What I like about the deal:
- Lance Niekro was terrible. Absolutely terrible. Shea Hillenbrand is not. Statheads underrate him. Yeah, boo hoo, his on-base percentage is .342. If the slugging percentage is over .450, I'll take three. Not as the centerpiece of an offense, but as a complimentary piece to a lineup. Especially a lineup that was featuring Lance Niekro for three months.
- Hillenbrand's ability to spell Pedro Feliz at third is huge. You can play Hillenbrand at third against tough righties, giving Sweeney the start at first. For the games started by both Hillenbrand and Feliz, Sweeney makes the bench a strength. Other than Vizcaino, there isn't a weak offensive reserve to be found. This is the strongest bench since 2000, which is hard to overstate.
- Hillenbrand has more power than Casey, and doesn't have the extreme platoon splits of Craig Wilson. I still would have preferred Casey, but getting more power on the team is certainly welcome.
- The short-term solution wasn't worth a pre-arbitration arm like Accardo's, especially considering that the Blue Jays were lacking any sort of leverage. The Giants didn't have too many cheap building blocks in place, but Accardo was one of them. For a fella who didn't start focusing on pitching until a couple of years ago, he did seem to have a tremendous aptitude for it. Even as the ERA climbed, he was one of the only relievers I maintained confidence in.
- Just Hillenbrand can play two positions doesn't mean he can field them well. I'm less worried about that, but it still a consideration.
- The dude is kind of a putz.
- I still think Sean Casey could have been had at the deadline for a couple of county fair Def Leppard mirrors, and I really don't see him getting traded anywhere now. That stinks for the Giants, and it really stinks for the Pirates.
I wouldn't have made the deal, but I'm not crawling out of my skin to get away from it. It's hard to imagine ever getting too worked up over losing a young reliever. Francisco Rodriguez in April of 2003, sure. Billy Wagner when he first came up, absolutely. But the upside for a young reliever is usually limited. For every Joe Nathan, there are two Scott Williamsons, four Mike MacDougals, and eight Ryan Wagners. I'd predict Accardo to be closest to Williamson in terms of performance, while not attempting to predict his future health. That's not a loss to be happy with, but the lineup is unquestionably stronger for what should be the last run at the playoffs for a while.
Combined with the mini-surge against a division rival, I'm feeling that "optimism" thing I heard Oprah talk about once. Kinda feels like one of those electric foot massagers from Sharper Image. Yeah, an electric foot massager from Sharper Image...FOR YOUR MIND! At least in the short-term, that is. The long-term prognosis still involves accidentally sitting on a pair of Sharper Image barbeque tongs.
I suppose what really annoys me about the deal is that the Giants had to outbid other teams. C'mon, folks. Did you really need Shea Hillenbrand more than the Giants did? Couldn't you have deferred just this once? If Casey Kotchman and Brad Wilkerson don't suck this year, the Giants get Hillenbrand for Alfredo Simon and don't look back. Dang it. This was a lot to give up for a rental.