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7.25.2006

More Trade Thoughts 

Conventional wisdom holds that Brian Sabean's trade record is all sparkle and glitter until 2003 but since then the man has been lying face down in an alley, a lump on his head and his pockets turned inside-out. I submit to you, gentle reader, that this conventional wisdom, colored mostly by the infamous AJ Pierzynski trade, is wrong.

Let's spool things backwards. First, the outcome of the Hillenbrand trade remains to be seen. But on paper, it makes sense: get a bat the Giants desperately need and give up little short-term advantage in the bullpen.

Before that: Edgardo Alfonzo for Steve Finley. Finley is having a mediocre year but as a fourth outfielder has been a godsend. Alfonzo is an ex-Bridgeport Bluefish.

Before that: LaTroy Hawkins for Steve Kline. Allegedly to have a legitimate lefty in the pen, this deal was really a swap of disgruntlements. Kline has been good in one way: lefties are only slugging .327 against him. But they're getting on base against him 35% of the time, and righties are hitting him well. The other mark in his favor is a 2-to-1 GB/FB ratio, with 7 GiDPs already. LaTroy has had an odd year: dominant at home in Camden Yards and a punching bag on the road. Statistically, there's not a huge difference in Kline and Hawkins this year. Call it a wash.

Before that: a slew of late veteran discards (Christiansen, Tucker, D. Cruz) for fringe minor leaguers. None have sniffed the majors; most are in single-A ball.

Before that: Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn. Torrealba was considered by many to be heir-apparent to the starting job but has since proven his detractors correct by having Mathenyesque batting skills -- in Coors Field, even. Meanwhile, Matheny had a career year with the bat in '05 before the tweety-birds starting circling his skull. Foppert has pitched 10 innings in triple-A this year. Randy Winn is in a slump that evens out his torrid September '05 and brings him to just about his serviceable career averages of .345 OBP and .425 SLG, which is probably where he'll more or less remain for the rest of his contract extension. Short-term, a great deal, as Winn helped the Giants make a little noise last September. Longer-term, Sabean got an everyday player who sometimes plays above average for a backup catcher and sore-armed pitcher.

Before that: Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for Hawkins. Sabean must have known something no one else did (or at least something that Andy McPhail didn't know), because Williams has regressed so much he's now in and out of the triple-A starting rotation. Hawkins turned into Steve Kline.

That's six trades, counting the 2005 discards as one, of which the results so far are at least neutral and at best pretty darn good in a non-blockbusterish sort of way. Living through the early Sabean years, we expected lightning, thunder and highway robbery on a regular basis. The AJ trade poisoned the well for a lot of fans, and for them, it seems only a larceny in the opposite direction will soothe their eternal dyspepsia.

I'm not sure Sabean will ever again pull off a theft on the scale of Schmidt-for-Vogelsong/Rios, JT Snow-for-Allen Watson or the "White Flag"; perhaps his next great trade will be one of the Giants' veterans for a handful of prospects.

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UPDATE: If you haven't played Grant's Choose-Your-Own Giants Adventure, please do so. You won't be sorry. It not only showcases Grant's unmatched writing and comedic skills, it relies heavily upon robust redundant server-side Web programming. I'm sure he outsourced that part to India.

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