Sorting Out Second

Ok, so all is obviously not right in the world. The Giants were bound to come back to Earth a bit, and they have this week against the Nationals. Hey, those things happen over the span of 162 games. After losing the first 3 against Washington, you just hope that Hudson and the crew can snatch a victory this afternoon and carry some momentum into the weekend series against Colorado. The Rockies are reeling big time right now, and even with the best record in baseball, the Giants still can’t afford to get sloppy on this homestand.

Anyway, the hot topic of the week in Gigantes Land seems to be second base. Everyone wants to know what’s going on at the Keystone, and now that the boys have lost a few and looked a little listless, these people are pissed off. Brandon Hicks isn’t doing his job over there, and the team is suffering because of it… or something to that effect. Wanna know what I say? Give me a break! The hottest team in baseball loses a few games to a very good team (who apparently is even hotter at the moment), and the finger-pointing begins. Such is life in a “what have you done for me lately?” society. Still, I think the Giants second base situation is definitely worth taking a closer look into at this point. So let’s get to it.

First, let’s review what we’ve learned about the Giants and 2B in the first 2+ months of the season.

1) We probably shouldn’t expect to see Marco Scutaro on the field this year. Honestly, that’s a total bummer, and Scutaro’s situation is looking way too familiar at this point. Seriously, 2B has been an all-or-nothing position for the Giants in the past 5 years. Either these guys are leading World Series runs or they’re rehabbing injuries. There really doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

2) Ehire Adrianza isn’t ready for a full-time gig. Truly, he may never have the bat to be an every day starter. The defense is great, but Ehire seems very expendable on this team right now. Obviously, the Giants still value him (as they should), but at some point they’ll have to make a decision on where he stands with the organization.

3) Brandon Hicks is the epitome of a “3 true outcomes” hitter. What does that mean? It means the majority of the dude’s plate appearances end in either a walk, a strikeout, or a home run. At the moment, he’s tied for third on the team with 8 HR, and he leads all Giants hitters in both strikeouts (65) and walks (28). He holds his own defensively at 2B (as most former SS usually do), but his batting average is becoming an eyesore. It’s down to .183, and has drug his slugging % down to .361. Most people would argue that those aren’t MLB-caliber numbers. Adam Dunn and Dan Uggla would tell you to keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you.

So, that’s what the season has taught us about 2B to this point. What about the rest of the year? Well, knowing what I do about the Giants, here are a few things I think are very likely going forward in 2014.

1) You should not expect to see Joe Panik called up from Fresno anytime soon.

“Average Joe,” as Shankbone often calls him, is having himself a nice season in the PCL. And I can guarantee you, the majority of the fanbase has one of two opinions. Either they think he’s ready to play and should be the starting 2B in San Francisco now, or that his AAA numbers are a complete mirage and he’ll be destroyed by MLB pitching. That always seems to be how the party lines are drawn with this fanbase, and I don’t see it any different with Panik.

Personally, I think I fall somewhere in the middle of this argument. Do I think Panik still has the potential to be a starting 2B in the bigs someday? Yes, I do, and unlike quite a few scouts and internet writers out there, I’ve felt that way all along. Joe’s bounceback season in Fresno has been quite impressive so far, and I think he’s a guy whose average will range somewhere between .270 and .300 in his prime as a major leaguer. For now, though, I think he needs to stay exactly where he’s at. He’s young for AAA, and he’s shown he can be a streaky hitter in the past. His .320+ average will certainly even out a bit as the summer wears on, and I think Fresno is a fine spot for him right now. On the technical side of things, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and Adrianza (the player Panik would likely replace on the roster) is out of options. The Giants are a 1st place club without any major weaknesses at the moment… why would they throw Adrianza away and bring Panik up to replace Hicks? My guess is they wouldn’t, unless an injury forced their hand. Panik should have every opportunity to win a 25-man spot next year. For now, though, he needs to keep hitting in Fresno.

2) Brian Sabean will be more than happy to swing a deal if something presents itself.

Let’s be honest: Hicks has provided the Giants with so much more offensive production this season than they ever could have dreamed of from Adrianza or Joaquin Arias. If you think otherwise, you’re dreaming. That being said, Hicks wasn’t even expected to make this team out of camp. He was a minor league signee who has come almost out of nowhere and provided a nice spark. But the league is starting to figure him out, and his numbers are starting to show it. If his average continues to fall as it has recently, I definitely think the Giants need to give someone else a shot. Hicks shouldn’t go anywhere, however. Ideally, his bat could be a real weapon off the bench, and I don’t think the organization has any plans of demoting him.

Back to the point at hand. If Hicks doesn’t see a major upswing in his production from now until the trade deadline, you’d have to think Sabean will look outside the organization for some help. And we all know there’s plenty of options out there. You’ve already heard a lot of names tossed around: Chase Utley, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Gordon Beckham, maybe even Brandon Phillips. A lot of people are calling for Utley, but I really just don’t see a match there. The guy is injury prone, on the wrong side of 35, and the Phils owe him $25 MILLION next season. Yeah, that might be a little much to take on. What about Murphy? I know Shankbone likes him, and really he’d be the perfect fit. But the early word is Sandy Alderson is going to be a real headache come July 31, and we already know how that guy feels about the Giants. Take a hike Sandy!

Personally, I’d look to make a hard push for Ben Zobrist. The Rays are a tremendous disappointment this year, and they’ve never been one to turn away a trade offer. Zobrist is veteran, versatile, and very productive. He’s got the 3 V’s that the Giants tend to look for in a mid-season trade. Not to mention he’s got a $7.5 M team option for 2015. That’s a little pricey for a franchise that can’t fill its stadium to 40% capacity, but not for a large market club looking to win another ring. Who would the Rays ask for? I’m sure we can think of a few names. To me, nobody is off limits this season. That’s the way it goes when you’re looking to make a run, and the Giants look like they covered themselves nicely with Tyler Beede and Aramis Garcia in the draft. If they wanted build a package around Andrew Susac (and even Mr. Panik for that matter), I think they’d be able to get in the room for Zobrist. Add in a Clayton Blackburn and you might have yourself a deal. Am I lowballing a bit? I’m not sure, but I think the Rays would happily take Susac if he can get back on the field this month.

We’re almost to 1,500 words here, and I think I’ve exhausted myself. Hopefully I made the main points clear though. Scutaro is a long-shot, Hicks has been a dream, the Giants aren’t going to rock the boat until they absolutely have to, and Sabean should and likely will be surveying the market for an upgrade. If the Giants are able to get Brandon Belt back, keep the rest of the group intact, AND land a player like Zobrist at the deadline, I’ll think they’ll be sitting pretty for another nice pennant run. In the meantime, I hope the anxious fans out there will turn the panic meter down just a notch or two. This is a very good Giants team, and I don’t see them just flipping a switch over night and free-falling. They’re off to a tremendous start, and I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to as we march toward the season’s second half.

Enjoy your afternoons, friends, and hopefully Huddy gets us back in the win column by dinner time.

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9 thoughts on “Sorting Out Second”

  1. Interesting targets. With Zobrist – the common internet fan theme is “I’d hate to see Sabean talking to Friedman”. This one really makes me cringe. The Giants and Rays have had one trade in their entire history: selling off Tyler Walker for cash. Poor Walker, Felipe Alou didn’t do him any favors. But the idea that Sabean would get rooked by Friedman seems to have traction and its complete bollocks. Zobrist has been a hugely valuable player for a lot of years, he was a great pickup by the Rays (Aubrey Huff!). He’s 33 now, I think its a worthy gamble. I’m sure they’ll ask for a lot for him. Is it just a injury comeback/low BABIP or is he starting to regress? This is where advance scouting is so important.

    While every player on the Giants farm is “touchable” currently, the one that gives me greatest pause is Susac. I’m sure the Rays would be all over Mella, and that is a non-starter in my opinion. We don’t know enough about the guy yet, but teams just don’t give up early talent very often. You have to go look, Hicks is still 12/13th on the WAR leaderboard for 2B even with a slump going, he’s just behind Murphy/Zobrist/Beckham (Beckham is most likely untouchable with the Sox in contention for the always winnable AL central) and ahead of Phillips and his big salary. Utley is way up there this year, I just think he’ll be crazy expensive, and I’m not sure how his personality would mesh in.

    Looks like a stare down with the Dodgers to see who blinks first and sends big farm pieces off. The Dodgers are ahead on the Ratings Scale currently. I wouldn’t mind them winning most the bidding actually.

    1. Personally, I don’t think Sabes will be getting worked over by anyone… and I fully expect him to swing a couple deals come July 31. A 2B upgrade would be the icing on the cake for me, and I have to believe they’ll be in discussions. The Dodgers definitely have the better haul to give. I say you let them go big for Utley (who’ll inevitably wind up on the DL down the stretch), and we’ll sneak in the back door and run out with Zobrist. Sounds like a plan to me.

      1. The only times Sabean has been worked over in any deal that I can remember are the White Sox White Flag deal, they got good pitchers but nobody long-term and they traded away a valuable reliever in the package in Foulke, the AJP deal, and for now, the Wheeler deal (and if he turns out to be a #3 average-type starter, I don’t consider that being taken).

        Balance that against Kent, Nen, Livan, Schmidt, Burks, Winn, Pence, Franchez, Scutaro, and the Giants have been ahead a lot more than they got taken. So as Shankbone states, its bollocks to think that he’ll get taken because in trades, he’s the taker, not the takee.

        I would love to see the Dodgers bet the farm in a trade to get some old vet, who is owed a lot of money. The well should be drying up soon at this rate.

        I like the names listed, particularly Murphy, but not at the cost of Adrianza. But perhaps this is the evaluation (trade exhibit?) period, Adrianza is getting second start in a row, and they have been saying a lot of nice words about him in the press, maybe fluffing him up for trade?

        I don’t know if he’ll ever hit, but I was encouraged by what he did in AAA (he really needed another year in AAA I think), and his defense is so good that I envision him as a version of Blanco in the infield. Players like that are in demand in the off-season, the little bat, all field middle infielders, the ones that get the Giants Fanatics all hopping mad because of a rumor that never comes to fruition. Not big contracts, but still, they are getting multi-million dollar contracts. I would like to see if he can reach his potential, but am getting the feeling that he’ll be pushed out at some point for a better hitting 2B. I would rather that they share 2B between him and Hicks, until someone gets hot, and maybe that is the plan until mid-July.

    2. I would put Crick, Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia, Panik, Williamson, Susac, and Strickland, on my untradeable list, and Duvall, Brown, Law, Osich, Hall, Stratton, Agosta, Okert, Arroyo, Jones on the “only if knock the socks off deals involving starting pitchers”.

      We need young starters, our guys are old and/or getting there. We need to keep a bunch around to get that one who can make the leap.

      We also need relievers, and some failed starters could become great relievers (see Affeldt).

      So I would rather hoard our top guys for now, it is not like we really need to get another good player in, we are playing well as a group right now, with only 2B a weak spot, but mainly batting 8th where almost every team has a weak spot, so it is not a huge liability, particularly if Hicks and Adrianza can deliver big runs saved from the position.

      1. All those guys are tradeable OGC. They’re not all going to go, but they are all assets that can get shifted. But one thing to think about is if you’re patient, you can be the last man standing because there are so many candidates, and the price goes down. Sabean can be patient once in a while…

      2. I’m finding that the value I place on our farm system fluctuates depending on the season. Last year, my list of “untradeables” included quite a few more names than this year, simply because it made no sense to trade our prospects last seasons. This year, however, the Giants should be in great position to make an upgrade at the deadline.

        We have already seen how good this team can be, and you never know what kinds of injuries might happen before July 31. That can play a major role, but either way it would make sense for Sabean to seek out a player or two to help this roster down the stretch.

        Personally, I would be willing to part ways with anyone in the system this year, granted you’re getting an appropriate amount of value in return. Crick is the one guy I’d be hesitant to move, but even he is getting pretty negative reports this summer. Maybe he’s not all we thought he’d be? I do feel like the organization covered itself nicely in the event Crick or Susac’s names come up in trade talks, taking Beede and Garcia with the first two picks. Both of those guys comp very well to Crick and Susac, which would make me feel a lot better if Sabean decided to move one or both.

        If the Rays are willing to take a package something like Panik, Blackburn and Adrianza, I’d jump for joy. My guess is they’d need Susac to really get talks going, but I guess you never know what might happen.

      3. I understand that flags fly forever, and that is partly why I was OK with the Wheeler trade. That I also was not that convinced he is going to be a top line starter helped too.

        I guess where I differ is that I think the Giants are capable of winning the West without additional talent, that trading would be gilding the lily. In addition, I’m trying to think long-term, which I think is a big difference between 2011 and 2014: our core guys aren’t all young anymore. Pretty soon, only one guy in the rotation will be under 30. And the bullpen is very old as well. And while Sabean has made the big trades before, in order to have a successful trade, there needs to be two sides to it, and there is no guarantee we will find what we need on the trade market. Hence, I’m leery of depleting our best young prospects.

        I don’t put any of the guys on my list to be a top line starter in the vein of Bumgarner or Cain, but I don’t think that we need to have that necessarily to win a division. And Lincecum is still a question mark on what we can rely on from him going forward, and Hudson and Vogie are year to year, and you have to be prepared. Again, just because you have tradeable pieces, don’t mean anything on the market is worth them (per CC’s comment about getting value for Crick).

        We also need cheap and young in the positions that are not core yet: LF, 2B, and perhaps 3B. In addition, Posey is already having back problems catching IN MAY, we can’t trade away potential replacements. For one thing, ZiPS project Susac to be OK offensively, above replacement level, and there has been good word on his defense. He might be injury prone, but if we make him and Hector co-catchers, that mitigates that risk a bit, with pulling of a strong defensive catcher up when Susac is out would help mitigate his injury issue.

        At 2B, Panik is better than Adrianza at this point and should provide good value at a cheap price. Brown on the other hand, might never figure out the offensive side, but if he can be like Blanco in the OF, a not quite good enough offense tied with very good defense, that can provide a lot of value too. Especially if we put him in CF and shift Pagan to LF.

        I might change my mind if there are any serious injuries that creates an immediate need but right now, these are the guys I would protect until pushed by circumstances.

        Good point about Beede and Garcia, though, this could be similar scenario to 2011, as Shankbone liked to point out astutely, the Crick pick enabled them to trade Wheeler with the idea of Crick being the new top guy. It will be interesting, and I’m probably wrong, these are just the guys and the reasoning I have based on what I’ve read about the prospects and seen of their stats.

  2. I would put Adrianza at second base for a couple of weeks and see what happens. I like his ability to make contact. There is no way I would trade Susac or Okert unless the deal was really strong on our side.

    1. I would like to see Adrianza get some regular play as well, split the time with Hicks at 2B, plus given breather at SS for Crawford against some LHP. Just to see better what he can do with some regular play. I like his contact ability, despite his relative youth in the minors, he might never be a great hitter, but he showed good command of the strike zone in AAA and at the start of his career, when he’s closer in age to the competition.

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