07/12/12 10:00 AM ET
Giants unlikely to make splash before Deadline
Club's focus figures to be on adding extra bat off bench, bullpen depth
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
The Giants obviously would listen to another team's proposal if they somehow could engineer a deal for a substantial upgrade without significantly depleting talent at the Major or Minor League level. Yet adding a replacement for first baseman Brandon Belt or shortstop Brandon Crawford, for example, almost surely would prove too costly or is simply unattainable.But as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches, the Giants could use depth, in the form of players who can broaden manager Bruce Bochy's options down the stretch. San Francisco also could use another reliever to complement an already capable bullpen. The Giants aren't particular about what position their prospective handyman might play, or which arm he throws with if he's a pitcher. But they would like to acquire a useful hitter, particularly one who's adept at coming off the bench.
San Francisco might prefer a right-handed swinger to occupy the role that Brett Pill tried to fill earlier in the season. Giants right-handed batters are outhitting lefties for average, .263 to .259. But left-handers have compiled a .702 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), compared to .688 for righties.On the other hand -- literally -- right-handed batters have generated more of the rare power the Giants have displayed. They've homered once every 48.4 at-bats, compared to once every 65.9 for left-handers. Bobby Evans, the Giants' vice president of player personnel, acknowledged that bolstering the roster overall is the Giants' objective, more so than upgrading the lineup. "We have to be open for opportunities to improve the club," Evans said recently. "I don't think we're going to take the place of somebody in our everyday lineup." Thus, Giants general manager Brian Sabean is unlikely to repeat the primary move he made shortly before last year's Deadline, when he sent top right-handed pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets for right fielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran hit .323 in 44 games but wasn't overwhelmingly productive, amassing 18 RBIs. Meanwhile, Wheeler has begun to harness his stuff at Double-A and should reach the Majors before too long. A closer parallel to this season is 2010. Then, San Francisco occupied fourth place in the National League West but trailed first-place San Diego by only four games with a 47-41 record. This year, the Giants sit in second place with a 46-40 mark, a half-game behind the Dodgers. The Giants would be overjoyed if this year developed as 2010 did. En route to the World Series, the Giants acted on Trade Deadline day by strengthening the bullpen with the acquisitions of left-hander Javier Lopez and right-hander Ramon Ramirez. Both contributed handsomely down the stretch and in the postseason. In August, San Francisco acquired infielder Mike Fontenot and outfielders Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. Fontenot generated some clutch hits, and though Guillen did little except collect six RBIs in a September victory, Ross compensated by winning NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors against Philadelphia. As of now, the Giants aren't actively looking for a starting pitcher to buttress the back end of the rotation. Evans called reports claiming that the Giants might be searching for another starter "not true." That could change by the end of the month if Tim Lincecum (3-10, 6.42 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) and Barry Zito (7-6, 4.01 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) continue to struggle simultaneously.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.