Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two Birds in the Hand or the Bird in the Bush

I've been in a discussion about whether the Giants should trade Lowry and Sanchez for a good young hitter like Carl Crawford (and noticed after posting this that sfgfan posted something similar, beating me to the punch...). Now, dodging the issue of whether such a trade is even possible as it seems like other teams could outdo that easily, what if we could trade the two for a studmuffin of a hitter, would that be a good thing? Right now, hopefully Sanchez and Lincecum join the rotation and provide the Giants a killer rotation of Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, and Lincecum, but if we trade off them, right now that would make it Cain, Lincecum, and Hennessey maybe, and not that Lincecum is a sure thing either, though he has been outstanding so far.

That's partly why I am not for trading off, say, Lowry and Sanchez, for a young stud hitter. Pitchers are fragile and that's why they came up with TINSTAAPP: there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. And that's one very good reason for getting a sure thing like a stud hitter. But this involves two of our hopes of the future.

And the Giants future is their pitching rotation. If we are re-building for the post-Bonds era, that is what we should be concentrating on, not trading that away, which is potentially a huge area of strength. Pitching strength will come from a Jell-O strategy: you throw enough Jell-O at the wall, eventually enough of it will stick.

Ideally, the Giants build up their rotation such that you regularly have really good pitching prospects rise with the cream and regularly slough off good prospects you can trade to fill position needs. The Giants are not there yet, Lowry needs to show 2006 was a fluke injury year, Cain needs to show he can build off his second half of 2006 and not regress, Sanchez and Lincecum will need to show they can actually start in the majors. Hopefully the four can make a killer rotation in a couple of years, but killer prospects do not always translate into major leaguers, we might have nothing, like the A's and Met's with their Four Aces potential of the early 1990's fizzling out to not even ONE decent starter.

But at this point, this seems to me to be the fastest route to a return to domination, you have to roll the dice somewhere and to have a killer rotation seems to be the best way to it. That's how the Dodgers of the 60's did it, very strong pitching backed by JIT offense built on speed. I understand the times are totally different, with the era now of offense, and there are different ways to win, but it seems to me that the surest way to regularly win is to have a great defense, pitching in baseball's case, with an offense that is adequate. Good offense is no guarantee of winning, but good pitching always keeps you in the game.

And in this particular hypothetical trade, we are trading off half of that potential to get one hitter, an admittedly good hitter, but it takes more than one good hitter to get our offense going, which thus far has looked like a problem that will be hard to solve via free agency. There are not many obvious upgrades at the positions we have open over the guys we had this year and this year our offense was subpar for much of the year, or so it seemed. So getting this one good, maybe great, hitter, would not make our offense that much better, but losing those two starters would pretty much kill off any potential for a killer rotation, at least until we see who the Giants pick with their 10th overall pick (again) for the 2007 draft and who among the Giants prospects take that giant leap forward and become a viable pitching prospect for our starting rotation.

3 comments:

  1. As usual, great analysis, Martin. We had similar thoughts, but on two different paths (sort of). My thoughts were based primarily on how much the trade for a young star would cost the Giants monetarily, and you take it an different route and speculate on potential.

    There are many people against it, but I hope Lincecum gets invited to Spring Training and blows the doors off of the Giants rotation. I think it could benefit him and the Giants as whole.

    Lincecum gets the tutiledge of Righetti (although I'm not exactly sure how good he is, even if people do rave about him) during his 'sponge' (taking everything in) stage.

    The Giants will get a pitcher with a world of potential who has dominated his peers at the lower levels of play. They get to save at least 3-6 million dollars a year in not signing a #4 or #5 starter.

    Every little bit of money the Giants can save somewhere will benefit another position within the roster. 3 million could mean the differenc between signing Rich Aurilia and Jose Vizcaino (round 3).

    Depending on who the Giants trade away for whom, I may still advocate it. But in general, it doesn't make very much sense to trade away two players who will be starters (and have salaries you control) for someone who may be arb-eligible and is only ONE person.

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  2. >Right now, hopefully Sanchez and Lincecum join the rotation and provide the Giants a killer rotation of Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, and Lincecum,

    Martin, as much as I hope you're right, I think you're letting your hopes get way ahead of your reason. Sanchez's success at the ML level is by no means assured. He faltered badly once he joined the rotation. Lincecum hasn't pitched above single-A! Interesting, hopeful, exciting: yes, yes, yes. "Killer"? No.

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  3. Sorry I didn't make it clear Alex, but I was saying that my hopes were that they make a killer rotation at some point.

    I think, though, I made it clear enough in my post that pitching prospects are nowhere close to a sure thing.

    If I were to bet, I think we get one long term ace-type pitcher between Lowry and Cain, and among the three remaining, we get a good middle rotation guy, and probably two relievers, one really good, one serviceable.

    But one can hope for a killer rotation and there are chances that this might happen (stronger chances that it doesn't). That's why I put in "hopefully."

    What I was trying to do was figure out how the Giants with their current set of players can have a superior advantage in some way. Obviously, even with all the money we have available, there's no way short of robbing another team in a trade that our offense will be much more than average. Either we tolerate youngsters to afford a good player somewhere, or you get middling talent across the board.

    However, pitching is where the Giants have some sort of an advantage. Cain's upside is clear. Lowry was a top rotation guy until he threw the pitch and left with his injury. Sanchez and Lincecum clearly are question marks because of what you noted, but clearly have high upside as well.

    So, as you note, they won't be a killer rotation in 2007, but I was thinking more long term, 2009-2012, if they develop on the path they appear to be one, we could have one killer of a rotation. But if two of them are traded, we'll now have a middling rotation and the offense will still probably not be that good.

    Thinking more about this trade speculation, obviously, if we were offered a Pujols or Miguel Cabrera, I would change my mind, but I don't view Crawford as one of those generational players.

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