…. Swap meet, continuum

I’ve read a couple of your comments, and I’ve gone and bounced around the Giants blogosphere. I’m surprised to see that Nick over at MVN Giants Cove has positive things to say about the Kline deal. Maybe it’s just a first glance kind of thing. Nick also mentions that the Giants are in the mix for Kris Benson of the NY Mets, a rumour that is also floating around at ESPN, (among other locations). As you’ll see, I like that idea a lot.

Looking closer at the Kline deal, I’ve learned that the Giants sent a couple of million with Hawkins to offset the differences in their salaries…. meaning that Kline actually is costing Sabean the same $5 million that Hawkins was set to make. Huh?

With that knowledge, this trade looks even worse. I simply cannot see the logic behind this. We lose Hawkins and Eyre, saving essentially only Eyre’s $1.75 from last season, and all we get in return is Kline? How is getting rid of arguably your two best setup men to save $1.75 million dollars making your (already horrible) bullpen better?

If you’re not saving money by moving Hawkins, you’ve dropped the ball, end of story. In this off-season of monumentally over-priced relievers, Hawkins had to be dealt for either a better pitcher, more pitchers, a better fit, or less money. The Giants falied on two of those three counts, and since lefties tattooed Kline last season, you could argue that his being a lefty is worthless, which amounts to Sabean being awarded the golden sombrero (as in 0 for 3, boys and girls).

As for picking up some starting pitching, it’s important to remember how thin the choices really are, unless you go the blockbuster route, a la Boston. I’d point out that only 8 pitchers (in the entire major leagues) reached the 200-plus strikeout mark this past season, with Johan Santana’s 238 leading the pack. That makes pitchers like Kris Benson, and even Estaban Loaiza’s numbers look a lot better than they might under normal circumstances.

(Editors aside: Anybody read or heard anyone trying to explain how nobody cracked 250 strikeouts this season? I haven’t heard a peep.)

Anyway, back to possible starters for the Giants. Here’s a quick and dirty look at a couple of guys I think Sabean should be at least talking about in Dallas:

Matt Morris 193 IP 209 H 88 ER 37 BB 117 SO 4.11 ERA
Kevin Millwood 192 IP 182 H 61 ER 52 BB 146 SO 2.86 ERA
Javier Vazquez 216 IP 223 H 106 ER 46 BB 192 SO 4.28 ERA
Kris Benson 174 IP 171 H 80 ER 49 BB 95 SO 4.25 ERA

As far as I can tell, all of these guys are available. Looks like Morris is as good as (or better than) any of these four, but if Morris is gonna cost over $7 million per, than there’s no reason the Giants couldn’t take a swing at Millwood, who is supposedly talking 4 years, $40 million with the Mariners. He’s (arguaby) the best of these four, and if you’re talking about the difference between the two being roughly same amount of money (per season) they just threw in to rid themselves of Hawkins, then maybe Millwood’s the guy.

Benson is clearly the worst of the four, with another Woody-esque strikeout total, one that demands perfect pitches and stellar defense, something that is virtually impossible to count on; not to mention his injury history, something the Giants absolutely have to take into account. If Sabean goes out and trades Pedro Feliz for Benson, that ain’t the end of the world, since Feliz is, right now, as valuable a commodity as he’s ever gonna be. If they trade young pitching for him, then they’re screwing up, because he’s as likely to be a 12-15 game winner as anybody they’ve already got. But Benson is a pitcher who wins when he’s lucky and loses when he’s not. Why trade for that?

Actually….. a quick look at Benson’s career begs the question of whether I know just what the hell I’m talking about? Benson is a career 57-61 with a 4.25 ERA. He was 10-8 last seaosn in injury-limited duty, which was the first time he’s won more than he’s lost in his whole 8 year career. He’s not an inning eater, not young, doesn’t strike anybody out, has no discernible upside, and has been injured 5 of the last 6 seasons. Trading anybody or anything for him (other than Alfonzo, who I would trade for a bag of sunflower seeds right now), would be a tremendous mistake.

A good, hard look at Matt Morris shows me that Morris is, in fact, a whole ‘nother ballgame. Morris has won as many as 22 games in a season. He’s also won 17, 15, 14…. in fact, Morris has won more than he’s lost every year but one, in 2000, when he was coming back from missing the whole 1999 season, (he was 3-3 with a 3.57 ERA pitching out of the bullpen). He has a career 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio, a career 3.61 ERA, and he’s 40 games over .500 (101-62) over virtually the same period of time Benson’s been driving pitching coaches crazy, (In case you’re interested, Millwood is 107-75 over his career, and he came up in 1997, just like Morris). I’d feel really, really good about the Giants landing Morris, who would probably be, dollar for dollar, the best pitcher they could get.

And then there’s Vazquez. Do I have to explain how important a 220-inning pitcher could be to Giants bullpen? If Vazquez is out there, they should take a long, hard look at him. He strikes out a bunch of guys, he’s young, and he’s durable (217 innings per season over the last 6 years). If Morris is gonna cost $7 or $8 million, Vazquez’s $11 million might be worth the extra bling, if. As in, if they can dump some salary.

To spend over $10 million dollars more on pitching, (something I am advocating, obviously), the Giants need to dump some salary. The player the Giants most desperately need to dump is, of course, Edgardo Alfonzo. He’s due to make about $8 million, and he had something like 18 extra base hits last season. I’d take anything for him, anything to save that cash, which would make a Javier Vazquez trade really palatable. Is there any possibility the Diamondbacks are stupid enough to make this trade? Didn’t think so. Land Morris and Vazquez, and 2006 changes, instantly.

OK, that’s enough hot stove BS for a while. Discuss amongst yourselves.

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