The San Francisco Giants are in the market for a perennial difference-maker in left field, but aren’t intrigued by the options available in free agency. GM Brian Sabean will be forced to work some trade magic in attempt to bolster a lineup that featured a power-deficient core of slashers in 2013.
The Giants are unlikely to pursue a free agent who’s been tendered a qualifying offer over fear of losing a draft pick, according to recent reports. This decision is somewhat dimwitted, considering the Giants’ current crop of up-and-coming talent. It’s not a foregone conclusion that San Francisco would be forced to cough-up a top-tier prospect in order to acquire a bat. However, it’s concerning that the Giants value future draft picks over currently developing players.
San Francisco could become motivated to trade an existing everyday player if they’re unwilling to give up a prospect. The most logical trade candidate given those circumstances would be third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who is entering the final year of his current contract. Teams around the league are presumed to have some interest in acquiring Sandoval, although the Giants need to be certain that the value they’d receive in return would be substantial enough to justify a potential deal.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck is the type of player the Giants should check in on. The Angels are frequently active in the offseason, which makes them a realistic trade partner. The Angels also face uncertainty at third base. In fact, Los Angeles was mostly reliant upon Alberto Callaspo, who struggled to maintain a .252 batting average in 336 plate appearances last season.
The idea of acquiring a player that can both be slotted in the designated hitter spot of the lineup and man the hot corner should entice GM Jerry Dipoto, who is currently exploring trade options according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The talent differential between Shuck and Sandoval is not as lofty as the common reader may think. Shuck recorded a solid .293 batting average in 437 at-bats in his rookie season. He doesn’t boast the type of power that Sandoval does, although he does play efficiently on defense, posting a .988 fielding percentage in 2013.
Sandoval doesn’t play exceptionally well at third base and also appears to be in steady decline. His numbers have slowly diminished in three major statistical categories since 2011: batting average (37 points), slugging percentage (135 points) and OPS (151 points). Sandoval’s trade value is peaking, given the lack of talent on the open market this offseason.
It’s highly likely that San Francisco could net more than one player in a deal with the Angels involving Sandoval and Shuck. However, the Giants should also make a play for power-hitting first baseman Mark Trumbo.
The Giants have seemingly tinkered with the idea of moving rising stud Brandon Belt in left field to create a void for a slugger at first base. This concept could potentially move Belt from his comfort zone, although adding a power hitter like Trumbo would be monstrous for the Giants’ offense.
Trumbo’s career .250 batting average is dismal, but his power-hitting prowess is an asset the that Giants sorely lack. The 27-year-old slugger bashed 34 home runs and drove in 100 runs in 2013, but mounted a microscopic .294 on-base percentage. However, the Giants need players that can consistently drive in runs, and Trumbo is certainly capable of accomplishing that.
The Angels are a realistic trade partner for the Giants, who appear to be destined to bolster their offense via trade as opposed to free agency.