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2.02.2005

Sabean's Record, Part 1 

There's been much recent debate in my comment boxes about Sabean's track record, with some consensus that the early years of his tenure have been much more successful than the more recent years. Josh From Hollywood also takes some time over on the fancy-schmancy new McCovey Chronicles not only to defend Sabean but to praise his mini-mullet hairstyle. Essential reading.

I'd like to take a step-by-step (i.e., boring) look at Sabean's record as Giants' GM. In this post, I'll go over his trades. In the next, we'll peruse his free agent signings. In part three, which I'll probably get to around June, I'll comb through at the track records of a few other strategically selected GMs to see how Sabes stacks up.

First, the trades. My grading system, based on total Giants output of the acquired player(s) and total post-Giants output of traded player(s):

A blockbuster brilliant trade: +3
A very good trade that may require re-evaluation: +2
A nice little upgrade: +1
A wash: 0
A net loss, but no big deal: -1
A pretty bad deal with some tiny silver lining: -2
An all-time stinker: -3


In September '03 I posted a list of the trades during Sabean's tenure. Up through 2002, there was not a single trade you could criticize. From 1997-2002, the only prospect Sabean traded who has become anything special is Keith Foulke; the Giants used him and a busload of flameouts to get the players that helped win the division in 1997. The major leaguers the Giants traded have mostly netted key players: Allen Watson for J.T. Snow, Darryl Hamilton for Ellis Burks, Bill Mueller for Tim Worrell, Matt Williams for Julian Tavarez, Jeff Kent, etc.; Shawn Estes for Tsuyoshi Shinjo and David Bell, Armando Rios and Vogelsong for John Vander Wal and some guy named Schmidt. Then Vander Wal for the useful Jay Witasick. For five years, Sabean could trade no wrong. He even got David Haselhoff for Alan Embree! Oh -- Derek Haselhoff. I'll give him a +2.5 for the entire period.

Then came 2003.

- Russ Ortiz for Damian Moss and Merkin Valdez wasn't so hot. Sabean admitted it was a sheer salary dump, but it was exacerbated by the decision to keep Rueter instead of Ortiz. However, if Valdez either a) becomes a bonafide major leaguer or b) gets traded for one, we can move this trade into the positive column. Grade: -1.5.

- Livan for Jim Brower and Matt Blank. We can argue about this one. At the time, Livan was about to become as overpaid as he was undermotivated and overweight. Brower has given the Giants two gritty, solid bullpen years; who knew that Livan would go on to Montreal and become one of the league's top starters? +0.5.

- Clay Hensley for Matt Herges. Lost in Herges' terrible '04 is his spectacular '03. Half a year of excellent relief work was well worth losing Clay Hensley, who may someday reach the major leagues if he drinks enough Cytogainer and Muscle Milk. +1.5.

- Damian Moss, Kurt Ainsworth and Ryan Hannaman for Sidney Ponson. Despite conventional wisdom, Ponson didn't suck during his brief Giants tenure. He outpitched Curt Schilling in an epic game at the BOB. He didn't run over anyone on his jet-ski. No, he didn't pitch well in the one playoff game against the Marlins, but this was not a bad trade. It will look worse if Ainsworth overcomes his injury problems and Hannaman ever makes it out of A-ball. 0.

- Greg Bruso for Eric Young. 0.

- Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano for A.J. Pierzynski. Oops. It looked smart at the time. Then A.J. turned into a lazy, weak-armed, singles-hitting, double-play machine, while Joe Nathan turned into Robb Nen. In sum, the Giants traded Boof for "Oof!" -2.5. ("Minus five!" says Stan Conte.)

[UPDATE: I FORGOT THIS ONE!]
- A player to be named later (John Thomas) for Dustan Mohr. Now that Dustan's gone, we all miss him. But not long ago he stumbled over a bullpen mound in San Diego and a reader of this blog described him as "young, dumb and full of cum." (Two out of three ain't bad.) For three quarters of the season, Mohr was an excellent backup outfielder, and he showed flashes of earning more PT in '05. Then he got cut for -- no one's quite sure. John Thomas had a fairly unremarkable year out of the bullpen last year for the Twins' A-ball affiliate. Great trade, but the chance to reap even more reward from it has been cut short. +1.

Then came 2004:

- Carlos Villanueva and Glenn Woolard for Wayne Franklin and Leo Estrella. Sabean could have gotten these schmoes from the Brewers for a couple clam chowders in the edible sourdough bowl. (People from the Midwest go crazy for that "authentic" San Francisco shit.) Instead he traded a couple intriguing prospects. Woolard posted some decent numbers in AA last year; likewise Villanueva in single-A. If either of them makes the majors, this deal will be a big stain on Sabean's record. For now, it's a -1.

- Felix Rodriguez for Ricky Ledee and Alfredo Simon. I had long called for the trade of Fifi, but when it happened, I groaned. The Giants last summer needed to add good bullpen arms, not subtract them. Compounding the gaffe, Ledee did his best Tony-Torcato-on-crack impression, whiffing so often on both offense and defense that Felipe buried him under a pile of Barry's sweaty-bald-head towels. -1.5.

[UPDATE: I FORGOT THIS ONE, TOO]
- Josh Habel for Dave Burba. If he's lucky Habel will be a Noah Lowry type. The Giants got into six games, took a tumble and got injured, and that was all she blows, matey. He wouldn't have been eligible for the playoffs, so the trade ended up with nearly zero impact and the slight possible downside that Habel will become the next Sid Fernandez. 0.

So it's true: most of Sabean's trades stretching back over a year have been crapola, and pre-Pierzynski, 2003 was roughly a wash. That's six years of giddy theft followed by a two-year drought. When it comes to trades, he's still well into the black in my ledger, but let's hope the magic returns soon.

Next: the free agent contracts.

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