OPP (Other People's Phenoms) 

We all know how thin the upcoming free agent class is. Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee and (probably) Aramis Ramirez are the best young(ish) sluggers; Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt are the best starting pitchers.

Doesn't exactly make you want to write a $90 million check, does it?

If Peter Magowan answers that with "No, it doesn't," then good for all of us Giants fans. Overspending for the top of this year's FA class means less money to spend in subsequent years when a true can't-miss player may come to the fore.

Plus, from all the noises Giant management has been making recently, we know they're going to spend frugally, if not wisely, amid the free-agent frenzy. Not even Barry Bonds will get Barry Bonds money, if Pee-Mags is to be believed.

As Brian Sabean so helpfully informed us, this team will have to improve either via free agency, trades, or the farm system. (What? No reproductive cloning or parallel-universe identity extraction? Why doesn't he consider all the options?)

One source of trade bait is the pool of disgruntled, overpaid veterans whom perhaps the Giants could trade for their own disgruntled etc etc. But disgruntled and overpaid means they will continue to be the latter and perhaps even the former, even if they receive a warm, snuggly orange, black and french vanilla down comforter as part of their welcoming ceremony.

A much better pool of potential tradees to tap are the perfectly decent ballplayers who are about to lose their jobs to up-and-coming phenoms. Ryan Howard made Jim Thome expendable. Carlos Quentin made Shawn Green expendable. Josh Barfield made Mark Loretta expendable.

The team looking to trade loses a bit of leverage, especially if the player about to be replaced can't really play another position. Jim Thome could not have moved to the outfield to make room for Howard. The White Sox picked up Thome for a good but not great CF, Aaron Rowand, and pitching prospects. I think the Phils even tossed in some cash. In other words, reasonable. It didn't hurt that Thome was a huge injury question, sure, but however you look at it, the Phils needed to clear space pronto.

For similar reasons, there should be a few interesting position players on the market this winter. Here are five, with their potential displacers in parentheses:

Mark Teahen, KC 3B (Alex Gordon)
KC doesn't have to trade Teahen. They may not want to, seeing how he suddenly figured out how to hit with power this year. They could move him to 1B. But his trade value is rising quickly because of his improved offense and his heralded defense. He just turned 25, so whoever trades for him could be getting 4 or 5 years of continuous improvement. Downside: he just had shoulder surgery.

Joe Crede, CWS 3B (Josh Fields)
Fields is heir-apparent, but Ozzie loves Crede, so Fields may be switched to the OF. If not, Crede has two more arb-eligible years. With his excellent D and power bat, he'll command much more than the $2.6 mil he earned in '06.

Wilson Betemit, LAD 3B (Andy LaRoche)
I'm not sure LaRoche is ready for a full-time job, but with stats like these, I'm sure LA will give him a shot in spring training. That means Wilson Betemit could be out, or he could remain a utility/platoon guy. His numbers against lefties are dreadful. Would Coletti and Sabean trade with each other?

Jonny Gomes, TAM OF (Delmon Young)
Delmon is ready. After a promising 2005 (21 HR, .372 OBP / .534 SLG), Gomes regressed in '06 (20 HR but only .325 OBP / .431 SLG). Maybe it was depression; playing indoors in Florida for a crap team would drag anyone down. He'll be 26 next year, so there's a good chance he'll straighten up and fly right.

Yorvit Torrealba, C COL (Chris Iannetta)
Sure, backup catcher's not a priority. But if Eliezer Alfonzo remains the starter next year because of Matheny's concussions, they're going to need backup. Why not Yorvit? His defense is excellent, and his offense is...he's a good bunter.

I'm sure there are other candidates for this list who might attract the Giants' attention this winter. Let me know if you can think of any.


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