I like the Jonathan Sanchez-Melky Cabrera trade for several reasons. This was probably all the value Sanchez could command. It shores up center field with a young and above-average (at least by San Francisco standards) hitter. And general manager Brian Sabean may be trying to convince Carlos Beltran that with their new leadoff hitter, the Giants are serious about winning. My one strong reservation, however, is that Sabean may end up making the same mistake he made when he signed Aaron Rowand: Throwing up his hands and declaring that a major offensive acquisition had been made.
Again, I like this deal, but only as the first of several. This move is not enough to fix the Giants' dismal offense. The Giants need to bring back Beltran, but more than that they need to fill holes with the best players available. This means they must make an effort at signing Jose Reyes. Giants fans have supported the organization with sellout crowds in the best and worst years. Ownership owes it to the fans to try, as do other teams with that kind of support, to put the best possible product on the field, not just one that has a better-than-not chance of going to the playoffs.
-- Matt D., Oakland
Giants management surely realizes that Cabrera isn't the cure-all for the club's ailing offense. Count on Sabean making another acquisition or two before Spring Training begins. During the 2009-10 offseason, for example, he followed the signing of Mark DeRosa by retaining Juan Uribe and Bengie Molina and adding Aubrey Huff. This year, Sabean made moves designed to improve the offense before (Jeff Keppinger) and after (Orlando Cabrera) trading for Beltran. These clusters of deals indicate that the Giants won't stop with Melky Cabrera. As for pursuing Reyes, it's just not going to happen. Yes, Giants fans deserve to be rewarded for their faith with the best possible ballclub. But signing Reyes to a five-year, $100 million deal simply doesn't fit the Giants' economic structure right now.
Though I dream of the Giants signing free agents like Prince Fielder and Reyes, every year such dreams have proven unrealistic. Now I am trying to think in Sabean mode. I vote for Ramon Santiago, the middle infielder formerly of Detroit. Santiago is a switch-hitter, can handle the bat and can flat-out pick it with the glove. His arm strength doesn't appear great, but in all other areas he seems like a solid Major Leaguer. Santiago could complement Brandon Crawford at shortstop, and he'd be a defensive equal to Freddy Sanchez at second base. Santiago was also a favorite of manager Jim Leyland in the postseason, often batting second in the lineup. Any word on such second- and third-tier free agents? Who are your sleepers?
-- Christian B., San Francisco
The players I'm about to mention are all Type A or B free agents that would require any team signing them to relinquish Draft picks. So I don't know whether they qualify as "second- or third-tier" free agents. But in this market, anybody not named Fielder, Reyes or Albert Pujols seems to be flying under the proverbial radar, at least in the public eye. Infielders such as Clint Barmes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson seem capable of intriguing the Giants, as well as outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham. But nothing suggests that the Giants are wooing any of these performers.
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I would be very interested in your analysis of the Melky Cabrera trade. While he will fit in well, it seems like we gave up a lot for a solid but unspectacular player coming off a career year who will be eligible for free agency after this season. I thought we could have gotten a bit more for Sanchez, and certainly not have had to throw in a Minor Leaguer [left-hander Ryan Verdugo] to get a player of Cabrera's caliber.
-- David S, Sydney, Australia
This is potentially a good deal for the Giants, at least short-term. True, Cabrera's about to leap into free agency, but his desire to set himself up for a big payday should drive him to duplicate his 2011 production. The Royals took on some risk, too, since Sanchez also will be a free agent after 2012. I share your surprise regarding the necessity for the Giants to part with a second player -- particularly somebody like Verdugo, who I believe could excel in the relief role that Kansas City envisions for him. I also confess that I remain unable to comprehend how teams determine fair value when they engineer pitcher-for-hitter trades.
Those who insist that the Giants could have obtained more for Sanchez ought to remember that when they explored trading Tim Lincecum after his promising 2007 rookie season, the best offer came from Toronto, which offered outfielder Alex Rios. That's all? For a guy who proceeded to win two Cy Young Awards? It's conceivable that the Giants might have obtained the most that Sanchez and Verdugo would bring.
Most pundits are saying the Giants should go after a top-name shortstop, something I am all for, but what are the chances that they'll stick to what they now have? Jeff Keppinger used to play all over the infield in Houston. He can switch to shortstop from second base after Freddy Sanchez gets healthy. If Keppinger struggles defensively, then Brandon Crawford or Emmanuel Burriss can spell him late in games. What are your thoughts on Keppinger being the everyday shortstop and probably hitting further down in the lineup, rather than getting a more seasoned and much more expensive shortstop?
-- Mike H., Washington, D.C.
I'd prefer to see Crawford play regularly at shortstop. He's a superb defender, and the Giants should be able to weather his growing pains offensively if they strengthen the rest of the lineup. Keppinger's indeed a steady hitter, but he lacks the throwing arm required to play on the left side of the infield. Frankly, it's somewhat surprising that he played shortstop and third so often (242 starts) before this season.
That said, the Giants apparently want a veteran who can complement Crawford, who'll be 25 next Opening Day, and fill other roles. They reportedly offered a two-year, $4.6 million contract to Willie Bloomquist, who took $800,000 less to remain with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bloomquist can play every position but pitcher and catcher and has manned shortstop more than any other spot as a Major Leaguer.
We already have made Barry Zito a rich man. What are the chances he restructures the final years of his contract to free up some money for this team to improve? Have members of the Giants brass approached him about it? Or would they?
-- Rob G., Murphys, Calif.
You know how Willie Mays almost always appears in public wearing a Giants cap? Well, his switching to a Dodgers lid is more likely than a contract renegotiation involving Zito -- or any player with a multi-year, megabucks deal. Agents and, more importantly, the Players Association, never would tolerate such flexibility.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.