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07/13/11 2:18 PM ET
As Trade Deadline nears, Giants target hitting
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Anyone who has followed the Giants just briefly or casually knows what they're seeking as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. "The need to look for offense is obvious," general manager Brian Sabean said. Obvious, due to the left knee injuries that sidelined catcher Buster Posey for the season and the dislocated right shoulder that will likely shelve second baseman Freddy Sanchez until 2012. Obvious, due to the struggles at the plate that first baseman Aubrey Huff, center fielder Andres Torres and others have endured much of the year. Obvious, due to the avalanche of facts and figures showing that San Francisco's run production ranges from bad on most days to historically bad on others. Rarely does a Trade Deadline pass without Sabean making a significant move. Last year, he accelerated the Giants' march to the World Series by obtaining relievers Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez. Other pre-Deadline acquisitions who helped San Francisco win during the year they were obtained or in future seasons included Brian Johnson (1997), Wilson Alvarez (1997), Roberto Hernandez (1997), Ellis Burks (1998), Jason Schmidt (2001), Kenny Lofton (2002) and Sanchez (2009). Moreover, Sabean has broadened his horizons. He has stated his willingness to acquire players who would become eligible for free agency after the season, which was one type of move he formerly never considered. "You have to be more open-minded because of the situation we're in," Sabean said recently. "But you'd have to be pretty sure that that 'rental' was a difference-maker." Sabean also did not rule out trading a starting pitcher -- most likely Jonathan Sanchez -- which he forbade last year. That resistance enabled the Giants to win the World Series, a triumph that was based in their reliance on pitching. But with no depth in the rotation beyond Sanchez, who's recovering from bicep tendinitis, Sabean won't part with the left-hander easily, and probably not at all. Trading a starter, Sabean said, "would have to be really discussed at a lot of levels internally. Because you have to have definitive fallback positions to withstand the loss." With Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart batting close to .200 combined, the Giants are known to be seeking catching help. Toronto's Jose Molina, Washington's Ivan Rodriguez, Cincinnati's Ramon Hernandez and the New York Mets' Ronny Paulino have been cited as possibilities. Though Sabean didn't sound excited about the array of players said to be available -- Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran also has been linked to San Francisco in rumors -- that can change. "I don't know how many premium choices there'll be at the end of the day," Sabean said. "[But] it might be a late-breaking year." Making a trade would be less imperative for the Giants if more position players were performing at just an average level. "We really don't have anybody with the exception of Pablo [Sandoval] who's having a good year," manager Bruce Bochy said. "As crazy as it sounds, this group might be good enough to make it to the finish line," said Sabean, though he cited Arizona as a legitimate contender in the National League West and expressed respect for San Diego, which typically plays the Giants tough. As always, Sabean won't engineer a deal just for the sake of doing so. "We're going to be very strategic and it's going to have to line up in the right away," he said. "Do we want to help the team? Yes. And we'll be very determined to do that. But we're going to have to weigh all those factors. And I have no problems with how the team has responded to everything that has been thrown at them. I think it's amazing to see where they are, given all the challenges they've had. The effort's there. It's just that we're undermanned and we're not as talented as we need to be on the offensive side of the roster."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.