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After the Marlins, Dreading The Trade Deadline

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Bad bad bad. No way around it; this was basically a sweep at the hands of the Marlins, with the illusion of victory on Saturday. Lots of parallels to 2011 on the Internets and in the papers this morning, but let's not forget we had similar gag-reflex moments in 2010 and 2012, like this game that ended a 1-5 pre-All Star roadtrip and left the Giants six games above .500 and a half-game back in the standings.

So let's uncurl ourselves from the fetal position for a moment. It's very true the weeks leading up to the All-Star break could be crucial to the Giants' fortunes, what with 10 days in LA, Colorado and Cincinnati, then a home stand with LA and the Mets, then a series in San Diego. But it's not this season's fortunes I'm worried about the most.

The danger is that the Giants hang close enough to Arizona to deserve, in the front office's estimation, reinforcements to go for it. Reinforcements can be nice. The thunder of hooves across the sun-baked plain, the off-key but spirited call of the bugle, the cheering townspeople lined up along the muddy boardwalk of the town's only street: Who wouldn't greenlight that screenplay?

But the Giants can ill-afford to trade their best prospects anymore. The Zack Wheeler trade for Carlos Beltran in 2011 was a calculated risk, but the risk was on the right side of the ledger: the team was in first place by four games, it needed a bat in the worst way, and the Giants got the best hitter available.

Any similar trade this summer would be on the wrong side of the risk ledger. They don't have one major hole to fill, they have a few: a rotation spot, a bullpen arm or two, and, despite what Bruce Bochy says, an offense-minded outfielder. What exactly did Bochy say, you ask?

"I think if you look at our lineup, we're pretty set at almost every position," Bochy said. "You go around the infield, these are our guys. The one place you may say, well, you could make a change would be in the outfield, but Pence is going to be out there. You have to love the way Blanco's been playing. And between Torres, who's got the experience and swung the bat well before he hurt his knee in that game, and Perez, we think we have the guys here that can get it done."

You have to love Blanco, sure, but you also can't assume Angel Pagan will return this year, and Juan Perez isn't turning into Yasiel Puig any time soon, and Hunter Pence might not be able to sustain what he's done without more rest down the stretch, and Buster Posey will keep needing days off...

And even if the pitching improves, it's not going to get to a place where the hitters only need to score four runs a night.

This isn't to say the Giants must trade for an outfielder; it's more to show that the reinforcements needed won't arrive without cost: arms, legs, and other appendages attached to the few valuable prospects the Giants have deep in their farm system. And unlike 2010 or 2012, the Giants can't afford to deplete the farm further. Perhaps the bullpen fix is a strong-kneed, fresh-armed Santiago Casilla, a Heath Hembree call-up (or maybe not, based on his work lately), and the surprise return of Brian Wilson throwing 98 with a Michelin steel-belted radial tread in his elbow. Voila, no trades required! Perhaps the top brass secretly know that Kyle Crick is the next Tim Alderson. Perhaps there's a GM out there who lusts after Francisco Peguero.

But I'm dreading the trade deadline this year. I feel that risk-reward needle pointing in the wrong direction. I fear this could be the year that a grasp for short-term straws leaves the farm system gutted and the front office with the old, bad over-reliance on free agents to plug the winter's roster holes.

That said, I've learned the hard way that knee-jerk opposition -- or any reaction, really -- to deadline trades is bad for business:

The Giants could use a decent lefty-stopper in the 'pen. But for Martinez AND Bowker? How did this happen? Was the market for relievers so tight that Sabean was forced into this corner?
And there's this:

Scutaro is a nice pick-up, and relatively speaking he's as big an upgrade over Emmanuel Burriss as Hanley Ramirez is over Juan Uribe. But unless the Giants suffer a serious middle-infield injury, Scutaro isn't going to make an impact. Not that he's supposed to; the Giants needed more bench depth, and Scutaro was the right guy to target.
So I'll keep an open mind and keep a big roll of Tums by my side.

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