This is the third-part of a multi-layered, definitely not thrown together at the last minute, treatise on what the Giants should do to get back in contention. They ain't rebuilding, just remodeling.
Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel have a few things in common. Both probably aren't going to be part of the next great Giants team core. Vizquel just got here, and while he's playing well and signed for two more years, he isn't someone to fully count on without any reservations for 2007. Durham was a fine second baseman, then he accidentally drank from the wrong cup when trying to find the Holy Grail. He isn't going to be around for much longer, it seems safe to say.
An important thing the two middle infielders have in common is there is no one ready to immediately replace them. Marcus Sanders is turning heads in Augusta, but it is a long way from Augusta to Fresno, much less Mays Field. He could be on the fast track to the majors, which would get him up in about two to three years, or he could need a lot more polishing, especially with regards to his NC-17 defense. Or, he could be playing cribbage with Mike Caruso in four years. That's the story of a prospect's life, and Sanders is the only middle infield prospect worth mentioning.
Going out on the free agent market can only bring in so much. The Red Sox paid crazy money for Edgar Renteria, which looked great next to the absolutely crazy money paid to Orlando Cabrera, which looked fantastic next to the Kleenex-boxes-on-the-feet-diaper-on-the-head crazy money paid to Cristian Guzman. Players like David Eckstein can clean up on the market, just because of his status as a quasi-proven shortstop. There is a little more wiggle room in the second base area, as players like Mark Loretta and Mark Bellhorn were hardly celebrated acquisitions. Still, it would be folly to ignore the need of a middle infielder until you're standing in the checkout line at the middle infielder store.
This is why the Giants need to target young middle infielders before the trade deadline. If Schmidt is moved, there had better be a quality young shortstop coming back, or the middle infielder-less package had better have been too good to pass up. It would be nice if the ancillary players like Tomko, Eyre, and Alfonzo could bring something, but when the dust clears at the end of the deadline, it is important for the Giants to have something close to a majors-ready middle infielder prospect. Even someone on the level of a Freddy Sanchez, who didn't pan out for Pittsburgh, would be welcome, even if only to give the Giants a plausible backup plan if the free-agent route is unsavory.
What say you, the unwashed masses?