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Rental Players and Hidden Fees

The clinical name is javiertitis. It's the belief that one player can come in and do everything right for a team that needs everything to go right. Trade for a player, have him do only good things, and reap the rewards. IT CAN HAPPEN. Look at Javier Lopez last year. The Giants won the division by two games. With, say, Jack Taschner in there, they might not have.

Apropos of nothing: this makes me think that Javier is doing some kind of Dr. Sam Beckett thing. Somewhere in another dimension, he learned to throw left-handed, Dean Stockwell shuttled him here, and so it goes.

Heck, even if he wasn't exactly the reason the Giants won the World Series, he made this game possible, which is probably worth a Bowker or two in retrospect. But I'm willing to believe that without Javier Lopez, things would have gone much differently last year. That led to some nasty javiertitis. It's why I wasn't completely and wholly against trading Zack Wheeler for two months of Carlos Beltran.

The road to recovery is long and arduous. I think I'm on it.

If there's a lesson from this year, it's that it is absolutely idiotic to expect anything from a single player over a two month stretch. And it's not Beltran's skeleton of breadsticks that's making me feel like this. Of course players get injured. Fear of injury is a good reason to avoid a short-term trade, but it's not the best one. No, the best reason is that one player is really, really unlikely to make a big difference. The epiphany came after Orlando Cabrera's two errors yesterday.

The Giants sent six potential years of Thomas Neal (something between Mike Aldrete and Lance Niekro, most likely) away for a small defensive upgrade. Brandon Crawford isn't close to a good hitter, but he's pretty close to the same player that Cabrera is right now. The difference, if there is one, is that Cabrera is supposed to be a little steadier with the glove.

Yet Cabrera made two errors yesterday.

Yet the Giants won by two runs.

That's the whole point. When a team trades for a player to do very specific things for two months, he might not do those things in the games they win, and he might do them in the games they lose. Over a full season, it could make a difference. Over two months, you're flipping a coin. Maybe it's a homemade coin that's wonky enough to give slightly different odds one way or the other, but it's still nothing you can trust.

I've always been confused by those WAR numbers that said the difference between Pablo Sandoval and Jose Castillo in 2009 was five wins. I'm too stupid to understand the math, so I don't say anything, but only five wins? Fewer than one extra win per month? It's hard to believe. One player is terrible. One player is good. And the idea is that if the Giants made a deadline deal to replace a player like Castillo with a player like Pablo in 2009, it would have netted an extra two wins on average for the remainder of the season.

I get it now, though. Some of Pablo's solo home runs would have come in two-run games, some of his hits would have come in games that were out of reach one way or the other. And even a bad hitter like Castillo would get his hits, and some of them would help the Giants win an occasional game. It takes a while to add up.

Now consider the difference between Cabrera and Crawford, which wouldn't be nearly as great as Pablo/Castillo. Even the difference between Beltran and Torres wouldn't come close to that, even if Beltran were healthy. Yet the Giants traded away a pretty danged good prospect on the gamble. I didn't hate it at the time. And it still could look really smart over the next month-and-a-half! But I think I'm cured. No more rental players unless it's a great player for a bag of pistachios. The risk/reward just isn't there.

The cure for javiertitis? A cabrenema. Clean it all out, boys. Let's start fresh.