The San Francisco Giants will travel to the “City That Never Sleeps” Tuesday night to face the New York Mets. The first game of the series will revisit a trade that has undoubtedly caused general manager Brian Sabean to lose hours of sleep.
Sabean and co. traded away former top prospect Zack Wheeler for slugger Carlos Beltran just before the 2011 trade deadline in hopes to successfully defend the Giants’ 2010 World Series title — especially with Buster Posey out for the season after his home-plate collision with Scott Cousins. Even though Beltran is no longer a Giant, the trade comes full circle as Wheeler will face the team that drafted him Tuesday night.
In many ways, the Giants’ losing effort this season can be attributed to the decision to ship Wheeler. The 2013 season saw a desperate need for a commodity the Giants are used to having in waves: starting pitching. With injuries to starting pitchers Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Chad Gaudin, and struggles from Barry Zito, Wheeler’s presence in the Giants’ farm system would have done wonders for the rotation.
This season, Wheeler has a 7-5 record, 3.22 ERA and 1.337 WHIP. Most importantly, he’s looking like the promising pitcher scouts projected he would become. His ERA and WHIP is quite respectable for someone who had made only 16 big-league starts. He’s also allowing an average of less than one home run per nine innings pitched. Numbers shouldn’t be so important this early in a top prospect’s career, but plug those numbers into starts at AT&T Park and they’re most likely even lower.
The Wheeler-for-Beltran deal has gone down as one of the worst moves of Sabean’s career in San Francisco. Sure, Sabean was trying to do whatever he could to bolster a struggling offense trying to repeat as World Champions. But really, San Francisco needed much more than just Beltran with Posey shelved. San Francisco ended up finishing in second place in the West in 2011, eight games behind division champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Beltran played 44 games as a Giant and hit .323, with seven home runs and 18 RBIs; he also saw a DL stint shortly after arriving in San Francisco.
In reality, there was no way Beltran could have saved San Francisco’s offense alone. I don’t blame him at all for either the Giants’ failure to make the postseason that year or the negative aura surrounding the trade. What makes the trade so horrid was Sabean’s decision to not call Beltran’s agent once in an attempt to re-sign the former All-Star. In essence, Sabean traded his top prospect for a three-month rental of Beltran. Why he never thought of trying to bring Beltran back escapes every Giants fan. Even worse: Beltran ended up signing for the bargain contract of two-years, $26 million with the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a travesty Sabean didn’t attempt to match that offer.
The Giants were nowhere close to being buyers at the deadline in 2013, but the Wheeler trade should deter Sabean from making a big splash at the trade deadline in the future. Where Sabean went wrong was trying to make the biggest splash by acquiring the biggest name — and it costed him. Hopefully now he realizes how the Giants won two World Series titled in three years developing players through the franchise’s successful farm teams. This is reinforced with two other “buyer” acquisitions in recent Giants history: Zito and Aaron Rowand.
So, the Giants will see their once prized possession pitch against them Tuesday night. They’ll see first hand what they will be missing not only this year, but for years to come