When the Hunter Pence reports surfaced Sunday night, I wrote I was wary. Now that Pence is a Giant, I'm changing my tune. I went back and looked, and this could be Brian Sabean's best trading deadline since he nabbed Jason Schmidt and Andres Galarraga in late July 2001.
I say "could be" because you can't ultimately evaluate trades without seeing the long-term ripple effects, and the ripples have barely started rippling. (For more on the patented ELM Three-Stage Trade Evaluation Method, guaranteed to impress bosses, in-laws, and the girl next door, click here.)
But here's my short-term argument why Sabes has knocked it out of the park the past week:
1) The Giants needed infield depth. Getting Marco Scutaro was not just a huge improvement upon Manny Burriss, whom he has replaced on the roster, but it gave Bruce Bochy someone with a clue against right-handed hitting so he could keep Joaquin Arias as a defensive replacement. And all Sabean gave up was Charlie Culberson. Culberson might have a major league career, but no one will look back and say "I told you so."
2) The Giants needed a power bat. As I wrote in the previous post, Hunter Pence's home run numbers will likely shrink as he plays half his games at Mays Field, but he's still a threat. The Giants needed another threat in the lineup. Will he be a huge upgrade over the at-bats the Giants will no longer give to Blanco/Pagan/Schierholtz? If a Bizarro Bochy was filling out Bizarro Giant lineups in a parallel, non-Pence universe the next two months, I'd guess the upgrade would be slight. Perhaps a win, maybe two, of difference. But there's upside, too. Pence has skills. He can get hot for two months and nudge that total a bit higher. Sabean got Pence by trading from strength: Tommy Joseph is a promising young catcher, sure, but to package him and a fourth outfielder (sorry, Nate) for a consistently good, if not great right-handed power bat who won't kill you with the glove was a strong trade. It's quite possible Nate Schierholtz will combine a lot of starts and his new home yard's short right-field porchto become one of the game's more valuable right fielders. We would all be rooting for him. But that chance wasn't coming in San Francisco.
This was, dare we say it, a rather elegant solution. Throw in a third player, Seth Rosin, who's 23 and still pitching in High-A ball, and it's still hard to say the Giants gave up too much.
A bullpen addition would have been nice, but other than Santiago Casilla, I'm not overly worried about the recent bumpiness. If things deteriorate, August can bring waiver-wire deals, and I think Bochy can cobble together a closer-by-committee situation (which, if you think of it, would be quite a story; some of baseball's most saberiffic minds have tried it and gotten their asses handed to them). I'm not counting out Casilla, either, despite this wretched stretch. If anyone can whisper him back into the light, it's Dave Righetti.
So for now, better that Sabes didn't overpay for two months of a late-inning reliever. He filled two obvious needs, he traded from surplus, and he didn't trade Gary Brown, Brandon Belt, or some of the excellent young pitchers drafted the past year or two. On paper, I'm happy. Let the August games begin.