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Lost In The Woods

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I just got back from a week in the wilderness of triple-digit Northern California. I made it out just fine, but the Giants apparently are still wandering, heat-stroked.

I had an inkling of what was happening with my favorite team, but two-day old sports pages and second-hand accounts have a way of blunting the impact. I got home Sunday just in time to turn on the radio and hear the final three innings against the Dodgers. In the ninth, Sergio Romo's hanging slider hadn't even rolled to the wall off the bat of AJ Ellis, and I had already reverted back to my previous state: I pushed the car radio button, and I was instantly a million miles away from places where you get a big Yasiel shoved up your Puig even when, most of the time, you do things right, like match Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch and strike out the aforementioned Puig in more than half his at-bats.

I'm not saying this season is a goner. Weird things happen. But I am saying that weird things have to happen at this point for the Giants to jump over four teams, all of which have either a bounty of farm talent or cash (or both) to make trades that bolster their second-half rosters.

One more bad series, and frankly, folks, the tide should start flowing the opposite way. Ebb it, Sabes, ebb it. There will be plenty of talk-radio talk of moving Tim Lincecum to a contender that wants the Tim Lincecum of the 2012 Playoffs, because, hey, who wouldn't want that guy, and of course he's going to be that good again and the Giants will get a good prospect and 8.5 million or whatever dollars off their books.


Lincecum, ie, The Most Obvious Giant To Trade, might in fact be the most untradeable unless the Giants eat yum yum yum all those dollars and accept a crappy prospect because, hey, what right-minded pennant-racing GM would waste time and a 25-man roster spot on that deal when there are plenty of other lower-risk bullpen trades to be had?

The next Most Obvious Giant to Trade in talk-radio land is Hunter Pence, but again, I'm skeptical. I wonder what the Giants would get for him. Once traded, he would not bring his new team draft-pick compensation this winter if his new team couldn't convince him to stay in 2014 and beyond. Because of that, and the cash he'd still be owed ($5 or $6 million), the Giants certainly wouldn't get a top prospect for him. Perhaps they're better off keeping him, offering him a one-year "qualifying offer" of $14 or $15 M this winter; if he takes it, fine, they don't have to pin near-term hopes on Roger Kieschnick or Frankie Pegs or other guys the organization is clearly not enthralled with (or else they wouldn't have called up minor-league journeyman Cole Gillespie this weekend to take Juan Perez's spot). If Pence declines the offer, the Giants get a high draft pick.

If Marco Scutaro were a couple years younger, and the Giants had an intriguing second-base prospect knocking at the door, I could imagine a lot of interest. But even with the superb bat skills, his aches and pains this year have been ominous, and the team still has a year, maybe two, until Joe Panik is ready for the job (if ever). Scutaro doesn't have to be an All-Star or a NLCS MVP or World Series champ or rain-soaked cult of personality to earn his $6 million-plus a year in 2014 or 2015; he's worth more to the Giants than he is to someone else right now.

I could be wrong, but I think the more interesting question is whether guys like Chad Gaudin and Gregor Blanco should be considered useful pieces for 2014 or useful trade chips. Gaudin, especially, who keeps proving himself a worthy starter. Down the stretch, he could be just as helpful in the back of someone else's rotation as the far more hyped (and expensive) Ricky Nolasco, who is now a Dodger. But Gaudin really wants to a Giant -- he said so after signing his minor-league deal this past winter -- and perhaps could be re-signed on friendly terms for another year, perhaps two, with the hope that at a young 30 years old he's finally putting things together. And Lord knows the Giants will have some rotation holes to fill next year.

Wild card: I wonder how much palaver behind the scenes will concern Pablo Sandoval. He has another year on his contract, making $8.25 M in 2014. Do the Giants really want to pay him more than that in the years beyond? If they're going to move on, why not do it a year early? It would mean a platoon of Arias/Noonan/Abreu or something down the stretch, and a scramble to replace the offense this winter (or maybe not), but Sandoval is the only current Giant I can think of who has a) the talent to entice a rival team to trade real prospects b) a team-friendly contract to entice a rival team and c) enough downside, as we've seen him at his hackin'est worst, to entice the Giants to deal him.

You might say Brandon Belt fits the trade-bait bill, but the combo of his contract situation (won't hit arbitration til 2015) and age (fer crissakes he just turned 25 and he's already pretty good) should make the Giants very reluctant to part ways with him. I'm also dubious that the bullpen guys will get traded. We all know how much the Giants love a deep veteran bullpen, and the security blanket of Affeldt and Casilla (signed through 2015) and Romo (through 2014) will remain in place unless someone makes an offer impossible to refuse.  

We've never seen Brian Sabean conduct a fire sale, and it won't happen this year either. But another bad series or two, and for the first time in the Sabean era we might actually see the Giants move a few veterans in July and August, and our thoughts will turn decisively toward 2014.

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