Giant Possibilities

The latest rumors out of the Bay Area regarding pitchers on the block now refer to current Giants rather than Athletics.

We’ve been hearing the Harden / Haren / Blanton stories since this time last year. But now, the buzz across the bay is that San Francisco is willing to part with one of their young pitchers.

Said SF GM Brian Sabean (as quoted by the Sacramento Bee):

“When you finish in last place you’ve got to be open to change. We’re going to have to cross the bridge and trade some of our pitching to address our fielding needs.”

That second sentence has caused bloggers, sportswriters, and other pundits to go hog wild with the possibilities — some of them bordering on the insane.

For example, Tracy Ringolsby interpreted Sabean’s comment to mean that undersized phenom Tim Lincecum would be dealt away for a centerfielder. Huh? Naturally, that hair-brained idea set off the wild-eyed commenters at MetsBlog and other forums, thinking the Mets might be able to pry away the flamethrower for Lastings Milledge. Ain’t happenin’, folks.

Lincecum is only 5’10” and about 150 pounds, but throws in the triple digits via an unorthodox pitching delivery that some say is an injury waiting to happen while others claim is a more efficient means of overhand throwing. As a pitching coach, I’m still on the fence. His motion is definitely different, and I can see the benefits of his mechanics — particularly the timing of his weight shift and his remarkably long stride. However, I don’t like the way he over-rotates nor do I like his arm action — it looks like he’ll have shoulder and elbow problems down the road. Plus, his amazingly fast arm speed could be too fast and violent for his ligaments. His timing and coordination have to be absolutely perfect, otherwise the force of his arm speed could go against itself. But I could be wrong, and time will tell.

It doesn’t matter, anyway, because the Mets aren’t getting him. Lincecum has electric stuff — the kind that you don’t see often. Think: Felix Hernandez, Doc Gooden, Don Gullett. Teams don’t trade arms like this, even if they’re only 5’10”. OK, maybe they do sometimes … but you’d think the world would have learned from the Dodgers’ grave mistake regarding Pedro Martinez.

Cooler heads have suggested that Lincecum and Matt Cain are as close to untouchable as can be, and that Noah Lowry and/or Jonathan Sanchez are most likely to be used as bait for a bat. That makes sense, since Lowry is a solid if unspectacular lefty who may have plateaued, and Sanchez is an unproven commodity. Another far-out notion — from Paul Gutierrez at the Sac Bee — is that Barry Zito could be dealt, partly to bring in a bat but mostly to make room in the budget for Alex Rodriguez. A creative idea, but pure speculation — and doubtful.

In my opinion, if indeed the Giants are shopping Lowry or Sanchez, it would behoove the Mets to at least make an inquiry. Personally, I prefer Sanchez because of his upside. He’s a cocky SOB with a low 90s fastball that is paired with a legit changeup. Can you say Johan? Lowry would be the “safe” choice — he won 14 games last season — but it’s doubtful he’ll ever do better. Also, he averaged exactly six innings per start, tossing only 156 innings — and 160 in 2006. Not exactly the innings-eater the Mets are seeking. I’d much rather the Mets sign a Carlos Silva (have you heard this one enough?) and save their trading chips for someone else.

Lastings Milledge for Jonathan Sanchez smells like a good deal to me, for both teams. Each is a young stud seemingly on the cusp of greatness, yet neither has enough value to be traded straight-up for a proven Major Leaguer. The Mets can find an acceptable player to fill the corner outfield hole while waiting for Carlos Gomez or F-Mart to develop, and the Giants have an excess of young starting pitchers. Milledge can step in and start in centerfield for the Giants, and Sanchez would step right into the back end of the Mets’ rotation. For once, a trading partner with which the Mets have a match.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude November 3, 2007 at 8:18 am
    I agree that most of these rumors regarding the Giants pitchers are baseless and pure speculation. You know, I realize everyone is welcome to speculate and it makes for great blog fodder, but I gotta tell you, when I read all these other cites with their 500 posted rumors per day, it really makes me want to hurl. Can’t anyone distinguish the difference between fact and fiction anymore? Posting every single little rumor that may possibly involve the Mets is borderline insanity. When someone hears “Lincecum could be had for Lastings Milledge,” the right reaction would be to slap that person silly and tell them to wake the hell up, not run to your blog and make a post urging the Mets to consider the possibilities.

    In retrospect, the only team in recent history dumb enough to give away a fire-throwing young pitcher for nothing in return is the Mets (think Scott Kazmir). Two wrongs don’t make a right – so just because the Mets lack the intelligence to keep their most talented pitching prospect in decades, it doesn’t mean the Giants do too.

    I agree, Joe, that Noah Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez are more likely candidates to be traded. However, Lowry reminds me of another lefty the Mets recently obtained from SF (Shawn Estes), who is also likely to sour as he ages. Sanchez has knockout minor league numbers but hasn’t yet found success in the majors. No doubt, he’s got good stuff, but I don’t know if his long-term future is in the bullpen or rotation. Again, do we want to trade Milledge for a guy who may be just another Mike Pelfrey, or hold on to him for a more proven commodity? Tough call.

  2. Micalpalyn November 3, 2007 at 10:15 am
    Isu: i included the link above to show you that every organization makes mistakes and someone benefits. Right now I bet The O’s would take maine back and the pitt bloggers were bemused by the Ollie trade.

    2. i agree that there are Waaaaay too many rumors. But from the kaz debacle I saw that almost every trade is reported somewhere before it really happens.

    3. The prospects of a linecum (or Giants pitcher), trade are exasperated because they have soooo many pitching prospects. ditto the Dodgers and Marlins. i doubt linecum is traded but it is possible. I remember (I think it was gammons-last yr) whereas Beene has coveted Millz, sabean loves gomez.

    4. With f-mart ascending, MY view is millz has RF, (with endy), moises (and endy) in Lf. Per some Omar comments (metsblog) i think one more OF is imported (cheaply), Shannon stewart (?). Also jose Guillen is now a FA.

  3. isuzudude November 3, 2007 at 11:05 am

    1. You’re right that Pitt and Balt are probably kicking themselves for giving up on Maine and Perez. And there are probably other teams that traded away young talent too quickly and got little back in return, but my opinion is clouded because the Kazmir debacle was one much nearer and dearer to my heart. Maybe what I should have said is “the Mets are the only team in recent history to give up a young fire-baller for nothing with no sufficient reason.” Pitt cut bait on Perez because he blew chunks with the Pirates from 2005 to when they traded him in ’06. They thought he was washed up, and were getting Nady in return…a fair deal for them at the time. The O’s shipped Maine for Benson as a throw in because no one thought Maine would develop into what he is now. He was never really considered a great prospect, as he went 11-18 in AAA for Baltimore and looked lost when they promoted him to the major league level. Santana was a complete bum pitching for the Astros low-level farm teams, so who ever would have thought he could have developed into the ace he is today? With Kazmir and Lincecum, both were/are considered “can’t miss” stud pitching prospects. Hence, like with the Kazmir deal in 2004, it would be a complete mystery as to why the Giants would trade Lincecum now while they’re obviously in the midst of a rebuilding era and he’ll be the lynchpin to their hopeful ascension in the standings…especially for such a questionable and troublesome player like Lastings Milledge. Yeah, I suppose Lincecum COULD be traded, but it would more likely be for an equally as impressive prospect, like yovanni gollardo or ryan braun.

    2. Every trade is reported before it actually happens, true. But for every right “guess,” there are 100 wrong ones. Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to speculate or inquire about a rumor, but is it worth paying attention to EVERY rumor when the respective shooting percentage is less than 5%?

    3. I gotta say, I wish I could see some quotes or proof than Beane covets Milledge and Sabean “loves” Gomez. Post a link or something…or else it just becomes another worthless rumor. Something tells me, though, that if these GMs “love” our OF propects so much, they’d already be playing on their teams and we’d have Blanton, Haren, or Cain already pitching in Queens.

  4. joe November 3, 2007 at 11:38 am
    I’m still not sold on Milledge being the next Sheffield (I realize no one here has made that comparison but that’s the perceived ceiling among scouts and BA). My feeling is the worst he’ll be is Jay Payton, the best, Carl Everett or Jose Guillen.

    If I’m right, would you trade a Payton, Everett, or Guillen for a lefthanded Pelfrey — who actually has had more success than Pelfrey and has an offspeed pitch?

    If I’m wrong … well … the good thing is that at least one Sheffield-type bat is available every winter via free agency.

  5. Micalpalyn November 3, 2007 at 11:50 am
    isu: 3. I try to put links with the ‘rumors’ wherever i can. But just to relay a little of my perspective; Why is it Both Kaz and Milledge were rumored to be the bait to fill every Met need. I am sure I dont have to remind you that Millz was still in AAA when the ‘near’ deals for Manny and Oswalt were posted. Also it was floated that beane would trade blanton or even Zito (at the time) for Millz.

    2-3: you are right. just as there are 50 rumors for every one consumated, so it is with deals. I suspect Omar does not want to part with his OFers so easily if he has doubts about the targets. I think the Oswalt deal was a no brainer but drayton balked…(then locked Oswalt up). I remember terry Long in ’99 as a similar player, also jermaine dye who the raves gave up because they had andruw jones…but in my (lowly) view I think millz is a good player to keep, and then simply sign a FA to fill needs.

    Omar has used the dodgers mold to offset his loss of 1st rnder by signing international FA. i noted a brief on another farmhand onn metsblog yesterday i knew nothing about previously.

    Anyway: part of the blog mentality is to discuss. agreed especially in the Omar era most of our discussions amt to nothing.

  6. Micalpalyn November 3, 2007 at 11:56 am
    Oh and Joe;

    Omar has Millz, carlos gomez and F-Mart (and caleb stewart). I dont think omar has to part with millz.

    The point F-mart could go the way of Alex Escobar has been discussed, as such you can hold your cards too long. (But i’d love to see alex invited back to compete in spring training).

  7. joe November 3, 2007 at 12:23 pm
    Caleb Stewart is not a prospect in anyone’s mind. I don’t understand why Mets fans keep bringing him up as someone to keep an eye on or to use as trade bait (not just here, but other blogs). Stewart is 25 years old and hit .250 in AA. Where’s the excitement? When he was drafted out of KY he was supposed to be a power guy, and he’s hit 48 HRs in 1162 at-bats — once every 24 ABs. Ho hum.

    Millz is the closest to big-league ready, and the “surest” thing among he, F-Mart, and Gomez. I don’t see either of Gomez or F-Mart being the centerpiece of a deal to bring back an MLB-ready pitcher. Of course, I could be wrong.

  8. isuzudude November 3, 2007 at 1:06 pm
    “…would you trade a Payton, Everett, or Guillen for a lefthanded Pelfrey — who actually has had more success than Pelfrey and has an offspeed pitch?”

    Joe –
    If it’s Santana you’re referring to, the answer is an acdaemic yes. However, I believe you’re referring to Lowry, and then the answer becomes a bit more complicated. I agree with your accessment that Milledge will peak at an Everett/Guillen level…somewhere around 20-25 HR, 80-90 RBI, .270-.280 AVG. That’s not bad production, but again we’re talking about what he’ll POTENTIALLY peak at, and there are no guarentees he’ll maintain that success once he acheives it. Is it worth trading that type of player for a lefthanded Mike Pelfrey? Well, I think that depends on…

    – do you have a backup plan in RF?
    – are you really that hard-up for pitching?

    Lets’ just say, for the sake of this argument, yes on both accounts. Noah Lowry won a very impressive 14 games playing on a lousy team this past season, but I’m not sold that automatically makes him a good pitcher or a long-term bet. Like you’ve been saying for weeks now, the Mets need innings-eaters in the rotation. However, since joining the Giants rotation full time in 2005, Lowry has thrown over 160 innings just once. In the meantime, his WHIP has steadily increased each year he’s been in the bigs, and stood at a hefty 1.55 at the end of 2007. Don’t ask me how he kept his ERA under 4 with that statistic, but I’d be willing to bet he won’t be able to duplicate that feat in any of his consequent seasons. It also kind of scares me too that his career ERA is a point and a half higher on the road than at PacBell (which is known as perhaps the best pitchers ballpark in baseball). And again, I’m just reminded too much of another left-hander who enjoyed success at a young age despite a high WHIP with the Giants and was subsequently acquired by the Mets only to completely fall off the map. Luckily, we only gave up Shinjo and Relaford for him, so if we can find a way only to give up Anderson Hernandez and Ben Johnson for Lowry, I’d be for it. But for a guy with as much potential as Milledge, I’d take my finger off the trigger. That’s not to say I’m against trading Milledge…I just think we could net something better in return.

  9. joe November 3, 2007 at 2:15 pm
    Isuzudude: I was referring to Sanchez as the lefthanded Pelfrey. Lowry is already a proven commodity, while Sanchez, like Pelfrey, remains a man with a world of untapped potential.

    To me Lowry is at best a lefthanded Steve Trachsel — he miraculously wins 14 or 15 games one season, and has a job for the rest of his career despite mediocre stuff and records of 12-12, 10-13 year in and year out.

    That said I agree with you — no Milledge for Lowry.

    But Sanchez? Yes.

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