Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nick Johnson, the deal to make...NOW!!!!

So when are the Giants going to discuss the Elephant in the Room? It's becoming obvious on two fronts, that this team is pitching well enough to make a run for the post season, yet the hitting from the current roster (or within the organization) is not enough to make that run. This puts the Giants in an interesting dilemma. To make a trade or to not make a trade?

Let me start of by acknowledging it is too early in a typical season to make a deal. Teams still are a month out from externally admitting they might need to be buyers or sellers so the cost of a player is remarkably higher today.

Let me also start by saying, that in NO WAY am I advocating abandoning the youth movement in favor of a win at all costs this season mentality. The Giants are leaps and bounds behind the Dodgers, even without Manny, on the offensive side...and the Dodgers entire staff is pitching better than the Giants... Don't believe me? Check this out by Raising Matt Cain. But he Giants can make a significant external improvement without mortgaging the farm.

The Giants are in position to compete for years with guys like Bumgarner, Alderson, Posey, Noonan, Villalona, or Gillespie. But they can improve without including the likes of them in any deal, the offense has been that bad.

Like many of you, I've been thinking about what to do for a long time. The best scenario, and what I think a significant improvement would be, is Nick Johnson. I know, it's not an original name, courtesy of Andrew Baggerly here. But never-the-less, the correct player to be going after. Before I say Why? specifically him,or better yet a first baseman... I want to cover why not another position quickly.

Right Field- Randy Winn, he's in a contract year & yet to hit consistently for a long period of time, yet he will improve. He knows that corner he best. Has little trade value right now and is in a saturated market for his position. If the Giants decide to move him, it won't be until the July deadline if at all.

Center Field- Aaron Rowand, at $12 million per for another 3+seasons, along with his perma-slumping (thank you Hank Schulman for the phrase and Andrew Baggerly for passing it along), are virtually untradeable. Think Barry Zito the last two seasons (Although his on-field performance has improved,his tradeability has not).

Left Field- Fred Lewis, Fred could actually be traded and bring back a decent return, but why do it? His current on field production makes him a sell low candidate, so why make that deal? Besides, he still is one of the better hitters, is just entering his prime, and is cheap. I covered him in the first Why? series here.

Third Base- Pablo Sandoval, do I need to say more. His first error last night (which wasn't an error at all). You should be forgetting names like Beltre, Adkins, Crede, Encarcion right now.

Short Stop- Edgar Renteria, forget about a replacement for this season. His contract is restrictive enough. Still, his offensive production IS an improvement over last seasons. I'm not trying to justify the signing, because I'm still not happy with it,but he's here irregardless. The Giants have the option for next season, so wait till October on him.

Second Base- Emmanuel Burriss, I think the Giants have found the 2B of the future, you may not agree. Young, Cheap, strong defense only getting better. (think Gold Glove 2011 & beyond). He's showed flashes of what he can do offensively and will only get stronger, so those extra base hits will come. (he's only 24)

Catcher- Bengie Molina, what can I say. He's kinda like Barry Bonds right now, except he's nice...he doesn't draw walks...he doesn't scare pitchers...he could never run...and he only hits about 1/3 the Home Runs. OK, so he's not really like Bonds except that he's really the only offense. If Bengie goes this year, forget about the team winning, they will be in serious Sell all mode.

So that leaves First Base as the only real viable place to improve. Travis Ishikawa plays nice defense, sometimes very nice, but the combined offense between him & Richie Aurilia is sad.

32/147, 5 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 12 R, 22 RBI, 10 BB, 39 K, 0 SB, .218 BA, .281 OBP, .265 SLG, .546 OPS.

For a historically very productive position, that is sad. So how to improve?

Looking at realistic trade candidates, taking into consideration if/when their teams might decide on sell mode, and comparing what it might take to get that player (not to mention the sooner the Giants can get help, the better their chances in '09 are. Come July 31st, at the current rate, they may just be too far back), as well as what other teams are vying for similar players, I come to the conclusion of Nick Johnson over & over.

First, other teams maybe in need of 1B help now: The Mets lost Carlos Delgado for 3 months. The Red Sox are getting little production there/DH.

Second, other players who may be made available:
-Aubrey Huff, (33) Orioles. Currently buried at the bottom of the tough AL east, surely to become sellers.
-Russell Braynon, (34) Mariners. Losing but in a fairly weak AL west, may not decide to sell until July.
-Jorge Cantu, (27) Marlins. Always a late season strong team, competitive in the NL east even with a losing record.
-Garrett Atkins, (29) Rockies. Not looking like a competitive team, but in the NL west, you're in the race for a long time regardless. May not want to trade inter division.
-Victor Martinez, (31) Indians. Buried at the bottom of the AL central, they won't decide to deal (especially Martinez) until near the deadline.
-Adam LaRoache, (30) Pirates. Never ending NL central bottom-dweller, still there. Will certainly become a seller.

Of those named, all but Cantu & Atkins are free agents after this season. LaRoache looks like a more advanced John Bowker, he's going to bat around .250 and hit 25 homeruns, but for more money. Braynon is off to a hot start, I can't knock him...but he is playing much better than history suggests. Plus his defense isn't that good. Huff would be an improvement, but is he worth the prospects.

Cantu has been talked about all winter, but he's on fire right now. A trade for him would be a buy extremely high deal. The Marlins already wanted Jonathan Sanchez this winter, and with his early season sell low status, the Marlins would certainly require him and another prospect. Not a smart move right now.

Atkins, like I said, would be an inter division trade, so the Rockies would require a very steep price from the Giants. Think Sanchez +Sosa/Pucetas & Downs. With the Rockies in need of pitching, they might hold the Giants to a super prospect as well, just because they can. Possibly Noonan/Gillespie. Just a thought. I wouldn't make this deal any time. Atkins isn't necessarily going to succeed in S.F., has stuggled this year in a Matt Holiday-less lineup, and would require a position change.

Martinez, while he may just be the best of all of them, is going to fetch the Indians a super-prospect. They are looking for another Matt Laporta if they deal Martinez...and they want a pitcher. So unless you are willing to deal Alderson or Bumgarner for a half season to 3/4 of a season of him, forget about it. I'd bet a deal would have to look something like this... Alderson, Bowker/Ishikawa/Guzman, & Sosa... Then the Giants have to sign him to a long term deal.

This brings me all the way around to Nick Johnson. The current National/former Yankee is a F.A. after this season. He is currently owed only approx $4.2 million this year. He looks healthy, although has been plagued by injuries over his career. He's a local guy, growing up in Sacramento, playing at McClatchy H.S.. The Nationals have Dimitri Young (fairly untradeable) & Adam Dunn making significant money capable of playing 1B. They own the worst record in baseball. They need pitching...

Johnson doesn't have exceptional power, but IS a 20+ homerun guy IF he stays healthy and can get 500 AB's. But it's not his power that the Giants need. It's his on base skills. Johnson WILL get 100+ BB's, and he'll hit near .300. He's a 35-40 double guy, and will knock in 85-90 Runs. But even better, his defense is really good. Johnson is as good a defender as Ishikawa is.

Better yet, Johnson will not require nearly the package to land him, plus there is a real opportunity to lock him up for the future if they want to. Johnson is only 29, and if finally healthy, could be the Giants first baseman for a number of years. Think JT Snow, think Will Clark. A good hitter, who gets on base a lot, who plays good defense, and sets up his teammates, as well as a clubhouse leader...and he should be cheap next year as well considering his career misfortunes.

I think, given the Nationals farm system and pitching staff, I think the Giants have a number of combinations to get him. Henry Sosa & Travis Ishikawa, or Kevin Pucetas & John Bowker/Matt Downs. Maybe less.

I think it's a deal worth making now!!! Without mortgaging the future. Keeping with the youth movement, and allowing for a potential run at the division.

Make the Deal!!!


M.C. O'Connor said...

Hey, thanks for the RMC plug! I'd rather us tough it out and look to get a bat--like Atkins--in the fall when they are free agents. I don't think we'll be significantly improved by a mid-season trade. Molina & Winn are free agents this fall, and I'd like to see us try to move them both, they might fetch some minor-league talent. Rowand and Renteria aren't going anywhere, but the rest of the lineup is wide-open. It is going to be a painful show this year, I think. That's OK, the pieces will start to come together down the road. Enjoy the blog, keep up the good work.

Jim Ellis said...

Hey thanks for the kind words. I plug your site often, tons of great content. I agree with what you are saying. Molina i a tough decision,one I think needs to be made closer to the deadline as to see as large a sample of Posey as possible, unless Sabean gets blown away.

I like Atkins this offseason, among others, but the reason I like Johnson so much has more to do with the now. I really don't think what the Giants would have to give up would hurt,and if healthy, we'll have at least one base runner a game.

Anyway, today's news sounds like things are heating up across the board.