Yes, the Giants need to add a strong hitter to their inconsistent lineup, but it’s not likely to happen. As they see the Barry Bonds Era winding down, the Giants will not give up their top young pitchers to get a hitter, especially not one on the last year of his contract.
Though the Giants like good-fielding second baseman Kevin Frandsen, who reminds some of Robby Thompson, he has no significant trade value. It’s all about pitching.
When Giants general manager Brian Sabean calls his counterparts, these names usually come up: Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Accardo, Scott Munter and Jack Taschner.
Sabean rejected the idea of trading Cain when the young right-hander was in the minors. He certainly wouldn’t do it now, as Cain is starting to show signs of being a dominant pitcher. He’s regarded so highly that manager Felipe Alou would have yanked him after eight innings even if his no-hit bid was still alive. There was no sense in risking an arm injury to Cain, who had already thrown 131 pitches. He will have more shots at ano-hitter.
Munter and Taschner, both up last year, are at Triple-A Fresno now and pitching well.
Accardo’s fastball sometimes reaches into the high 90s. Sanchez has a deceptive motion that makes it seem he’s throwing faster than he is. Both are regarded as potential closers for the future.
The Giants aren’t going to trade any of them for a short-time fix.
The offseason will be a different matter. Sabean will have some money to play with because Ray Durham ($7 million a year) and probably Bonds ($18 million) will be gone. Their priorities in the free-agent market will be outfielders and a first baseman. Three of their current outfielders — Bonds, Steve Finley and Moises Alou — will be free agents. First base is a problem because Lance Niekro is injury-prone and hasn’t looked very good when he’s played.
Though the Giants can’t comment because of baseball’s tampering rules, there will be two free agents who top their wish list:
» Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Lee: The Giants’ park is much friendlier to right-handed power hitters than left-handers, so Lee would be a good fit. He’s hit more than 30 homers each of the last three seasons and has 23 this year in 73 games.
» Pittsburgh first baseman Sean Casey: Though Casey is a left-handed hitter, he has hit well at China Basin because he’s a line-drive hitter. He averaged .305 in eight seasons in Cincinnati before being traded and is hitting .287 with Pittsburgh this season.
Either or both of those players will help next year, but it’s no use dreaming about this year.
The Giants have dug themselves a hole because of their failure to develop hitters in the minor leagues. There’s been a series of prospects who have looked great in the minors and failed on the major league level: Damon Minor, Todd Linden, Niekro. Now, when it would be great to have a young hitter ready at Fresno, there is no one.
So, the new Giants mantra is fielding and pitching. They have to hold onto their young pitchers, no matter how painful this season may be, because they’re the hope for the future.