The good news: The Giants added some much-needed pop to their lineup at the trade deadline Tuesday without mortgaging the team’s future. The bad news: No player has ever won a World Series alone.
I’m usually skeptical of deadline deals where minor-league prospects are discarded to bring in an All-Star who’s suddenly cast as the team’s savior, but the Giants’ decision to send Nate Schierholtz and a pair of minor-leaguers to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Hunter Pence seems practical. But can one trade win a championship?
First, the Pence trade should be commended for what it isn’t: the Carlos Beltran trade of 2011. Last year’s swap for Beltran epitomized everything that can go wrong when a front office panics at the deadline: The Giants lost their top pitching prospect (Zack Wheeler, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft) and the division by eight games, and Beltran is now in St. Louis having an MVP-caliber season.
But the move for Pence is different in a couple of ways.
Most importantly, the Giants didn’t sacrifice tomorrow’s fortunes to plug today’s hole. Earlier, it was rumored that the Phillies wanted the Giants’ top nonpitching prospect, Double-A center fielder Gary Brown, for Pence. That would have been a mistake. Brown has the potential to start in the Giants’ outfield for more than a decade and if you’re always shopping the Matt Cain’s and Buster Posey’s that you draft and develop, you’ll eventually wind up with a team that looks a lot like the New York Mets, who are struggling to reverse the damage of a decade of overzealousness in the front office.
Instead, the Giants landed Pence by shipping Schierholtz (a decent player, but hardly a cornerstone), a minor-league catcher (not needed with Posey and Hector Sanchez) and a minor-league pitcher in Seth Rosin, who has potential but hasn’t advanced past Class A after more than three seasons.
Another difference between this trade and last year’s is that Pence isn’t a rent-a-player. He’s under team control through the 2013 season, but faces arbitration this offseason, which will likely cost the Giants between $12 million and $15 million. It could be a sound investment: Pence is a five-tool player, who plays well at AT&T Park. On paper, he’s a perfect fit.
But adding his contract to the payroll could be a problem if it impacts the team’s chances to re-sign Melky Cabrera in the offseason. Nothing has made The City’s Beltran blues evaporate faster than Cabrera’s performance this year.
Some fans might be disappointed that Brian Sabean wasn’t able to find an arm for the bullpen, but there wasn’t anything on the market worth trading for (Brandon League? Come on). Oftentimes, the missing piece to the bullpen emerges after Sept. 1, when a team’s roster expands from 25 to 40 players. But if things get dire, Sabean could always look for help on the waiver wire.
So while grabbing Pence was a sensible move, this isn’t basketball where one player can reshape the floor. If the Giants are going to rekindle the magic of 2010, it’s going to come from within the 25 guys in the clubhouse, not one player obtained by the front office.
Paul Gackle is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.