Sabean: Melky suspension 'deflating'
Giants GM not likely to trade for big-name hitter to replace outfielder
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants general manager Brian Sabean gave no indication on Thursday that the team would acquire a proven hitter to replace suspended left fielder Melky Cabrera.Speaking on a conference call with reporters who regularly cover the Giants, Sabean called the array of outfielders who have cleared waivers and thus are eligible for trading "not too compelling or interesting." Though the outlook can change quickly and dramatically, Sabean's remark suggested that the Giants weren't on the brink of obtaining any of the veterans believed to be available, such as Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur, Minnesota's Josh Willingham, Toronto's Colby Rasmus, the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano or the New York Mets' Jason Bay. Sabean echoed manager Bruce Bochy by saying that Gregor Blanco will occupy left field "for the time being" in place of Cabrera, who received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, a banned performance-enhancing substance. Sabean stated that the Giants did not know Cabrera had tested positive until Wednesday morning. Sabean also denied that obtaining outfielder Hunter Pence at the July 31 Trade Deadline was in any way driven by the knowledge that Cabrera soon would be penalized. "We've liked Pence. We tried to acquire him last Deadline [in 2011]," Sabean said. "He was going to be a Giant if we could find a way to do it this year." Sabean acknowledged hearing Internet-fueled speculation in late July that Cabrera was facing an imminent suspension for using a performance-enhancing agent: "When it first came out, I think we all were taken aback, wondering if it was a rumor or if it had any substance. After that, I can't speak to [the rumors]." Sabean, the Major Leagues' longest-tenured general manager, called the Cabrera development "deflating." That mirrored the mood of the rest of the organization, the fan base and the team, whose status as a postseason contender was jeopardized by the loss of an All-Star who was batting .346 and led the Majors in hits. "I actually was in the meeting with Bruce when he talked to the players, and I kind of got emotional because I didn't see something like this coming," Sabean said. He added, "We've all been around this game a long time. You get used to making changes and adjusting as things happen out of left field -- a lot like life. This was one of those things that you get an upset stomach with, but you have no choice but to figure out how to move on." Moving up is the ultimate goal for the Giants, who have slipped into second place in the National League West behind Los Angeles. The Giants visit the Dodgers for a three-game showdown beginning Monday. Though San Francisco's uneven offensive production has been identified as the club's primary shortcoming, Sabean cited pitching and home performance as two chief concerns. The Giants own a 4.60 August ERA after compiling a 3.52 figure entering the month, and they've lost 10 of their last 14 games at AT&T Park, where they'll play 16 of 22 games from Sept. 3-27. "We know what we need to do," Sabean said. "But it's going to take everybody." The Giants will need more bursts of skill such as the ones that first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford have produced. Belt's hitting .407 (24-for-59) in his last 18 games. Crawford is batting .423 (11-for-26) during a career-best eight-game hitting streak. "I think they've got a lot to be proud of," Sabean said of the duo. "We stuck with them; we gave them as much playing time as they could handle. I think they're seeing the fruits of their labor. They're both very talented kids. It's just a matter of time. We hope that time's now." Sabean announced that the Giants will fill their pair of roster vacancies by recalling outfielder Justin Christian and right-hander Eric Hacker from Triple-A Fresno before the club begins a three-game series on Friday in San Diego. Christian was hitting .343 in 72 games for Fresno and batted .158 (6-for-38) in a 22-game stint with the Giants earlier this season. Hacker, Fresno's leading in wins this season, was 12-6 with a 3.95 ERA in 24 starts, though Sabean said that he'll be used in long relief. The only pitcher besides Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito to start this year for the Giants, Hacker got the call on April 27 against the Padres when a rainout and a doubleheader created a temporary need for an extra starter. He allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings and absorbed the decision in a 5-3 loss to San Diego. Sabean did not consider Gary Brown, the center fielder at Double-A Richmond who's the Giants' top prospect, as a viable option. Brown was hitting .280 with 31 stolen bases in 119 games. "I don't see it in the short term," Sabean said. "He's still learning. He's more proficient against left-handed pitching and has struggled from time to time against righties."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.