The Giants’ trade for Carlos Beltran, which is apparently done but can’t be announced until Beltran agrees to waive his no-trade clause, is a bold move that gives the team a chance to repeat as World Series champions.
Beltran is exactly the kind of middle-of-the-lineup hitter the Giants sorely need, with 15 homers, 30 doubles and 66 RBIs in 98 games. The Giants don’t have anybody close to those numbers.
The trade is a gamble because the Giants will have to give up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Clubs sometimes regret this kind of quick-fix deal — the poster child for a bad trade is the Red Sox’s August 1990 trade of Jeff Bagwell for six weeks of Larry Anderson — but the Giants have a small window of opportunity and Giants GM Brian Sabean is wise to take this gamble.
They probably will only have Beltran for the rest of this season because his $19.3 yearly contract will expire and he will probably want something equal to that — or even higher — and the Giants cannot afford that because they’ll still have Barry Zito ($18 million a year) through 2013 and Aaron Rowand ($12 million) through 2012.
But Sabean understood that, once Buster Posey was lost for the year, the Giants simply did not have the hitting to repeat as world champions, despite their great pitching.
The Giants have two black holes in their lineup: shortstop Brandon Crawford, who has struggled to keep his average above .200, and catcher Chris Stewart, who hasn’t hit much higher. The alternatives on the roster, Mike Fontenot at shortstop and Eli Whiteside at catcher, don’t hit much better and they’re not as good defensively. With a club which depends so much on its pitching, the Giants need the defense of Crawford and Stewart.
There were no alternatives available through trade. In fact, Sabean was forced to sign Miguel Tejada in the offseason in hopes that Tejada could still be a serviceable shortstop. He isn’t.
With so little production from the bottom of their lineup, the Giant needed to get more out of the power slots in the middle, but only the rejuvenated Pablo Sandoval has been consistently productive. Aubrey Huff appears to be a one-year wonder. Nate Schierholtz had a brief power surge, but has not hit a homer in three weeks. Cody Ross is inconsistent, as he has been throughout his career. Andres Torres hasn’t approached his breakout season of last year.
The Giants have found ways to win games even when they haven’t hit, but Sabean knew they needed another big hitter in the middle of the lineup.
Beltran gives them that hitter, and he’s also a good defensive outfielder. Giants manager Bruce Bochy will have to do some juggling, figuring how to get rookie Brandon Belt into the lineup (or perhaps sending him back to Fresno to play every day) and getting time for his other outfielders. Pat Burrell will probably be released when he comes off the DL and Rowand’s playing time will be sharply reduced.
But this is minor business. The Giants badly needed the shot in the arm that Beltran represents, and Sabean should be congratulated for pulling it off.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.