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3.28.2007

Devil Spawn 

If luck and health and planets and tarot cards all line up in the Giants' favor this year, yes, they could make the playoffs and then, as Joaquin Andujar liked to say, youneverknow.

More realistically, though, this is a rebuilding year in which the pitching staff continues its rejuvenation with the emergence of Jonathan Sanchez, maybe Tim Lincecum, and perhaps a young hotshot reliever or two (Brian Wilson, Billy Sadler).

But the renewal is all on the pitching side. The hitters won't experience much youth movement unless Todd Linden and Kevin Frandsen are forced into starting roles because of injuries. For the next few years, in fact, the only way a youth movement among Giant hitters will happen is through trade, which brings me to the point of today's post.

The Giants have pitching. The Giants need young hitters. What team out there is a mirror image with an excess of young hitters and zero pitching? The Devil Rays.

At some point, probably this year, the Rays will have five legitimate players in three outfield positions: Delmon Young, Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton (reportedly being groomed to switch from infield to outfield), and if he can get his head screwed on right, Elijah Dukes. Upton came up as a SS/3B type, but the Rays have excellent players, top-ten national prospects, in fact, rapidly approaching the bigs at those positions. Upton's shoddy infield D makes him a candidate to move. They have positional talent to spare.

And the Rays are so thin in pitching behind Scott Kazmir, they could be tempted to trade a blue-chip hitter for a blue-chip pitcher if they feel the team can make a competitive leap forward this year. Jonathan Sanchez for Rocco Baldelli? Baldelli's not perfect, between his injury problems and his low-OBP style. But Sanchez is no sure thing, either. He may never develop a steady third pitch, forcing him to be a reliever. That diminishes his value. If you were Brian Sabean you would make this trade expecting Baldelli's offensive game to mature in the next couple years while he plays above-average center field.

A trade with real cojones would be Matt Cain for Delmon Young, a future ace for a future perennial All-Star. Would it actually be equitable? BP's PECOTA system sees Cain contributing between three and four wins per year to his team for the next five years; it sees Young adding between four and five wins a year. Just a thought.

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