…. Next season

El Lefty Malo looks ahead:

…. One question to ponder as you see all the trade and free-agent suggestions thrown around this winter — the Giants should sign this guy or trade for that guy — is not just whom to get, but how many runs do the Giants really need to score next year?

750 runs is a must. No way can the Giants expect to repeat their 2009 pitching performance, so just adding 50 runs will do nothing. The average NL team scored 718 runs, the Giants scored 657, so 50 runs added and we’re still below average. You cannot expect to compete for a championship if you’re not at least be average, and even that’s not really what contending teams are aiming for. Back to runs differential, the Dodgers scored (oops) 780 runs, and allowed 611. The Giants scored 657 runs, and allowed 611. Need I say more?

Trading Matt Cain is the best way to address the hole in the lineup, as he will never be worth more than he is right now.

The player to look for? How about Hanley Ramirez? Lots of stories this year about how players and coaches with the Marlins don’t like how he goes about his business. Maybe he’s tired of playing in front of empty seats, and is looking for a change of scenery. Maybe he wants to play for a contender that spends money, (even if they spend it poorly). Maybe he thinks the Marlins are small time:

…. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez recently forced all of his long-haired players, including Ramirez, into an impromptu date with the clubhouse hairdresser. He also banned any jewelry worn onfield by Ramirez or any of his teammates.

“We want to look professional,” Gonzalez told the Sun-Sentinel. “Nice and neat.”

Only problem was that Ramirez, ranked first overall in Yahoo!’s fantasy baseball game, didn’t take kindly to having his shortish dreads shorn off or his chain yanked off his neck. Once the media entered the Marlins’ clubhouse on Thursday, Ramirez made sure he was seen sporting a strong message — “I’m sick of this shit” — written in Sharpie across his chest.

“I’m angry,” he told reporters. “I want to be traded … It’s incredible. We’re big leaguers.”

And here’s another article, in which Ramirez is portrayed as strikingly similar to another superstar we Giants fans are familiar with:

…. Here is the dichotomy of Ramirez: a player with admirable work habits, yet an almost displeasing demeanor. Ramirez as a person can be dismissive and distant, yet as a player he’s dynamic and impossible to dislike.

Everything about Ramirez, 25, is big league — his game and his attitude. This season, he’s quarreled with teammates about the validity of an injury, argued with management about the team’s hair policy, and bickered with reporters over their criticism — something that would drive most fans, not to mention team executives, crazy.

Yet he may be baseball’s most complete player, a combination of power, speed and hitting acumen, all things that he could not have mastered without a tremendous work ethic. Teammates and coaches still consider him a kid — a well-liked but at times capricious one. But as he finishes his most productive season — an MVP-caliber year — and heads into his fifth full season in the majors in 2010, Ramirez is inching toward veteran status.

Ramirez is everything we don’t have. His career line of .316/.386/.531 .917 OPS is simply sensational. Over his last three full seasons, he’s averaged a .950 OPS, with 74 extra base hits, 38 steals (80% success rate). I mean, he does it all, and he’s only 25 years old. We could package Cain with Renteria — a reunion tour with the team he won a World Series with, nice story line there– and maybe a draft pick, if needed. All that trade would do is transform the face of the franchise in one fell swoop.

Sure Cain is good, young and under financial control for another year or two. But, he’s not that good. He’s not Lincecum good. He’s not Cliff Lee good. He’s not Chris Carpenter good. In other words, he’s not untradeable.

Baseball Reference has his ten most similar players:

Moe Drabowsky (977)
Clay Kirby (974)
Jack Fisher (967)
Jose Rijo (962)
Mike Witt (959)
Tom Gordon (958)
Dave Stieb (956)
Lefty Tyler (954)
Jim Kaat (953)
John Smoltz (953)

There’s some good pitchers there, plus Smoltz, who is legitimately great, but every one of those guys played for a bunch of different teams.

That’s not to say we should trade him for just anybody. Cain is 24 years old, and a 24 year old pitcher of his caliber is extremely valuable. But this Giants team is several players away from championship contention, and something’s gotta be done. If you can trade a 24 year old very good pitcher for a truly elite hitter of approximately the same age, you probably should do it.

Of course, maybe the Marlins fall in love with Mr. No-Hitter, and would part with their problem child for him and and some spare odds and ends. Yeah, right. Not to mention, does anyone really believe that Sabean could pull this off?

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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