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6.13.2006

Trade Bait: Second Base 

Oh Ray, what could have been. When the Giants signed you and Brave Brave Sir Edgard in the post-2002 gloom, spirits brightened. Yes, you helped the team avoid a moustache deficit, but you were no Jeff Kent. In this, no dishonor: what second baseman was (or is)?

We knew you were good for 15 homers, 25 stolen bases, 35 doubles, 5-10 triples a year. You had played in no fewer than 150 games and posted an OPS over .800 for five years straight. With the medical magic of Stan Conte, 31-year-old players were still in the thick of the midst of their prime.

In the intervening 3 1/2 years, you've delivered when healthy. But your hamstrings, calves, neck, toes, knees, eyelids, and chakras have baffled Conte and his staff. (Baffling Hamstrings: good band name!)

You will probably go back to the American League and play in 150 games a year, leaving us all scratching our heads and wondering, was it was the fog...the fine array of ethnic dining options...the sexy women flirting with you in Giants' TV commercials...the sound of Renel's voice? Something in San Francisco made your muscles go Sproing! as if you were a recurrent character in Mad Magazine.

The question for today: Should the Giants trade you?

I'm not sure Kevin Frandsen is the answer if the Giants want to make a run at the playoffs. Frandsen may be the heir apparent, but he's not the here-and-now. (Let's put it this way: in 56 at-bats he hit worse than Jose Vizcaino.) So if trading Ray-Ray means replacing him with Frandsen (K-Fran? Frannie? Frandy?), Ray better fetch some serious offense at another position.

I could see Ray going to an American League club that needs a 2b/DH type. He won't be the key to anyone's pennant race, but he'd be a nice complementary piece. In other words, he'd have to be part of a larger package to fetch a difference-making bat.

As for incoming second basemen, there are no obvious difference-makers who fit my four criteria. To refresh:

1) He's a definite upgrade. 2) His strength -- say, right-center field power -- won't get eaten up by the 421' Monster. 3) He's tradable and/or expendable. 4) His salary isn't ridiculously burdensome.

Craig Biggio is close, except for #3: Houstonians would burn down Minute Maid Park if he were traded. And Biggio might quit rather than play for another team. Utley, Castillo, Kinsler, Uggla and Phillips are all young, good and cheap enough that their teams would only move them for Cain-type pitching. Jose Vidro can still hit, but he's more expensive and decrepit than Durham -- and he's only 31. After three excellent years with the bat, Marcus Giles is floundering. Would a change of scene help? Risky move.

Conclusion: It would be great to get something for Durham other than a compensatory draft pick this winter, but if the Giants want to contend down the stretch, a healthy Ray-Ray may be their best option. The offensive drop-off in replacing him with Frandsen and/or Vizcaino would likely negate any offensive boost Sabean could produce at other positions.

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