The Giants began the 2nd half with plenty of question marks as to what they needed to get better and after the opening series with the Marlins, the needs are still muddled.
The Giants are horrific against left handed pitching. In the final game of the Marlins series, they got shut down by Brad Hand, a guy who had 2 career wins in 39 career games and a lifetime ERA and WHIP of 4.73 and 1.54 respectively. Tomorrow they get some dude named Cliff Lee. The Giants have a lot of lefties in their line-up. Surprisingly, Giants lefty hitters actually have been holding their own against lefty pitchers this season. But that doesn't mean Bochy trusts those match-ups so that means more Hector Sanchez and more Joaquin Arias (or if we're lucky Ehire Adrianza). That's bad news for whomever is the starting pitcher that day for the Giants.
So does Sabean improve the bench to limit that exposure? Does he get an everyday 2B he can trust and Bochy can plug in to the line-up daily? Does he get bullpen help or a closer? Does he get a starting pitcher in case Matt Cain's cranky elbow gets really cranky?
The Giants have been linked to all sorts of names thus far. One name that got crossed off that list was Huston Street. I would have loved to get Street. Casilla has done a fine job since filling in for Romo but Juan Gutierrez, Sergio Romo, and Jean Machi have been shaky middle relief. By acquiring a closer, the Giants could push Casilla back to his 8th inning duties and have more bullpen depth overall. This seems like the most likely scenario in Sabean's world since Sabean always seems to get a bullpen arm or two when the Giants are in contention. Since the Street option has been closed (thank you, I'm here all week) my new bullpen acquisition target is Joakim Soria of the Rangers. Soria was once an elite closer for the Royals and now is putting up elite numbers for Texas. He has a 2.59 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and an absolutely ridiculous 10.5 strikeout to walk ratio. The best part is he has a 7M team option for 2015 which was something that made Huston Street also attractive. A 7M closer? That's a relative bargain these days. The Angels gave up some decent value for Street but it was a package the Giants likely could have matched or exceeded had they really gone after him. Street and Soria likely have equal value so the perimeters of a deal have been outlined. Sabean now knows what a package for Soria would cost.
Soria is my pipe dream. There are other names out there on the bullpen market. Notably, Jonathan Papelbon (too expensive) and a few other lesser names (Chad Qualls?). Sabean has a knack for picking up bullpen arms that are not exciting in name but are quality pieces. He likely has a list of names that he and his lieutenants are scouting.
Aside from the bullpen, the names linked for 2B are Ben Zobrist, Chase Utley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Aviles, Gordon Beckham, and some others. Zobrist would be a great fit for the Giants and if you believe the media, the Rays and Giants have been scouting each others games. We can pipe dream about David Price, who's name continues to be peripherally linked to the Giants, but it's more likely the Giants are zeroed in on Zobrist. Recent rumors have the Giants and Blue Jays the heaviest pursuers of Utley. If Sabean is not convinced a Panik/Scutaro platoon is the answer at 2B for 2014, he may make a move to acquire one of these names.
At this point, an outfield bat seems like a more logical need. While Hunter Pence has done a great job filling in at the leadoff spot, he's not a true leadoff hitter. The Giants can't and shouldn't rely on Angel Pagan's return to stabilize leadoff and centerfield because Pagan has had all sorts of injury issues the past season and a half. Pence is better suited in an RBI slot (he had 99 RBI's last season). Getting a leadoff hitter would allow Pence to move down the order and provide another bat in the middle of the line-up. Meanwhile, Panik has done well in the #2 spot in the order and Marco Scutaro is one of the best #2 hitters in the game when he can play so that slot in the line-up seems to have been rectified with Panik's play and Scutaro's return. The Giants have been linked to a few outfield names like Chris Denorfia, Ben Revere, and Dayan Viciedo. Revere would be an interesting stop gap. Denorfia could thrive on a contending team and would be great off the bench if/when Pagan returns.
Finally, there's starting pitching. Cain's elbow issues can't be downplayed. He hasn't pitched like he's capable the first half of the season and the grumbling about the bone chips he has grew louder with the recent acknowledgement that his elbow hasn't felt 100% all season. The Giants simply can't afford to lose a starter. Yusmeiro Petit has done okay in several starting cameos but aside from him the Giants don't have an answer if a starter were to go down for an extended period of time. Edwin Escobar has scuffled all year at AAA and he was the guy the Giants were counting on for depth. Starting pitching is usually the most costly acquisition this time of year. Would the Giants make a big trade just for depth? With all the other needs it's hard to say.
It's clear that the Giants have their work cut out for them in the next two weeks. They need to identify the ONE area they really feel they need to improve and then go out and find the best piece that plugs that hole.
It's always interesting leading up to July 31st. This season is no different.