Maybe my problem is that I'm stepping back too far and not evaluating the Melky trade in the context of the entire offseason. Cabrera on the team probably means no more Cody Ross or Andres Torres, and that makes a ton of sense if you just ignore everything before 2011. But stripped of context, trading a player of Jonathan Sanchez's potential with one year left on his contract for Melky Cabrera, who is in a similar situation, makes a lot of sense.
Here's where the trade can kill the Giants. From Baggs:
Source told me the Giants strongly considering B. Crawford at SS if they could improve lineup elsewhere. Melky is a move in that direction.
Oh. And Ken Rosenthal:
The team still could add to that mix, but free agent Carlos Beltran no longer looks like a fit and the GIANTS probably won’t be a serious bidder for free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, either.
There's a chance this is it, the big move. There's no way that Sabean can stop tinkering, but there's a strong chance this is the offense, give or take an Alex Gonzalez. Here's what the Giants are hoping:
C: Posey > Whiteside/Stewart
1B: Trim Huff > Squishy Huff
2B: Freddy Sanchez > Keppinger
SS: Brandon Crawford/Other > Tejada
3B: Pablo being Pablo
LF: Belt > Burrell/Ross
CF: Melky > 2010 Torres
RF: Nate being Nate
And when you take it position-by-position, it's not that insane. There are no guarantees that Freddy can throw a baseball, or that Huff is going to desquishy, but I wouldn't say that any of those things are especially unlikely. Actually, I'd say that each of them is likely. Baseball will give you the ol' real admiral if you get too complacent, so it's not like there will be automatic improvements everywhere because we say so. But the offense should be better if the Giants stay the same.
That's only because it can't get worse. And I'm not saying that in some abstract, here's-what-I-hope kind of way. It would take deliberate sabotage for the Giants to get worse offensively. They scored 570 runs. That's fewer runs than the expansion Marlins in '93, Rays in '98, Mets in '62, Mariners in '77 ... basically, every time a team had to build an offense from the foundations up, using the squid scraps that the rest of the league left over, they fared better than the 2011 Giants.
They were 14 runs better than the franchise record for a 162-season -- the 100-loss '85 team -- so things weren't all bad!
And it wasn't just the .242/.303/.368 team line that killed them. It was their hitting with runners on base. Based on the hits they did get, the Giants should have scored 626 runs if you go by Runs Created. I'm not a stats maven, so I probably screwed that up. But the offense shouldn't have been quite that wretched. It should have been merely awful.
Now it looks like the Giants will improve because there's no other direction to go. The Posey/Whitestew swap is huge, and there's the hope that Belt will be better. Huff can't get worse and stay in the lineup, so that will improve by default.
The Giants, as is, should probably score more than the 2011 Giants, even if they don't make another move.
Here's the problem with that thinking: That is such a dismal benchmark. What a depressing bar to set.
By replacing these Twinkies deep-fried in goose fat with Twinkies sauteed in olive oil, we now have a healthier snack! Hooray!
The hitting still isn't good. And the pitching still is. There's no imagination as to what the team could be with a good offense. An average offense helped them win the World Series. Imagine a good offense. Flip that Crawford/Gonzalez/Yuni hole with Reyes. Get Beltran in there for 130 games. Now step back and look at it. So purty.
Instead, we'll get Alex Gonzalez. And Ryan Ludwick. Don't know why, but that name keeps rattling around in my head as a fourth outfielder who moves into the lineup when Belt starts the season 3-for-15. If Rosenthal is right, though, what you see right now is pretty much what you'll get. The Giants are the C- student of wealthy franchises.