The Mets want who?
There’s a scene in The Dark Knight where Batman, who has somehow rigged every single cell phone in Gotham to form one giant sonar device, shows his creation to Morgan Freeman on a super-sized video screen. Morgan Freeman is worried about the ramifications- privacy issues, big brother, etc. – and Batman tells him he has to do it in order to catch The Joker. That’s when Morgan Freeman turns to him and says, in a very Morgan Freeman-like way, “At what cost?”
That’s exactly how I imagine the trade discussions taking place in the Giants’ front office. In my mind, Brian Sabean has a gigantic video screen with video of Carlos Beltran on a continuous loop while he tells Bill Neukom that Beltran is the key to another World Series title. And Neukom turns to Sabean and says, “At what cost?” Also, Sabean is dressed as Batman. Don’t ask why, it just makes sense.
The Giants once again find themselves in the thick of contention, in control of the NL West and riding their all-world pitching staff to the 4th-best record in baseball. They’ve managed to do all that while missing two of their top three hitters and trotting out a suspect offense at best. Actually, calling the Giants’ offense “suspect” is an insult to all suspect offenses. They’ve been, for the most part, awful.
Enter Carlos Beltran. He’s the name everyone’s talking about as the trade deadline nears, the name Giants fans have latched onto as the key to repeating as World Series champions. The lineup would look much, much better with Beltran in it, as he’s the only bat known to be available who’d come close to replacing the production lost when Buster Posey went down for the year. He’s a legitimate middle of the order hitter who’d take some of the pressure off of Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz, who’ve become the de facto run producers amongst a cavalcade of underperformers.
The problem is, the Mets are holding out for a top prospect. And according to reports, the Giants’ list of untouchable prospects includes Zach Wheeler, Gary Brown, Heath Hembree and Brandon Belt- all names that interest the Mets. So the Giants are faced with a dilemma: do they mortgage the future for three months of Beltran, who could mean the difference between an early October exit and another World Series appearance? Or do they stay the course, keep their top prospects in house, and roll the dice with what they have?
From the so-called “untouchables” list, one can make a few assumptions: Belt isn’t going anywhere. He’s in the Majors to stay, and the Giants are counting on him to provide an offensive spark down the stretch. Wheeler is the guy most baseball people rave about in the Giants’ system, but Sabean and his crew have been known to have differing opinions on pitching prospects than the rest of the world (see Alderson, Tim). Hembree is a hard-throwing reliever with excellent stuff, but I find it hard to believe the Giants would pass on a deal for Carlos Beltran because they didn’t want to give up a relief pitcher. Depending on what you read, Brown is either going to be Brett Butler or Scott Podsednik once he reaches the Majors.
From that list, I don’t know how the Giants can pass on a deal for Beltran that isn’t centered on Belt or (probably) Wheeler. Hembree may turn out to be a great closer one day, but a minor league relief pitcher shouldn’t ever hold up a deal for an impact bat like Beltran. There are so many differing opinions about Brown that it’s hard to pinpoint what kind of player he’s going to be, but getting a player like Beltran in return would make moving Brown worth the risk. Wheeler is by all accounts a stud, but Sabean may feel differently. And just by track record alone, I trust Sabean's opinions on young pitchers.
But it's never easy to deal prospects, right? In this case, it shouldn't be that hard.
The team’s pitching staff is so good, so dominating, and so young, it seems almost criminal to not provide them with the support they need to win. Moreover, it feels like the Giants would be wasting a prime opportunity to repeat. There’s no guarantee this staff will be together after 2012 (Matt Cain hits free agency then, Tim Lincecum the year after), and you can never be sure of health when it comes to pitchers. So why not strike now?
Again, it all comes down to cost. At what cost, in my best Morgan Freeman voice. The Giants have a legitimate chance to get back to the World Series, but at what cost to their future are they willing to go get players that will help them get there?
Teams have windows in which they can win a championship, and the Giants’ window is open right now. Those windows can also be shut quickly and unexpectedly for a number of reasons, and a team should do whatever it takes within reason to take advantage of those opportunities. The Giants have a chance to strengthen their team in a big way without mortgaging their entire future in the process. It seems like an easy choice to me: if getting Carlos Beltran means giving up an “untouchable” prospect, so be it. The risk is worth the cost. The potential reward is astronomical.
This isn’t a team that’s been bad for a while and is surprising people by being in contention. The Giants aren’t the Pirates. They’re not a team that’s in the final stages of rebuilding and is just now seeing the rewards, and therefore not a team that should worry about setting themselves back by trading prospects for a short term rental. They’re the defending champs, legitimate contenders with a powerhouse pitching staff backed by an anemic offense. They have the means in their minor league system to improve that offense significantly via trade, and they shouldn’t be afraid to do so.
At what cost, Morgan Freeman? Damn the cost, says Batman Sabean. Win.