The first move of The Brian Sabean Mulligan, sending Matt Morris to the Pittsburgh Pirates for an outfielder you’ve never heard of and a player to be named later, wasn’t particularly sexy on the surface.
But take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s the kind of masterstroke that helped his East Bay counterpart forge a reputation as a deadline demon.
Giants fans surely wish it weren’t the only move Sabean had made before Tuesday’s non-waiver trading deadline, of course. Getting rid of that nasty little neck cyst known as Dave Roberts’ contract, which should go into some sort of Agent Hall of Fame, would have been nice, too.
But apparently the deal Sabean must have struck with the baseball gods brought him but one dose of magic phone line brain freeze, and he used it on Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield.
Not only did Littlefield save the Giants the $13.5 million owed to Morris through next season, which, assuming Barry Bonds’ hefty salary is off the books next season, gives Sabean a nice little chunk of change to spend over the winter. Littlefield also gave the Giants, in 26-year-old Rajai Davis, exactly the kind of speedy, athletic and potentially exciting position player with which San Francisco would like to reinvent itself.
The Bucs also have to send that player to be named later Sabean’s way at some point, but let’s be real. If the kid doesn’t even have a name yet, he’s probably not that good.
And to be fair to Littlefield, he’s probably going to flip Morris, whose price tag will sail him through waivers, to a pitching-desperate club — think Detroit Tigers or New York Yankees — before Aug. 31, the date by which a player must be on a team’s 25-man roster to be eligible for the postseason.
None of that, though, changes the fact that Sabean scored big in his first major decision since landing the two-year contract extension applauded in this space last week.
Saving $13.5 mil and getting a decent prospect while losing only an easily replaced and past-his-prime starter who went winless with an ERA close to 8.00 in his past eight outings makes this not just a good deal. It’s a great deal — for Sabean, for the Giants and for their show-me-the-future fans.
Granted, Tuesday’s deadline was supposed to bring wholesale changes for the Bay Area’s boys of summer, and whether you’re a fan of the Giants or A’s, you’re pretty much looking at the same team today that you saw drag your playoff-ticket-scalping hopes into the dumper.
But while Oakland general manager Billy Beane’s sexy rep might have taken a temporary hit when he stood pat with a bad team, Sabean used simple addition and subtraction to make his own bad team’s future a little brighter.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).
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