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ORLANDO – The Giants are doing the baseball equivalent of ambulance chasing as they continue their search for a left fielder at the Winter Meetings.
When the New York Yankees signed Carlos Beltran last week, the Giants checked in on Brett Gardner. And when the Chicago White Sox finalized a three-team trade that netted them outfielder Adam Eaton on Tuesday, the Giants asked about Alejando De Aza.
If you can’t act, you’d better react. And if Giants GM Brian Sabean sees a team with a sudden outfield bulge on their depth chart, you can bet he’ll be quick on the ol' text machine.
But deals aren’t easy to make when you can’t afford to give up any major league-ready pitching. That was the ask on Mark Trumbo, a power hitter that moved from the Angels to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of Tuesday’s three-team swap.
The Angels got two young, controllable starting pitchers they could slot into their Nos. 4-5 rotation spots right away: Hector Santiago from the White Sox and Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks.
Forget two. The Giants couldn’t spare one. And that’s been an issue in more trade discussions than just Trumbo.
“We’ve been neutralized because we don’t have major league ready talent,” Sabean said. “You’ve got to live with it. It does take you out of the running for some opportunities.”
De Aza has a reputation as an erratic player who makes a lot of mistakes on the bases. Then again, Angel Pagan didn’t arrive with the most glowing reputation when the Giants acquired him, either.
De Aza, a lefty hitter, set a career high with 17 home runs last season, and actually hit lefties (.302) better than right-handers (.252). So the Giants could still mix and match with Blanco if they acquired him.
The Giants were told that the White Sox are looking for catching help and perhaps a third baseman, but only if he’s a clear upgrade over Conor Gillaspie. (The former Giants prospect had a nice year that included some clutch hits for the White Sox last season.)
Perhaps on a related note, the Giants are getting a lot of inquiries about catcher Hector Sanchez’s availability, Sabean said. But Sanchez is the only catcher besides Buster Posey on the 40-man roster.
Minor league left-hander Edwin Escobar is getting a lot of interest as well, but Sabean is counting on the strike thrower to provide rotation depth.
As for Gardner, the Yankees don't have to move him and probably won't unless they get blown away, according to reports.
The Giants’ needs?
“We need a left fielder,” Sabean said. “We need health. And we need depth, whether it’s internal or it comes from the outside world.”
Earlier in the day, manager Bruce Bochy didn’t quite say “we need a left fielder.” In fact, he lauded Juan Perez’s play late in the season and said a Perez platoon with Blanco “is a pretty good safety valve. I’m pretty comfortable that if nothing happens, at least we have him.”
Bochy said he doesn’t see many lineup choices to make this spring, aside from plugging in the left fielder. If it’s a Gregor Blanco/Juan Perez platoon, it could move around the lineup.
Bochy said he likes the Brandon Belt/Buster Posey/Hunter Pence/Pablo Sandoval configuration in his Nos. 3-6 spots, and expects to begin the season that way.
Bochy plans some changes this spring with more individual drills and instruction. He’s also reached out to some of his core players to get them more involved in leading drills and taking control over how the team is practicing.
When you play as badly as the Giants did last season, it becomes easy to tune out voices when you keep hearing the same ones.
On Monday, Sabean said the market for extra men was “going through the roof.” A day later, true to form, extra outfielder Rajai Davis punched through with a two-year, $10 million deal from the Tigers.
I can tell you from personal experience that Davis, a former Giant, is one of the nicest people in the game.
Sabean’s report on right-handed relief prospect Derek Law:
“He throws an overhand curveball you don’t see,” the GM said. “The action on it is different – almost like a split.”
Law finished with a 0.00 ERA in 16 appearances in the Arizona Fall League.
In addition to discussion about a potential rule change to protect catchers in home-plate collisions, managers and GMs will receive instruction from the league about the new and expanded instant replay system.
I hope Bochy isn’t too disappointed when they don’t pass out little red hankies.