Trade A Pitcher? Why Not?

The skies are starting to take on a familiar gray tinge as a constant, spitting drizzle falls on and off here in the Bay, pumpkin spice lattes fill many a Starbucks cup, and my ophthalmologist’s office reeks of apple cinnamon potpourri, which can only mean two things. One, that I should find a new ophthalmologist and two, that the long, baseball-less months of the off-season are upon us. Dreary as this time of year can seem at first, the one thing I secretly love about this part of baseball season is that the upcoming season spreads out like a vast expanse of uncharted territory where, at least for a little while, we can all let our imaginations run wild with hopes for the next year — especially when it comes to imaging who we might see in orange and black come 2012.

Could Jacoby Ellsbury end up in orange and black?

Could Jacoby Ellsbury end up in orange and black? Image courtesy Keith Allison via Flickr

Looking at the free agent crop for next year, the one thing that’s striking, though this has certainly been mentioned elsewhere before, is the lack of top tier starting pitching available. This is especially interesting given that the offense rich AL East powerhouse Red Sox and Yankees are both in pretty serious need of pitching and, frankly, there is only one C.J. Wilson to go around. See where I’m going with this? Trade a pitcher, and trade him to a team that can cough up something big in return.

The Giants could go blockbuster, huge, out of character, make or break sort of trade, or they could go measured, reasonable, but still productive. It all comes down to the risk/reward balance. Matt Cain, the Giants’ beloved horse and second ace, is the type of pitcher that could draw a huge return from a team like the Red Sox or Yankees, and he would have to to make it worth it. Giving up an arm like Cain’s, even for a team as desperate for offense as the Giants, is a huge risk and had better come with a blockbuster of a deal.

One trade already being floated around the wilds of the internet is Cain for the Yankees’ young catcher Jesus Montero. This, well, let’s not even go there, okay? Montero is an impressive young hitter and will only get better, but he is not nearly as impressive behind the plate and the Giants have a solid crop of catching talent coming up through the ranks as it is. There are plenty of other teams that could potentially be interested in Montero, if the Yankees were interested in dealing him, but I don’t see it as a good fit for the Giants, who are in need of a center fielder/lead-off hitter and/or short stop.

Assuming the Red Sox lock up Jacoby Ellsbury, that could be a blockbuster deal for both sides. The Red Sox would gain an elite arm for their ailing rotation and, more importantly, the Giants would pick up a well rounded player with the potential to do some serious offensive damage, even from the lead-off spot, steal bases with the best of them, and patrol center field at AT&T sure-handedly.  Even if Ellsbury’s MVP calibre 2011 numbers prove to be a career year and not the norm, he’s a premium center fielder and lead-off hitter that could be a huge difference maker in the Giants’ lineup. Would it be hard to let Cain go? Absolutely. Would it be worth it potentially? Hard to not say that it’s at least a compelling idea.

For those squeamish at the idea of parting with someone as valuable as Cain, Jonathan Sanchez presents another potential option as a trade center piece. It would require the Giants tendering a contract to Sanchez, rather than letting him walk in arbitration, and his 2010 performance has certainly hurt his value somewhat, but, packaged with the right lower level players or prospects, he still has value to get someone like a Marco Scutaro or possibly Jed Lowrie from the Red Sox or even, if the Giants were to get lucky and bundle him with the right other players, Brett Gardner from the Yankees. The ball is not as solidly in the Giants’ proverbial court trying to trade Sanchez, but he still potentially has significant value, especially for teams that have been dealing with starting pitching from the likes of A.J. Burnett and John Lackey.  The Orioles are also in the position of needing to improve their rotation, but it’s difficult to imagine them wanting to part with J.J. Hardy, the most appealing player to fit the Giants’ needs.

What do you think? If you had your way, who would you want to see in a Giants uniform next spring?

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