As is often the case with championship teams, the San Francisco Giants have struggled to replicate their 2012 production in 2013. Though it looked like the Giants might be able to contend just a few days ago after taking two of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks, their brutal series versus the Cincinnati Reds makes it very unlikely that the team will be able to make a playoff run this year.
As the San Francisco Chronicles’ Henry Schulman pointed out after the Giants’ loss on Wednesday night, the team will need to finish 35-26 just to make it back to a .500 winning percentage. There’s been no point during this season where they were nine games over, so it doesn’t make sense that anything would change now.
The Giants have learned their lesson from their disastrous Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran trade in 2011. They are not going to sacrifice their future in order to fix a team that just doesn’t have what it takes to contend. At the same time, though, it does not make sense to completely blow up a team that still has so many talented players still remaining.
The team’s most sensible trade option would be to move left-handed specialist Javier Lopez. Though it seemed like fellow lefty Jeremy Affeldt‘s injury would diminish the possibility of Lopez being traded, the Giants struggled so badly over the past four days that Lopez is not going to make much difference in the team’s ability to contend.
They have several left-handed relief prospects, and Affeldt and Jose Mijares should both return next year, so the free agent Lopez will likely not be brought back anyway. The Giants would be wise to get any return value they can for the 36-year-old lefty.
In addition, it would be fantastic if the team could get something for starter Tim Lincecum, who may actually end up as a reliever if he’s traded to a contender.
It’s best to put emotions aside in this situation. Though the 29-year-old right-hander has won two Cy Young Awards, played key roles in two World Series victories and threw a no-hitter just two weeks ago, it’s pretty clear that he no longer has what it takes to be a consistently good big-league starter.
He’s been very erratic for almost two full years now, and his best hope of sustaining a career long-term is to become a reliever. Lincecum will be expensive to re-sign, and has never really been a player who seemed to contribute much to the clubhouse environment, so he likely won’t be back next year. If the team can get even a mid-level prospect for Lincecum, they should take advantage.
It doesn’t make sense, however, to deal players who could be part of the core for years to come and who are not easily replaceable. Some have suggested that the Giants should try to move right fielder Hunter Pence, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and closer Sergio Romo.
Pence is a free agent, but he’s expressed a desire to remain in San Francisco and is still in his prime. Getting prospects for Pence is not worth the uncertainty that they would face in the outfield with him.
Sandoval has struggled for most of this season, but he still is very capable of being an effective player. He’s a .298 career hitter with some power, and is usually a capable defender. He’s still pretty young (he will turn 27 next month) and with him going into a contract season next year, he will likely be more motivated than ever to get into shape.
As far as Romo, he has been very effective in his first season as a closer. The Giants don’t have a surefire replacement for him, and though they could be bringing back longtime closer Brian Wilson, it doesn’t make sense to put your full trust in a guy who’s had two Tommy John surgeries when you have a guy that is already pitching at an All-Star level.
Though they could get prospects for Romo, it’s so difficult to find effective closers that it would be insane to move him.
With their struggles likely keeping them out of the playoff race, the Giants are definitely in position to make moves for the future of the organization. However, that doesn’t mean they should break up the core of a group that definitely could get back to the Fall Classic again.