Brian Sabean

Are the San Francisco Giants Playoff-Bound in 2014?

Sep 29, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) thanks the fans after the final game of the season at AT

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After winning two World Series titles between 2010 and 2012, the San Francisco Giants entered the 2013 season with great expectations. Despite a nearly identical starting lineup and starting pitching rotation as in 2012, the Giants struggled to re-capture the magic in 2013 that they experienced in 2012.

The Giants finished the 2013 season with a 76-86 record, which was third in the NL West. They had to deal with some injuries to key players, poor defense, fatigue, and inconsistent starting pitching.

The Giants have addressed some of these issues so far in the offseason, and they hope that the corresponding roster moves that they’ve made will propel them to the playoffs in 2014. Let’s examine these moves and determine if these changes will lead to a playoff berth.

First of all, Brian Sabean made it a priority to re-sign Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum before the 2013 season was over. He didn’t want them to test free agency and potentially sign with another team.

Sabean was able to re-sign Pence to a five-year, $90 million contract. In 2013, Pence hit .283 with 27 home runs and 99 RBI, and he played in all 162 games. He also stole 22 bases, had a .339 OBP, and a .483 slugging percentage.

Off the field, he is the heart and soul of this Giants team. He has an incredible work ethic, he plays with a lot of heart, he hustles no matter what the score is, and he’s a great teammate. Pence made it perfectly clear that he wanted to stay a Giant, and he said that he understood the responsibility that comes with such a large contract.

Jul 13, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) is congratulated by starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) after a diving catch during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After re-signing Pence, Sabean then re-signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal. This was a controversial signing. Although Lincecum has been a longtime fan favorite, he hasn’t pitched like a two-time Cy Young Award winner in the past couple seasons.

In 2012, he had a 5.18 ERA in 186 innings, and in 2013, he had a 4.37 ERA in 197.2 innings. Lincecum has struggled with his command, and he’s had to evolve as a pitcher in order to stay relevant and serviceable. He did throw a no-hitter last season though, and he showed elements of brilliance in the second half of the season. Despite his struggles, he will be a key part of the starting pitching rotation in 2014.

The Giants also re-signed fan favorite Ryan Vogelsong, who will be the fifth pitcher in the starting rotation. After not picking up his $6.5 million contract option for 2014, the Giants signed Vogelsong to a one-year, $5 million contract.

The Giants also brought back left-handed specialist Javier Lopez and signed him to a three-year, $13 million contract. This was a key signing, because his ability to strike out left-handed batters is unique and extremely valuable.

The Giants also signed some new faces this offseason. The Giants desperately needed another starting pitcher, so they signed Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal. Hudson, a 14-year veteran starting pitcher, had a 3.97 ERA, struck out 95, and walked 36 in 131.1 innings in 21 starts last season. Hudson suffered a gruesome ankle injury in July 2013, which cut his season short. He has recovered well and is expected to be ready to pitch by spring training.

Another significant addition to the Giants is Michael Morse, who is expected to be the Giants’ everyday left fielder. The Giants signed Morse to a one-year, $6 million deal plus incentives based on plate appearances, which could lead to $3 million more.

Last season, he struggled at the plate because of a wrist injury, but he had his best season in 2011 with the Nationals when he hit .303 with 31 home runs, 95 RBI, and he had a .360 OBP and a .550 slugging percentage. Morse brings some much-needed right-handed power to the Giants.

Given all these additions and signings, the Giants will enter the 2014 season with a more complete roster. Their starting lineup in 2014 will most likely be: Pagan CF, Scutaro 2B, Belt 1B, Posey C, Pence RF, Sandoval 3B, Morse LF, Crawford SS, and the pitcher’s spot.

Oct 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19), catcher Buster Posey (28), and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (second from right) celebrate after all scored on a two-RBI double by right fielder Hunter Pence (not pictured) as first baseman Brandon Belt (far right) looks on during the third inning of game seven of the 2012 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT

If everyone remains healthy, which is key for the Giants, then this lineup could definitely propel the Giants to another NL West title or at least another playoff berth. This lineup is well-balanced and has speed, power, and versatility.

The starting pitching rotation will be something like: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong. Cain was uncharacteristically inconsistent last season, but given his history of dominance and his work ethic, it seems as if he’ll bounce back and have another stellar season in 2014. Bumgarner was the ace of the pitching staff last season, and he’s one of the best, most intriguing pitchers in MLB.

Hudson is getting older, but he’s a veteran and will benefit from pitching in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Lincecum and Vogelsong are both question marks going into next season, in terms of production.

The success of the starting pitchers will determine the Giants’ season and if they’ll make the playoffs in 2014. It’s somewhat unclear how some of the pitchers will perform next season, but Giants fans should be hopeful that the extra rest this offseason will help the starting pitchers perform better.

Oddly, not making the playoffs in 2013 was a blessing in disguise for the Giants. After playing so many playoff games in 2010 and 2012 (especially having so many potential elimination games in 2012), the Giants clearly and understandably looked fatigued at several points in 2013.

This certainly explains Cain’s struggles and some of the injuries that occurred to players who participated in the World Baseball Classic before the 2013 season. Posey even said he was going to condition differently during this offseason because his legs felt sore and tired at the end of the 2013 season.

At this point, the 2014 Giants’ team can only be judged on paper. Obviously, health is key to the Giants’ success, but, if key players remain healthy, it seems as if the Giants will have a great shot at making the playoffs in 2014.

San Francisco Giants: Should They Call Up Gary Brown and Heath Hembree?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Gary Brown and Heath Hembree (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

The San Francisco Giants are starting to focus on the future.

They currently have a 52-65 record, are 15.5 games back from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and are in last place in the NL West. Based on their disappointing season, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy will perhaps decide soon to play their regular players less and call up more players from AAA, such as Gary Brown and Heath Hembree, to see who could possibly contribute to the team during the 2014 season.

However, the Giants are not in complete rebuild mode, since they already have several valuable pieces on their roster who can contribute next season. The Giants have to finish this year strong. If they completely give up now, they will have no momentum whatsoever going into the offseason and going into next season.

Also, Sabean wants to be cautious with rushing players’ development. He said recently that the Giants might have rushed Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford too quickly throughout the minor leagues. He said this might be the reason why they have taken more time to develop as hitters.

Because of this, it seems rather unlikely that Sabean will call up Brown or Hembree soon. When the rosters expand in September, the Giants could easily decide to call them up. For now though, the Giants want to stick to the group that they have, especially because their current roster is very similar to the roster that won the World Series last year.

Besides getting a closer look at some of their prospects, the Giants don’t have a lot of reason to call up Brown and Hembree now based on their performances this year.

Brown has had a disappointing 2013 season. The center fielder currently has a .228 average, 12 home runs, 46 RBI’s, a .286 OBP, and a .384 slugging percentage. He also has 13 stolen bases, but he’s been caught 10 times.

Brown had a promising year in Richmond in 2012 when he hit .279, had a .347 OBP, and had 33 stolen bases. After such a strong year, the Giants have certainly been tracking his progress this year in AAA to see if he should be called up.

However, Brown started off the 2013 season struggling, as he hit .180 in April and .248 in May. After a promising June when he hit .278, Brown has continued to struggle, as he hit .233 in July and .128 in August.

The Giants are in dire need of some help in the outfield and the leadoff spot, but Brown is not the answer, right now at least. He has a low OBP this year, and he hasn’t had success stealing bases.

They could also use his right-handed bat off the bench to hit left-handed pitching, since Jeff Francoeur has not been productive and Joaquin Arias has been injured off and on this season. However, Brown has struggled against left-handed pitchers though, as he’s only hit .247 off them this season. He hasn’t hit right-handed pitchers well either, as he has hit .223 against them this season.

The Giants have also struggled all season with clutch hitting, which hasn’t exactly been a strength of Brown’s this season either. He’s hit only .205 with runners in scoring position so far.

Mar 11, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Heath Hembree (72) pitches during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

As for Heath Hembree, he has had a fairly disappointing season in Fresno also. The right-hander currently has a 4.15 ERA with 26 saves in 47.2 innings pitched. He has struck out 58, but he has allowed 47 hits and given up 15 walks.

Hembree got off to a hot start, as he had a 2.19 ERA and seven saves in 12 games in April. However, he had a dreadful May and June when he had a 5.73 ERA with six saves in 11 games and then a 7.84 ERA with only three saves in nine games. He has bounced back relatively well though. He had a 2.53 ERA in July with seven saves in 11 games, and, so far, he’s had a 0.00 ERA with three saves in four games in August.

Hembree has been an intriguing prospect for the Giants. He’s shown that he’s a promising closer, but he still needs more time to develop. He has a 2.60 ERA against right-handers, but he has a 6.30 ERA against left-handers. He also has a 6.75 ERA with runners in scoring position, which is unacceptable for a closer.

There is a strong possibility that when the rosters expand in September that Brown and Hembree could be called up. However, before then, it doesn’t make much sense for the Giants to rush their development.

They’d much rather stick to the players that rode them to their second World Series title in three years, even if making the playoffs is impossible. The Giants are a loyal organization, and they want this group to finish out this season strong.

San Francisco Giants: Are Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean Given Too Much Credit?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After winning two World Series titles in the past three years, the San Francisco Giants are having a disappointing 2013 season. The Giants are seeing why it is so difficult for reigning World Series champions to win the World Series again the next year.

In 2011, the Giants had an excuse for why they weren’t able to repeat as champions. Buster Posey suffered a gruesome left ankle injury in May of 2011 and was out for the rest of the season.

This season though, the Giants have an almost identical roster as last season’s championship team. Yes, there have been some injuries to key players such as Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong, but this isn’t the main reason why the Giants are struggling.

Jul 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Giants infield players watch as San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo (54) warms up during the eighth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at AT

The Giants have been inconsistent all season. Right now, they are consistently bad. They are a season-high 12 games below .500 and have a 46-58 record. They also are 10 games out of first place and fifth in the NL West.

So have Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean been given too much credit for constructing and developing this team that’s played so horrible this season?

The simple answer is no. Despite the team’s struggles this season, Bochy and Sabean have found the winning formula. The team just hasn’t displayed it this season.

The Giants have done so well in the past few seasons because they have followed the general formula for success in baseball: pitching wins championships. The Giants have had stellar starting pitching and relief pitching the past few seasons.

With quality pitching, it takes some pressure off the offense, because it allows hitters to play more naturally and not grind too hard to get hits. If the starting pitcher is struggling, players feel more pressure on defense too to limit the damage the starter caused.

The Giants haven’t been known for their high-powered offense in the past couple seasons, so their starting pitching carried them. If the Giants were only able to score a run or two, they knew they could still win the game behind a quality outing from their starter.

This hasn’t been the case for the Giants this season though. Bochy and Sabean brought back the same starting rotation from last season’s World Series run: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Vogelsong.

Cain has struggled with command all season, and he’s supposedly not dealing with any hidden injuries. Bumgarner has been the most consistent starter. Lincecum, despite throwing a no-hitter recently, has also been inconsistent, even though he has been pitching better in the past couple months. Zito has been good at home, but, on the road, he is a completely different pitcher with a sky-high ERA. Vogelsong has been out with a right hand injury since May, but he started to show improvements in his command in the start where he got injured.

There’s no way that Bochy and Sabean could’ve predicted these types of struggles. In fact, no one predicted that Cain would be as inconsistent as he’s been. Lincecum and Zito’s struggles might have been predictable, but Bochy and Sabean weren’t going to trade them or demote them after some incredible pitching performances in last season’s playoffs. Of course, Vogelsong’s injury couldn’t have been predicted either.

Because of the inconsistent starting pitching, the Giants’ offense has felt more pressure to score more runs, especially recently. In the month of July, the Giants are hitting .230, which ranks last in the NL. Posey has had a fantastic season so far, but as of now, he hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 18 at-bats.

Apr 27, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the league, which probably can be connected to the team’s poor starting pitching, as mentioned before. The Giants have 76 errors so far this season, which ranks second-to-last in all of MLB.

Given all these problems, some fans have criticized Sabean for not being active enough at the trade deadline. Right now, with the Giants struggling as much as they are, they don’t even really have the option to be buyers. The Giants haven’t been playing well enough to be able to score a deal (other teams could be wary of the Giants’ struggles or raise the price due to their desperation).

Some fans say that the Giants need to be sellers at the trade deadline. This past homestand was a key part of the Giants’ schedule, and they went 3-7. This might be the time that Sabean should concede the season and starting building for next season.

With Lincecum and Zito becoming free agents at the end of this season (Vogelsong has a team option for next season), the Giants need to address their need for a starting pitcher soon. The Giants don’t have many starting pitching prospects in AAA, so perhaps they can start selling some players, such as Hunter Pence or Javier Lopez, in order to start re-building their starting pitching rotation.

Sabean has been questioned for some trades in the past, but in the past few years, he’s made several key trades that have allowed the Giants to be as successful as they have been. In 2010, he brought in players such as Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Juan Uribe, and Lopez. Even though these players were outcasts and misfits, Bochy believed in them and put them in a position to succeed.

In 2012, Sabean brought in Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. Bochy again made it possible for his players to succeed by putting them in new roles and constantly encouraging and believing in them. For example, he made Sergio Romo the closer, used Lincecum out of the bullpen, and stuck by his young players, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, despite some struggles at the plate.

Even though the Giants have had a disappointing season, it does not mean that Bochy and Sabean have been given too much credit for this team’s past success. They were the two masterminds behind constructing teams who won two World Series titles. The Giants have won two World Series titles in three years for a reason, and both Bochy and Sabean have played key roles.

San Francisco Giants: Why Fans Need To Move On From the Carlos Beltran Trade

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Yesterday marked the first time the San Francisco Giants faced Zack Wheeler since the infamous Carlos Beltran trade, which occurred in 2011. Now two years later, many Giants fans are still showing bitterness over this trade, which is understandable given how much the Giants are struggling.

Jul 10, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning at AT

Giants fans are still frustrated over this trade for several reasons. First of all, some fans are still bitter that Brian Sabean traded Wheeler in the first place, given that he was the Giants’ top pitching prospect at the time. Many of these fans were even more upset that Sabean gave up Wheeler for an aging Beltran, who’s dealt with many injuries throughout his career.

This is a valid reason to be frustrated given how weak the Giants’ farm system is, in terms of starting pitching. However, Sabean didn’t really have another choice, given the circumstances.

The Giants acquired Beltran to not just help them make a playoff run, but also to block the Phillies or Braves from getting him. Sabean probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off unless he traded away a highly-touted prospect like Wheeler.

Second, some fans continue to blame Beltran for the Giants not making the playoffs in 2011. However, this is an unfair and unjustified accusation.

Beltran’s main job when he came here was to provide that middle-of-the-order spark the Giants were missing after Buster Posey went down with his ankle injury. It took him time to adjust to a new team dynamic, a new setting/fan base, a new ballpark, and new teammates. In Beltran’s first 45 at-bats with the Giants, he had 11 hits, which equates to a .244 average (which was still better than 12 of the Giants’ regular players’ averages throughout the season).

A couple weeks after being signed, Beltran strained his right hand and wrist, so he was placed on the DL. Getting injured is not a player’s fault. He cannot be blamed for the team going 5-8 while he was injured and losing several series against non-playoff teams, including Pittsburgh, Florida, and Houston. The period that Beltran was injured proved to be one stretch that severely dampened the Giants’ playoff hopes.

After his initial adjustment period to the team and his injury, Beltran hit .352 with seven home runs and 16 RBI’s. He finished the year with a .300 average, 22 home runs, 84 RBI’s, a .385 OBP, a .525 SLG, and a .910 OPS. Those are all fantastic numbers.

He provided that surge of energy that the Giants were asking for and desperately needed from him. He did everything he could, but with no Posey and inconsitent hitting from Jeff Keppinger, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, and Cody Ross, the Giants weren’t able to make the playoffs behind just Beltran’s production.

September 9, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Carlos Beltran (15) takes off his batting gloves after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning at AT

Third, some fans are frustrated now because, given the Giants’ recent struggles with pitching, the Giants really could’ve used Wheeler this season in their starting rotation.

This is a fair accusation, given how Wheeler’s first five starts have gone so far. In his first big-league start, Wheeler pitched six shutout innings and struck out seven, but, unfortunately, he gave up nine earned runs in his next two starts. However, in his next start, he only gave up one earned run.

“Possibly,” Wheeler said when asked if yesterday’s game was a good chance to show the Giants what they’re missing out on. “It would be nice to have a good outing there, let’s put it that way.”

He certainly did have a nice outing yesterday against the Giants. Wheeler pitched seven innings and allowed three hits and one earned run. He struck out five, walked three, and threw a total of 101 pitches (64 strikes).

The frustration from Giants fans over wishing Wheeler was pitching for the Giants right now shouldn’t be directed toward the Wheeler/Beltran trade though. It should be more general frustration that the Giants’ only legitimate starting pitching prospects are in Single-A San Jose.

If Clayton Blackburn or Kyle Crick, two of the Giants’ best pitching prospects right now, were major-league ready and in the Giants’ starting rotation right now, it doesn’t seem like Giants fans would even care how Wheeler was doing or wish he was still in the Giants organization.

Fans can’t start thinking “Where would the Giants be if Wheeler was pitching for them now?” because it’s irrelevant. That trade happened two years ago, and Giants fans need to move on.

San Francisco Giants: Should They Be Sellers at the Trade Deadline?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Jun 17, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito (75) hands the ball to manager Bruce Bochy (15) after being taken against the San Diego Padres during the sixth inning at AT

The San Francisco Giants are in a dangerous slump.

In the month of June, they had a 10-16 record. Since June 15th, the Giants have a 5-18 record. As of today, they are a season-high nine games below .500 with a record of 40-49.

They have been plagued by injuries, inconsistent pitching and poor situational hitting. All of these issues have caused fans to question if the Giants need to be active at the trade deadline.

If the Giants want to be buyers at the trade deadline, they could look to acquire a starting pitcher, a relief pitcher, and a veteran outfielder. However, the Giants haven’t been playing well enough to be able to score a deal (other teams could be wary of the Giants’ struggles or raise the price due to San Francisco’s desperation). In addition to that, the Giants are wary about giving up top prospects and getting just a rental player or a player who won’t make much impact on the team in return.

“We have to ride it out. The team has to play better for us to move forward,” Brian Sabean said. “If we don’t start playing better — the team at hand, especially the lineup itself — there’s not enough help in the world that’s going to turn us around from this.

The Giants also have a lot of areas to be addressed, and they can’t all be fixed via trade.

“You get a little leaky, and you can fill one hole, but if it gets to be too many, you’re asking too much there,” Bruce Bochy said. “It’s gonna come back to these guys getting back to the players they are and executing.”

Hank Schulman, the Giants beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, suggests that if the Giants have a bad homestand, they should concede the season now and be sellers, in order to at least acquire prospects for the future. If the Giants do well on this homestand, then he believes that the Giants should become buyers and make a serious run to win the NL West.

He also suggests that if the Giants decide to be sellers, they should try to trade Javier Lopez, Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum, because they will all be free agents after this season. Also, the Giants could possibly get some quality prospects in return, especially from Lopez and Pence.

So, should the Giants be sellers at the trade deadline? Should they essentially try to acquire talent for the future?

The simple answer is no. First of all, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played. The Giants have 73 games left, and a lot of things can change in 73 games. The All-Star break is in a week, and it might be just the physical and mental break the Giants need.

Second, the Giants have shown that they like being underestimated and and are able to come back from adversity. In 2010, the Giants were trailing the San Diego Padres in the NL West for much of the season, and they didn’t clinch the NL West title until the very last day of the season. In 2012, the Giants were on the brink of elimination in two straight series, and they ultimately won the World Series.

The Giants have been in tough situations before, and they’ve shown time and time again that they can always come back. The Giants have won two World Series titles in three years for a reason.

“This is a club that’s always been resilient,” Bochy said. “They’ve had the ability to bounce back from tough losses, streaks. They’ve been down before. They find a way to get it done. I don’t think that they’re doubting themselves that it will happen.”

Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Members of the San Francisco Giants celebrate on the field after game four of the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Giants won 4-3 to sweep the series. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

Third, the Giants are a loyal organization. They’re going to stick by their players, win or lose. This is essentially, minus a few injured players, the same team that won the World Series last season. The Giants organization believes in this group of guys.

“These are our guys, though,” Bochy said. “These guys have done a lot of good things here. You know [the slump] feels like it’s been forever, but it’s been maybe three weeks. It’s getting long, but still, they are our guys and we’re going to stay behind them.”

Lastly, the team still believes in each other, it’s still as confident as ever, and it’s still working hard. The players believe as much today as they did at the beginning of the season that they can win another World Series this year. That seems like a tough task now, but it can still be done.

“They’re fighting. I know when you go through something like this and you don’t score a lot of runs, you look flat,” Bochy said. “But they’re doing the work, they’re doing all we’re asking. It’s all we can do, just keep coming out here every day and keep believing that you’re going to come out of this thing.”

If the right deal presents itself, Sabean has said that he’s not afraid to make a deal. He’s not going to make a trade just to make a trade, though. He has had success in the past bringing in players at the trade deadline that make a difference in the second half of the season.

In 2010, Sabean signed Pat Burrell to a minor league deal, acquired Cody Ross off of waivers and traded for Lopez and Ramon Ramirez. In 2012, Sabean traded for Pence and Marco Scutaro.

Will he decide to sell instead of buy this season, though?

“You know, who knows,” Sabean said about the Giants possibly selling at the trade deadline. “I think you’re going to have an open mind going forward to whatever’s in best interests of the organization, the present and future.”

The Giants should not be sellers at the trade deadline. Even though they’re in a potentially disastrous downward spiral right now, they shouldn’t sell some of their most valuable assets, in order to acquire talent for the future.

The season is far from over. A comeback at this point might be tough, but the Giants are reigning World Champions for a reason.

San Francisco Giants: 3 Players They Should Pursue at the Trade Deadline

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

June 2, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Nick Noonan (left) catcher Buster Posey (center) and relief pitcher Sergio Romo (right) celebrate with teammates after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. San Francisco defeated St. Louis 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Out of 15 National League teams, the San Francisco Giants currently rank 13th with a 4.47 ERA for their starters. This is hard to believe given the fact that the Giants have won two World Series titles in the past three seasons behind dominant starting pitching.

Matt Cain struggled in the beginning of the season, Tim Lincecum has been inconsistent, and Barry Zito has a 10.41 ERA on the road. Because of their struggles, many analysts and fans have suggested that the Giants acquire a starting pitcher.

By adding another starting pitcher, the Giants could move Chad Gaudin back into his role as a reliever, which would strengthen the struggling bullpen. In addition, when Ryan Vogelsong comes back from injury, the Giants could also consider moving Lincecum to the bullpen. According to a club source, the Giants would convert Lincecum into a late-inning reliever “in a heartbeat,” and Lincecum said he is open to that change as well.

On the other hand, Bruce Bochy has said the Giants need the most help in the bullpen. If the Giants acquire a relief pitcher, they could continue to use Gaudin as a starter until Vogelsong comes back, and then when Vogelsong is healthy again, the Giants could move Gaudin back into his long reliever role.

The Giants also need a veteran outfielder, with Angel Pagan expected to be out until September, at the earliest. Gregor Blanco, Andres Torres, and Juan Perez are currently filling the void at center field and left field, but they’re collectively not providing enough offense to make up for Pagan’s energy and production in the leadoff spot.

Here are three players that the Giants could acquire at the trade deadline that would fill these needs: