions to hot hitters Joe Panik and Adam Duvall, these youngsters can’t be counted on to stem the tide with regulars like Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, and Marco Scutaro out. Scutaro is swinging a bat and trying to play rehab games, but if you are counting on a 38 year old infielder with nerve problems in his back, that’s not a great situation to be in.
The Giants aren’t in that boat and frankly with Scutaro under contract, you’d like to see if he can give you anything left. The biggest issue without a healthy Scutaro has been production from second base. Brandon Hicks jacked several home runs, but his average was never above .200 for an extended time and he’s got a bad case of the strikeouts going.
Word has it the Giants are interested in several names on teams not headed for playoff contention. The pitchers listed are David Price, Jeff Samardzija, and Jason Hammel. Chase Utley and Daniel Murphy are two second baseman the Giants have reportedly scouted in recent weeks.
Price, Samardzjia, and Utley have multiple suitors, but their price is high along with their salary. Tampa Bay signed Price to a one year, $14 million deal. Samardzija is due over $5 million this season, but he too will be a free agent when 2014 concludes.
Price is leading the American League in strikeouts and innings pitched. He won the Cy Young award in 2012. We know tiny market Tampa Bay and general manager Andrew Friedman covet a boatload of prospects and draft choices for their ace
Samardzija may not command as much as Price, but his stock couldn’t have been any higher in April and May. The former Notre Dame wideout maintained a sub-two ERA until the first day of June when the Milwaukee Brewers rocked him. Since then, the right hander has posted a 4.82 ERA in June, but it remains under three for the season.
Chase Utley is a 35 year old who’s been troubled by chronic knee injuries the past couple seasons. He signed an extension last August with Philadelphia so any team who acquires him will be getting more than a half season rental.
The Giants haven’t gotten much this month at second base. Ehire Adrianza and Hicks have languished. Joe Panik had a nice debut in Arizona, but is it worth paying that much for Utley? The 30 plus home run power he showed off in the mid 2000s and Phillies World Series runs has declined with injuries. He’s hitting .296 with six dingers and 37 RBI in 2014.
I remember Utley hitting several bombs off Giants pitching over the years. He’s got 12 career round trippers versus the Giants to back up my memory. The way things are going for San Francisco, the price may be worth it if Panik isn’t able to put up anything respectable.
Daniel Murphy is hitting .296 and a career .291 hitter. The 29 year old is making $5.7 million and his numbers are practically identical to Utley’s this season. Murphy isn’t a power hitter with only two seasons of double digit homers. He’s a contact guy with a low strikeout rate.
Ironically, both he and Utley had fielding difficulties last week. Murphy isn’t too far removed from playing left field and first base so he’s versatile too.
Hammel began his MLB career in Tampa Bay has jumped back-and-forth between the American and National League. The Giants saw him plenty when he was a Colorado Rockies pitcher. After two years in Baltimore, the 31 year old signed a Michael Morse type deal in Chicago.
The Cubs signed him to a one year, $6 million deal. Chicago wouldn’t ask as much for Hammel as they would Samardzija. Hammel has been good for the Cubs going 7-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Originally a power arm, Hammel still throws hard, but relies on a sinker and slider now in a reformed pitching approach.
You don’t have to pore through Brian Sabean’s track record in deal making to get a feel of how he operates. It goes hand in hand with how Larry Baer and owners like Charles Johnson want to run things.
Impulsiveness and making the sexy, fan favorite move has never been San Francisco’s front office mentality. It’s almost exclusively based on value instead of mortgaging the farm for a star name they may not be able to retain anyway.
If San Francisco deals for Price or Samardzija, expectations will be it’s for more than just for the remainder of 2014. Carlos Beltran wasn’t kept around in 2011, but the Giants haven’t shied away from doling out big money for pitching. There are question marks for the near future of this rotation (Lincecum, Hudson, and Vogelsong to be exact) and tabbing one of these names would eliminate part of such a dilemma.
Jason Hammel or Daniel Murphy have to be leading candidates. They aren’t owed a massive paycheck and wouldn’t deplete the farm system of top players. It’s the logical choice should the front office work out a deal that beats other teams’ offers.