Giants Trades and Free Agents

Over the years, a fair amount of things have been said by fans, by sportswriters, by baseball executives, and by commentators of every stripe about the trading practices of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. Of course, this being a family site, we can't publish any of them, except to note that the general consensus is that when it comes to trading practices, well, "practice" has not made "perfect."

Everyone has a favorite gripe. Cepeda-for-Sadecki, for instance. "A stunningly bad move," wrote Steve Treder at hardballtimes.com.  How about Bob Knepper for Enos Cabell?  Gregg Pearlman, of "EEEEEE!" fame, recalled, "We used to pass time making up player trades. We don't know which of us came up with this one, but it went like this: Bob Knepper to the Astros for Enos Cabell. How we laughed! How absurd! No team could be that stupid, not even our team."  Years ago Bill James analyzed the Giants' trading record from 1963 to 1972 and concluded that the team's value deficit was "enough talent to turn 7 last-place teams into pennant winners."   We could go on and on.

Well, in fact, we do go on and on, and on, and on, and.... What follows is a purely personal review of every significant trade, sale, free-agent signing, or free-agent departure by and from the San Francisco Giants. We've assigned a letter grade in the familiar A-B-C-D-F pattern to each trade, based upon value given for value received. As for free-agent signings, we haven't done any grading because they are harder to quantify, not being true exchanges of value. Someday, perhaps, we'll make the attempt.  

So, scroll through the ages as the Giants rumble, bumble, and stumble their way from the team which engineered "The Mother of All Asset-Squanderings" (credit our pal Treder above for that one) to the sleek, well-oiled, smart-trading machine we root for today. Analyze; ponder; consider: just how bad is the Giants' trading record, really? What was the worst trade? (Hint: neither Cepeda-for-Sadecki nor Knepper-for-Cabell made the grade.) What was the best trade? (Don't look now, but we can think of three trades right away that brought pennants with them.)  How, in the final analysis, does all of this balance out?

Read! Be amused, be offended! But please-- enjoy!




THE TRANSACTIONS


June 3, 1958
Signed Gaylord Perry as an amateur free agent.
Well, it took most of a decade to pay off, but pay off it did. Gaylord, at age 28 in 1966, discovered the spitball, won 21 games, and the rest is history.


August 25, 1958
Signed Jesus Alou as an amateur free agent.
The Giants were pioneers in aggressively pursuing and signing young Latin players. They'd already picked up Jesus' brothers Felipe and Matty, as well as a 17-year-old Juan Marichal, before the move to SF.


December 3, 1958
Traded Valmy Thomas and Ruben Gomez to Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for  Jack Sanford.
Sanford, 30, won 89 games in 7 years for the Giants, including 24 in 1962. Both Gomez and Thomas were about done; Gomez spent more time in the Mexican league than in the major leagues over the next decade. Grade: A.


March 25, 1959
Traded Bill White and Ray Jablonski to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Sam Jones and Don Choate.
In 'Frisco, White was stuck behind Orlando Cepeda; in St Louis he became a five-time All-Star. "Toothpick Sam" Jones was an All-Star right away for the Giants; he won 39 games in two years before fading away. Given the circumstances, this was at least better than Cepeda-for-Sadecki six years later, wasn't it? Grade: C-.

 
November 30, 1959
Traded Jackie Brandt, Gordon Jones and Roger McCardell to Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Billy O'Dell and Billy Loes.
With a surplus of outfielders and a need for pitching, this was a common-sense deal. O'Dell was 27, an All-Star, and he gave the Giants 900 innings and 56 wins in five years, including 19 in 1962. Brandt, considered a star in the making, gave the O's one fine year and a lot of mediocre ones in the '60s. The Giants hoped the veteran Loes would add a lot of extra value to this trade, but he didn't. Still a good one. Grade: B.


December 15, 1959
Traded Daryl Spencer and Leon Wagner to St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Don Blasingame.
All of these guys moved on within a year. "Daddy Wags" eventually became a folk hero with the colorful LA Angels of the '60s (remember Bo Belinsky and Dean Chance?), while Blasingame went on to help the Reds win their unlikely pennant in '61 and Spencer put in time in both towns. Those other teams might have something to say here, but the Giants and Cards really don't. Grade: C.


October 31, 1960
Traded Andre Rodgers to Milwaukee Braves in exchange for Al Dark.
How weird is this? The Giants swap a journeyman infielder for their next manager, who would lead them to 366 wins and a World Series over four seasons. That's 91 wins a year, sports fans, and that's a deal we'll make ever day of the week and twice on Sunday. Grade: A.


December 3, 1960
Traded  Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland to Cleveland Indians in exchange  for Harvey Kuenn.
Former pitching ace Antonelli was washed up, so it was young wannabe-slugger Kirkland for veteran singles-hitter Kuenn. Harvey was a valuable outfielder and utilityman for four years; we shudder to think how many doubles the team might have given up with McCovey or Cepeda in left field full time. Kirkland, who hit 57 homers in three years with SF, had one good year for the Indians. After that he simply forgot how to hit a baseball, though it took the Tribe and the Senators five years to notice. Timely move by the Giants. Grade: B.


April 27, 1961
Traded Bob Schmidt, Don Blasingame and a PTBNL to Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Ed Bailey.
Blasingame helped the Reds win the '61 pennant, though looking at the numbers it's difficult to see how. He was certainly no better than Joey Amalfitano or Chuck Hiller, who replaced him in SF. Bailey helped the Giants win 276 games and a pennant in his three years, was still playing well when Tom Haller replaced him, and brought two good pitchers in trade. Schmidt, the Giants' former catcher, did nothing for the Reds, though he had one good season left in the AL. Grade: A.


November 30, 1961
Traded  Eddie Fisher, Dom Zanni, Bob Farley and a PTBNL to Chicago White Sox  in exchange for  Billy Pierce and Don Larsen.
Pierce, 35, went 16-6 in 1962 as the Giants won the pennant; he started two World Series games and won one. Larsen, at 33 a full-time reliever, won another Series game to go with his ten saves. Of the tradees, only Fisher did anything, and he did a lot: 64 saves in three years for Chicago and Baltimore, won a ring in 1966, and pitched until 1973. The Giants could have used him at least a few of those years, but let's face it: 1962 was special, and Pierce and Larsen were a big part of it. Grade: B-.


December 15, 1962
Traded Stu Miller, Mike McCormick and John Orsino to Baltimore Orioles  in exchange for Jack Fisher, Billy Hoeft and Jimmie Coker.
Miller, at 33 a year removed from an All-Star season, was still one of the best relievers in the game, and he proved it over four superb years in Baltimore. After 51 wins in four seasons, McCormick, still only 23, was the odd man out in the rotation in '62, and while he didn't do much until he came back to the Giants four years later, the SF rotation was awfully thin and without an effective lefty in 1964 and 1965. For this, the Giants got 5 ABs from Coker, two wins from Hoeft, and a 5.97 ERA from Fisher, all of whom were gone after one year. No way to defend this train wreck. Grade: F.


December 3, 1963
Traded  Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft and a PTBNL to Milwaukee Braves for Del Crandall, Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley.
Was this considered a "blockbuster" trade at the time? Felipe and Bailey were fine players, Shaw had posted sub-3 ERAs back-to-back for the pitching-poor Braves, and Crandall was a perennial All-Star coming off one bad season. Well, the Braves win this one. Felipe's six solid seasons from 1964-1969 outweigh Shaw's excellent 1965 and Hendley's decent '64, neither of the catchers had anything left, and the Giants remained one good outfielder short for a decade. Grade: D.


January 1, 1964
Signed Masanori Murakami as an amateur free agent.
Notable because Murakami was the first Japanese player to sign a major-league contract. In two years he pitched 89 innings, won five, saved nine, hardly walked anyone, and posted a nice WHIP and K/W ratio. Too bad he went back to play in Japan.  We'll take a guy like that any day.


February 1, 1965
Traded Billy O'Dell to Milwaukee Braves for Ed Bailey.

Why would you trade a proven left-handed veteran pitcher who had won 19 games in 1962 for a guy you already traded away two years earlier? Well... why indeed? O'Dell was 32, but he went 10-6 with a 2.18 as the Braves' top reliever. Bailey, 34, had exactly 28 at-bats with the Giants before being traded away yet again as part of a zero-sum deal. Grade: D.


May 22, 1965 
Traded Jose Pagan to Pittsburgh Pirates for Dick Schofield.
Two 30-year-old shortstops, neither of whom could hit a lick. Schofield managed .203 at the 'Stick and moved on after one year. Both these guys stayed in the game for another decade as defensive specialists. Grade: C.


May 29, 1965
Traded Harvey Kuenn, Ed Bailey and Bob Hendley to Chicago Cubs for Dick Bertell and Len Gabrielson.

Kuenn, a former batting champ, was the only player in the deal with pedigree, but he was 36 and had less than a season left. Bailey, subject of a pointless spring-training deal, was likewise near the end. The Cubs saw value in Hendley, 26, and over three years he appeared in 68 games for them, mostly in relief. Gabrielson, 25, was the key to the deal for the Giants,and he hit well in 88 games in left field in '65. He slumped badly the following year, lost his job, and was traded. Bertell was strictly a throw-in. Grade: C-.


July 19, 1965
Warren Spahn signed as a free agent after being released by the Mets.

"Don't you know there's a pennant race on?" The Giants hoped to coax perhaps a dozen more wins out of the 44-year-old Spahn's left arm; he'd already won 360. They got three.


August 18, 1965
Sold Jack Sanford to California Angels.

The veteran campaigner who started three games in the 1962 World Series had not recovered after logging 550 innings in '62-'63. He had one good year left, as a reliever, for the Angels in '66.


December 1, 1965
Traded Matty Alou to Pittsburgh Pirates for Ozzie Virgil and Joe Gibbon.

AaaaaaaaARRRRGHHHH!!!! Matty promptly won the NL batting title with a .342 mark in '66, and was still over .300 six years (and two trades) later. Gibbon, a lefty swingman, started 20 games over four years with one decent season in 1967, while Virgil had all of 90 major-league ABs left. Meanwhile, left field remained a Giant weak spot until Gary Matthews' arrival in 1973-- Matty Alou's last season. Grade: D.


May 8, 1966
Traded Orlando Cepeda to St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Sadecki.

Yes, the trade had to be made; Cepeda was coming off a serious injury and Willie McCovey was the better player. But the Giants expected to receive a lefty ace they could pair with Juan Marichal; instead they got a replacement-level guy whose 20-11 '64 season clearly had been a fluke. Cepeda won the 1967 NL MVP with the world champion Cardinals; Sadecki lost 18 games for the second-place Giants a year later.
Grade: D-.


June 10, 1966
Sold Bob Shaw to New York Mets.

The veteran right-hander, for whom the Giants had traded Felipe Alou back in 1963, had gone 16-9, 2.64 in 235 innings for the club in '65. Off to a poor start, he was shipped to the Mets for beer and pretzels, and went 11-10, 3.92, in 25 starts for the league's worst team. Sure, he was through a year later, but just looking at '66, mightn't he have helped overcome LA's one-and-a-half-game margin? Horace, what's the frequency?


December 13, 1966
Traded Cap Peterson and Bob Priddy to Washington Senators for Mike McCormick.

Timing is everything. McCormick, in his second stint with the Giants, went 22-10 in 1967 and won the Cy Young Award. He pitched unremarkably in SF for two years afterward, then brought a good pitching prospect in trade. Peterson was out of baseball three years later, while Priddy won a total of 15 games for four teams in five years. Grade: A.


February 13, 1968
Traded Tom Haller to Los Angeles Dodgers for Ron Hunt and Nate Oliver.

After six fine seasons with the Giants, Haller, at 30, was starting to decline, and the Giants had Dick Dietz ready to step in. Hunt proved an outstanding leadoff man and good second baseman, both of which the Giants desperately needed. His OBP was over .360 all three of his years in SF and he should have stayed longer-- he was essentially given away to Montreal after 1970, and went on to post OBPs over .360 for four more years with the Expos. Haller gave the Dodgers three decent seasons after the trade; Dietz's four seasons for the Giants were much better. Oliver, the throw-in on the deal, did nothing for the Giants. 
Grade: B+.


October 14, 1968
Jesus Alou claimed by Montreal in the expansion draft. Ollie Brown claimed by San Diego in the expansion draft.

Addition by subtraction? The youngest Alou was a funny case. The more he played, the better he hit, but he missed 40 games in '68, played poorly, and the Giants were hoping to move Jim Ray Hart to left field anyway. Signing with Houston instead of Montreal, Alou hit over .300 twice in his four years in the 'Dome. Meanwhile, "Downtown" Ollie had been replaced in right by Bobby Bonds and was expendable; after two good seasons with the Padres he lost his power stroke but hung on until 1977 playing for several teams.


August 8, 1969
Traded a PTBNL to Detroit Tigers for Don McMahon.

A small but good trade. McMahon was one of the game's best relievers even at age 40. He saved 19 games in 1970 and won 10 in the 1971 pennant season. Grade: A.



July 20, 1970
Traded Mike McCormick to New York Yankees for John Cumberland.

The 1967 Cy Young winner, now 32, had reverted to journeyman form and would be finished a year later. He brought Cumberland in trade, whose nine wins and 2.92 ERA in 185 innings in '71 helped the Giants win the division, though he accomplished little afterward. Grade: B+.


May 29, 1971
Traded George Foster to Cincinnati Reds for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert.

"What were they thinking?" Foster had done nothing yet, but was only 22. Duffy, two years older, was a shortstop-- but the Giants already had Chris Speier. Adding insult to injury, Duffy was then thrown in on the Gaylord Perry trade! To cap the climax, Geishert never played another game in the major leagues. Foster, of course, hit over 200 home runs in six seasons with the Reds. Grade: F.


November 29, 1971
Traded Gaylord Perry and Frank Duffy to Cleveland Indians for Sam McDowell.

Looking only at the numbers, one could defend this trade. Perry was 33 and had averaged 300 innings per year for six straight seasons. McDowell was 29, a lefthander, with great seasons in 1968 and 1970, and was coming off one bad year. Four years younger, he had 122 career wins to Perry's 134 while being worked much less hard. Who figured that Perry would go on to win 180 more games and two Cy Young Awards, while McDowell would win 19 and be done before his 33rd birthday? Let's just note that somebody failed to check up on their respective off-field activities, hah? And, by throwing in Duffy, the Giants essentially traded Perry's 180 wins and George Foster's 347 homers for McDowell's 11 wins in San Francisco. Worst trade ever. Grade: F.


April 14, 1972
Lost Dick Dietz to Los Angeles Dodgers on waivers.

This was truly tragic. Yes, Dietz was weak defensively, prone to injury, and 30 years old; he was also a terrific hitter and a tough guy. The club would not have won in '71 without him. The real reason he was waived was his militant leadership as the Giants' player rep during the brief 1972 season-delaying strike. Repeatedly injured in LA, he played in only 78 more games before retiring.


May 11, 1972
Traded Willie Mays to New York Mets for Charlie Williams and $50,000.

Little to say here. Reputedly the only reason Williams came over is because Horace Stoneham adamantly refused to "sell Willie Mays." (He had no such reservations about selling anybody else.) Used primarily in relief, Williams pitched 500 innings over six seasons with the Giants, including three pretty good years in 1974-1976. Grade: C.


April 17, 1973
Sold Jim Ray Hart to New York Yankees.

Sigh.... after five seasons as one of the best power hitters in baseball, Hart fell off the edge of the world in 1969, and the Giants eventually gave up on him. Had he taken care of himself and made the shift to left field, he might be in Cooperstown today. If you don't believe us, take a look at those 1964-1968 numbers again and project them out over another decade.


October 25, 1973
Traded Willie McCovey and Bernie Williams to San Diego Padres for Mike Caldwell.

No, not that Bernie Williams. 'Mac' was 36, had bounced back strong after a miserable '72 season, and his trade value was up a notch. He hit 45 homers in two years for the Padres while the Giants searched for a first baseman. Caldwell, 25, gave the club one good season in '74, then tanked the next year and was included in a messy, multi-player, ultimately meaningless deal after the 1976 season. A rejuvenated McCovey came back to the Giants in '77, so you tell us: who won this trade? Grade: C-.


December 7, 1973
Sold Juan Marichal to Boston Red Sox.

Periodically, Horace Stoneham needed money, and when he needed money, he sold off some inventory. What was the "Dominican Dandy" worth at 35, after two bad years? Well, he had 63 major-league innings left...


October 22, 1974
Traded Bobby Bonds to New York Yankees for Bobby Murcer.

Bonds had the misfortune to have an off-year in '74. The Giants went 72-90, which made it easier to ignore his phenomenal 1969-1973 run. He wasn't The Next Willie Mays after all, so they traded him to the Yankees for Bobby Murcer, who had proved he wasn't The Next Mickey Mantle. The two players were comparable-- Murcer had better speed than people think, and Bonds wasn't as bad a fielder as his reputation-- before the trade. Afterward, Bonds, who had scored over 100 runs five straight years in 'Frisco, did so only once more. Murcer's decline was slightly steeper. Bonds brought Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers in trade, and the Yankees won; Murcer brought Bill Madlock, and the Giants didn't win. Nobody won this trade, either. Grade: C.


December 6, 1974
Traded Tito Fuentes and Butch Metzger to San Diego Padres for Derrel Thomas.

Tito, one of baseball's all-time 'hot dogs', was the last member of those great '3-M' Giants of the '60s to go. A utilityman most of his career, he had a fine season starting at second base in '73, cutting his errors from 29 to 6 (!) even as his total chances increased from 807 to 870. He never played as well again. Thomas, another well-known 'hot dog' (remember his 'flyswatter catch'?) was a decent utilityman for three years in SF, then was traded back to San Diego for Mike Ivie, which for a time looked like the steal of the century. It wasn't. Grade: B.


February 28, 1975
Sold Dave Kingman to New York Mets for $150,000.

Stoneham was losing money hand over fist as fans abandoned the 'Stick for more pleasant diversions. The Giants had farted around with Kingman for three years, including 119 starts at third base in 1972-1973; despite this he hit 59 homers in his first 900 at-bats. Finally given the first-base job in '74, he had a disappointing season. This may have angered Stoneham, since the McCovey trade had been so unpopular: cha-ching, there he goes, nice payday. Well, over the next decade or so, Kingman hit 365 homers for six teams. (Few will remember the Giants signed him as a free agent a week after the big trade with San Diego in July 1987; Kingman ultimately chose to stay retired, probably because he couldn't DH in the NL.)


May 4, 1975
Traded Garry Maddox to Philadelphia Phillies for Willie Montanez.

"Hey, we need a first baseman-- we just sold ours to the Mets!" "Great, let's trade our center fielder for a first baseman!" "Sounds good-- this first baseman hits just as well as our center fielder!" "IT'S A DEAL!" Maddux was the Phillies' starting center fielder for the next six years as they won four division titles and a World Championship. Meanwhile, Montanez was gone from SF after two seasons. He did bring Darrell Evans in trade, though, so we won't flunk ya. Grade: D.


May 9, 1975
Traded Ron Bryant to St. Louis Cardinals for Larry Herndon.

Bryant, winner of 24 games in 1973, was sailing away from the game on a great river of alcohol. Though prone to injury, Herndon was a solid outfielder for the Giants from 1976 through 1981. Grade: B.


December 8, 1975
Traded Pete Falcone to St. Louis Cardinals for Ken Reitz.

Don't even look at the aftermath for now, just look at the face value. Falcone, a 21-year-old rookie lefthander, had started 32 games and gone 12-11, 4.17, for a bad team. Reitz, in 1700 career at-bats, had 18 homers, 56 (!) walks, and a career OBP south of .300. The Giants already had a third baseman, Steve Ontiveros, with similar range and fielding average-- and a .391 OBP. Who in tarnation makes a deal like this? Aftermath: both Reitz and Ontiveros were gone after one year; each fetched some small value in trade. Falcone never became a star; he had recurring arm issues amid some good and bad seasons. Absolutely awful, indefensible trade. Grade: D-.


June 13, 1976
Traded Willie Montanez, Craig Robinson, Mike Eden and Jake Brown to Atlanta Braves for Darrell Evans and Marty Perez.
What's not to like? Four stiffs (well, OK, Montanez wasn't a bad ballplayer) for the great Darrell Evans! Grade: A.

Gary Matthews granted Free Agency.
The Giants' first significant loss of the Free Agent era. Off goes Matthews, the team's best player for three seasons, to a fine career over the next decade, including a World Series with the Phillies in 1983.


December 10, 1976
Traded Ken Reitz to St. Louis Cardinals for Lynn McGlothen.

Can we say Lynn McGlothen (2-9, 5.62, 52 walks, 42 strikeouts, 94 hits in 80 innings during his one year with the Giants) is the "Ken Reitz" of pitchers? Grade: D.


January 6, 1977
Willie McCovey signed as a free agent.

The feel-good story of the decade. McCovey, a spring NRI, not only made the club, he started at first base. Not only did he start, but he was, at 39, the team's best player with solid numbers across the board. This year's success obliged the team to carry him for the next two seasons, even as his numbers and playing time dwindled, until his retirement on July 6, 1980 as the most beloved San Francisco Giant of all time.


February 11, 1977
Traded Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros to Chicago Cubs for Bill Madlock and Rob Sperring.

A win-win for both clubs as the principals (Murcer and Madlock) wanted out of their respective situations. "Mad Dog" managed to hit over .300 both his years at Candlestick, including 1978 when he moved to second base. (Surprisingly, he fielded .974 at second compared to .949 at third, though his range was abysmal.) Madlock also brought three good pitchers in trade at midseason 1979, which extended his Giant value considerably. Murcer had three decent years at Wrigley before finishing up as a part-timer with his old ballclub, the Yankees. Sperring never played for the Giants, but he did bring Rob Andrews in trade. Andrews started at second base in '77 and was terrible in the field, though he did draw 56 walks in 436 at-bats. Grade: B.


April 27, 1977
Traded Chris Speier to Montreal Expos for Tim Foli.

Now this made a lot of sense, didn't it? Two players with essentially the same skills at the same age. Speier had slumped to .226, and Foli had about 10% better range in the field, but essentially this amounted to a giveaway because the Giants sold Foli to the Mets after the 1977 season. So they picked up some cash and ended up with Johnnie LeMaster at short. Speier continued on for another decade, including a second stint with the Giants, and had only one real awful year (1984). He certainly was more valuable than LeMaster over the same period, as was Foli, who had a similar career trajectory. Grade: D.


February 28, 1978
Traded Derrel Thomas to San Diego Padres for Mike Ivie.

Along about 1979 or so, this looked like a steal. Ivie had a great season as a pinch-hitter and part-timer in '78, then put up .286/.359/.547 in 1979. He was still only 27 when he abruptly "quit" the game in midseason 1980, on the verge of taking over for retiring McCovey as the team's full-time first baseman. Though an off-season injury had contributed to his troubles, his rash decision to walk cost him any further chance with the Giants. However, he did bring further value to the team in trade for Jeffrey Leonard and Dave Bergman. Thomas went on to a modest career as a utilityman for many clubs. Grade: B-.


March 15, 1978
Traded Gary Alexander, Gary Thomasson, Dave Heaverlo, Alan Wirth, John Henry Johnson, Phil Huffman, $300,000 and a PTBNL to Oakland Athletics for Vida Blue.

Spec Richardson's signature deal as Giants GM was exactly what the stagnating ballclub needed at the time. Blue was not only a fine pitcher, he was a colorful, quotable local hero, and few minded when he received much of the credit for 1978's surprise turnaround. Vida gave the Giants four years, three of them excellent, and later brought Atlee Hammaker in trade. None of the seven players the Giants gave up ever did much, so the ultimate cost was almost nil. After all these years, we still smile when we remember this deal being announced. Grade: A+.


June 28, 1979
Traded Bill Madlock, Lenny Randle and Dave Roberts to Pittsburgh Pirates for Ed Whitson, Fred Breining and Al Holland.

Madlock couldn't stay healthy at second, and he wasn't about to move Darrell Evans off third, so there was no place for him to play. Considering both Breining and Holland were key figures in the 1982 pennant race, and that Whitson ate up 434 innings over two full seasons, and considering Madlock's two good years in SF as well, this is a defensible trade, even acknowledging that Madlock hit .328 for the world champion Pirates in '79 and gave them four good seasons after that. Grade: C+.


December 12, 1979
Milt May signed as a free agent. Rennie Stennett signed as a free agent.

The Giants' first forays into the open free-agent market. They desperately needed a catcher and a second baseman, and tried to address those needs here. May played four seasons with the Giants; his best was the strike year of 1981. Like several Giants catchers after him, he was a lefty-swinging singles hitter with no power and modest defensive skills-- but still an improvement over Marc Hill and Mike Sadek. Stennett, on the other hand, was a complete bust (.244/.286/.302), but he did force the Giants to look elsewhere for a second baseman, and ultimately they signed Joe Morgan.


December 8, 1980
Traded Bob Knepper and Chris Bourjos to Houston Astros for Enos Cabell.

With the execrable Rich Murray forced to man first base for half the 1980 season, the club certainly had a crying need here. But Knepper for Cabell? Admittedly, Knepper had struggled for two years after his breakthrough '78, but a 27-year-old left-hander with 800 innings under his belt has to fetch more than a .276 hitter with no power, no speed, and who had just led the league with 29 errors at first base. And they even threw in another player! Oh, the humanity! Knep wasn't Gaylord Perry, but he did go on to win 93 games for the Astros from 1981-1988. And Cabell? After one year, they traded him for Champ Summers, who was better but still not worth the price. Grade: D-.


December 12, 1980
Traded John Montefusco and Craig Landis to Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander.

File this under "addition by subtraction." The one-time "Count" had never matched his first two seasons (15-9 and 16-14 for bad teams) and after being decked by manager Dave Bristol late in the season, Montefusco's days as a Giant were numbered. (As it happened, he was traded the same week Bristol was fired.) In return, Alexander gave the Giants one solid season (11-7. 2.89, 152 IP in the strike year of '81) before moving on. It remains one of the two or three best of his well-traveled career. As for "The Count", he didn't regain his form until a last hurrah with the Padres and the Yankees in 1983. Had Alexander stayed longer, this would rate higher. Grade: C+.


February 9, 1981
Joe Morgan signed as a free agent.

One of Tom Haller's first moves as GM, and certainly aided by Frank Robinson's presence as the new manager. Quoth Bill James, "He's lost 80 points off his batting average, lost 60% of his power and 70% of his speed... and still has the highest offensive won-lost record of any NL second baseman." And Morgan was even better in 1982. The Giants' best free-agent signing until the arrival of Brett Butler.

April 20, 1981
Traded Mike Ivie to Houston Astros for Dave Bergman and Jeffrey Leonard.

Two years of Ivie had been good for the Giants, and in exchange for the remaining 118 games of his career they got seven years from the "Hac Man" and three from Bergman, a valuable backup and occasional starter. Leonard (aka "Penitentiary Face") took awhile to get untracked, and his legendary surliness eventually cost him his job, but from 1984-1987 he was a stud. Grade: A.


November 14, 1981
Traded Ed Whitson to Cleveland Indians for Duane Kuiper.

For reasons we can't recall, Whitson took a lot of fans' heat for the team's awful 1979 and 1980 seasons. He wasn't bad, just average, and he worked hard, but it's ironic that one of our most unpopular players was traded for the ultra-popular 'Kuip'. Finishing up a rather mediocre career, Kuiper had two good seasons at the 'Stick-- he quadrupled his walks rate in '82-- while Whitson began a ten-year three-team odyssey. Not a lot of accomplishments on either side of this one. Grade: C.


December 11, 1981
Traded Jerry Martin to Kansas City Royals for Rich Gale and Bill Laskey.

Plagued by drug rumors, Martin had only one year left. Gale and Laskey combined for 60 starts in '82, with Gale's awfulness canceling out Laskey's fine rookie debut. The Giants traded Gale for spare parts, while Laskey started 78 games over the next three years. Too bad he never matched his rookie numbers. Grade: C+.


February 27, 1982
Reggie Smith signed as a free agent.

Wrapping up a fine career, Smith switched from the outfield to first base at Frank Robinson's request, and went .284/.364/.470 in 99 starts. Haller took a lot of heat for not re-signing him in '83, but nobody else did, either.


March 30, 1982
Traded Vida Blue and Bob Tufts to Kansas City Royals for Renie Martin, Craig Chamberlain, Atlee Hammaker and Brad Wellman.

Once the obligatory wailing and gnashing of teeth had subsided, fans began to realize this was a pretty good trade. Vida was 34 and he could still pitch, but he won only 13 games in two years for the Royals. Meanwhile, Martin, after a terrible '82 season as a starter (64 walks in 141 innings!) had two good years in the 'pen. Hammaker-- well, we know what happened later, but he was a fine starter for two years. Even Wellman added depth. Plus we got Vida back in 1985. Grade: B.


December 14, 1982
Traded Joe Morgan and Al Holland to Philadelphia Phillies for Mike Krukow, Mark Davis and Charles Penigar.
Hard to defend trading away a Hall of Famer who just helped you get within two games of the pennant, even if said HOFer is 40 years old. Harder still when you throw in your second-best lefty relief pitcher. Indeed, Morgan and Holland promptly helped the geriatric Phillies get to the World Series. On the other hand, you get in return one of the most popular players in San Francisco history, the ineffable 'Kruke'. Without question, his best years were spent in SF, even if the first three were spent laboring for a lousy team. Davis lost 17 games in 1985 but later figured in the Giants' greatest trade ever. Looking only at value received for value lost, this trade is a wash. The minus is added because, well, you just don't trade Joe Morgan. Grade: C-.


November 7, 1983
Darrell Evans granted Free Agency
.
The single most calamitous decision of the Haller era. A major black eye for the franchise.




December 20, 1983 
Manny Trillo signed as a free agent.

Joe Morgan had replaced Trillo in Philadelphia, so... You don't suppose they thought they were getting another Joe Morgan, do you? Naah, not our Giants. Heck, Trillo wasn't even Duane Kuiper, but he started 223 games over the next two seasons and helped the 1984 club solidify its reputation as having the worst infield in organized baseball.


February 27, 1984
Traded Fred Breining and Max Venable to Montreal Expos for Al Oliver.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. We all loved Breining, but he was having arm troubles, and Oliver, at 37, still could hit. Except at Candlestick. Look at his record. One year stands out. Guess which year? Grade: C-.


August 20, 1984
Traded Al Oliver and a PTBNL to Philadelphia Phillies for Kelly Downs and George Riley.

Had Kelly Downs panned out instead of flaming out with repeated injuries, this would rate an A. It's still a good trade. Kelly had his moments in '86 and '87, and helped win a NLCS game in 1989. The throw-in was Renie Martin, who had 15 career innings left. Grade: B.


January 26, 1985
Traded Gary Lavelle to Toronto Blue Jays for Jim Gott.

Not as bad as you might think. Lavelle was one of the best in the game with the Giants, saving 127 games in ten years. He saved 9 in two years for Toronto. Gott won 7 games for the Giants in 1985. His career high was 9. We'll trade 9 saves for 7 wins any day of the week. Grade: C+.


February 1, 1985
Traded Jack Clark to St. Louis Cardinals for David Green, Gary Rajsich, Dave LaPoint and Jose Uribe.

Clark was ready to walk as a free agent after '85, so the team decided to get what they could while they could. Considering his stock had dropped after a hip injury that sidelined him for much of 1984, the Giants could've done worse. They got one starter, Uribe, who held down shortstop for the next six years, four of them good. Green, who looked quite attractive as a 22-year-old at trade time, got ugly fast when we all discovered he'd lied about his age and was really 25. LaPoint was a bum whom Al Rosen peddled the minute the season ended. So it comes down to Clark for Uribe. Clark had one MVP-worthy "Jack Clark" season for the Cards, in 1987 (35 homers, 136 walks, .597 slugging) when they reached the World Series. (Oddly, because of injury, he played little against the Giants in the NLCS.) They let him go after that and he never reached that level again. Of his ten best seasons-- and they were good seasons-- half came in SF, half later. So that's maybe one-third of Clark's career for all of Uribe's. Given the situation, and the benefit of hindsight, how bad a trade was this? Grade: C.



April 6, 1985 
Vida Blue signed as a free agent.
The Irrepressible One came back to the Bay, went 18-18 in two seasons, inspired a young Giants team with his enthusiasm, and then let his enthusiasm for the "420" get a little out of hand. Now in his sixties, he remains a roving ambassador for Our Team (and not "Massuh Finley's").


December 11, 1985
Traded Alex Trevino to Los Angeles Dodgers for Candy Maldonado.

"Is Al Rosen a genius or what?" Prior to October 13, 1987, Candy was among the most beloved of Giants. How's 170 RBI in two years, plus his pinch-hitting exploits of 1986, for a third-string catcher with 244 career RBI? Granted, '88 and '89 were a wash, but this trade wasn't. Grade: A.



July 4, 1986 
Steve Carlton signed as a free agent.

It's not that he did well-- he didn't, and was released a month later-- it's that our front office had the cojones to take a chance on the 41-year-old legend in the first place. "Hey, we're trying to win this thing, folks!" We fans hadn't seen that in a long, long time.


March 31, 1987
Traded Dan Gladden to Minnesota Twins for a PTBNL.

Gladden voiced his disappointment with the trade by predicting the Giants would win it all. As it turned out, his Twins won it all instead. In his career, he only had three seasons with a OBP over .350 to justify his leadoff-man status, and his best year was '84 with the Giants. The PTBNL? Lefty Bryan Hickerson, who proved valuable down the stretch in 1993. Grade: C.




July 5, 1987 
Traded Chris Brown, Keith Comstock, Mark Davis and Mark Grant to San Diego Padres for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell.

One of the great defining trades in San Francisco Giants history. Those of us who were there will always remember what an incredible kick-start this gave the team. Stuck at 40-40 on the day of the trade, the Giants went 50-32 and rolled to their first pennant in 16 years. Former journeyman Dravecky found himself as a starter, and in 1987 he was the league's top lefthander. Lefferts proved an outstanding rubber-armed reliever on two playoff teams. And Mitch-- well, for four years he was Jim Ray Hart with a gold-toothed smile and a ready laugh, and also the 1989 NL MVP. Of the tradees, only Davis made good, years later, as a closer with the Royals. No matter. This one's the cherry. Grade: A+.



July 31, 1987
Traded Mackey Sasser and $50,000 to Pittsburgh Pirates for Don Robinson.

Sasser, who had fallen behind Bob Melvin in the catching sweepstakes, never batted 300 times in a season after the trade, so cost was cheap. The 30-year old "Caveman," meanwhile,could do it all-- start, relieve, and hit, too (he had a .909 OPS in '87, better than you-don't-want-to-know-how-many Giants regulars). His four-year stint with the Giants was the best of his career, especially 1988 (10-5, 2.45) when he made the midseason switch from "swingman" to full-time starter. He won 22 games in 60 starts the next two years as the most consistent pitcher on a terribly unstable staff. An extreme fly-ball pitcher, he was especially effective on artificial turf. Sure, the Giants rewarded him with a big raise in 1991, and of course he lost his effectiveness almost immediately and was released at season's end, but remember, his Giants tenure included two trips to the postseason dance. Grade: A.



August 21, 1987 
Traded Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin to Pittsburgh Pirates for Rick Reuschel.

One of two "Jeff Robinsons" in the major leagues at the time, Jeff D. Robinson had been an effective young (23) middle reliever for the Giants, and would continue in that vein for five more years with bad teams. But Al Rosen likely would've given more to get Reuschel in this waiver-wire deal: "Big Daddy" completed the in-season transition of the Giants' pitching staff from an injury-riddled weakness to a veteran-dominated strength. Already 38 when he arrived with 170 career wins, Reuschel proved his worth over the next two years. In 1988 hewas the ace: 19-11 in 245 innings as the lone reliable starter, with literally everyone else falling to injury or ineffectiveness along the way. In '89 he won 17 more, started the All-Star game, and also made his one great post-season start, Game Five of the NLCS. As with most of Rosen's early moves, this one's a no-doubt-about-it winner. Grade: A.



December 1, 1987 
Brett Butler signed as a free agent.

"We've just won the World Series!" was our initial reaction to this news. The NL West champion '87 Giants had six players who hit over 20 homers but no real leadoff man; Butler not only replaced the departed Chili Davis in center, he was the best leadoff man available. He scored 109 runs in 1988 and had the Giants more than one legitimate starting pitcher, perhaps they would've won the World Series. He scored 100 more in '89 as we won the NL pennant, then had his best season at the 'Stick in 1990 (a league-leading 192 hits, 108 runs, .397 OBP). We'll deal with the subsequent decision not to re-sign him a little later; here we'll just say that signing him was one of the best moves this club ever made.


June 8, 1988
Traded Jeffrey Leonard to Milwaukee Brewers for Ernie Riles.

What have you done for me lately, huh? "Hac Man", hero of the 1987 NLCS in a losing cause and one of the team's best hitters during the Roger Craig Renaissance, got off to a lousy start in '88 and then alienated the entire team by engaging in a batting-practice altercation with Will Clark. Faster than you can say, "It's a m-----f---in' white man's world" (which was Leonard's oft-repeated clubhouse mantra in those days), off the reservation he goes. In return came the popular Riles, who kept the chair warm at third base for Matt Williams and thereby allowed Kevin Mitchell to switch to the outfield, and who made himself valuable in other ways over his three-year stint. 90% of both players' career value was earned with the Giants; that makes this a good, if small, trade. Grade: B+.


January 24, 1989 
Traded Bob Melvin to Baltimore Orioles for Terry Kennedy.
Like for like, young catcher for veteran. The Giants considered Melvin a bust after his wretched '88, and with Bob Brenly unable to play regularly, they made the deal for Kennedy, known as a "poor man's Ted Simmons" over his ten-year career. Like several other Giants catchers over the years, he hit lefthanded and hit well, though with modest power, and was considered below-average defensively. He'd made his rep with the pennant-winning Padres of '84, but by the time he arrived here was just good enough to keep the job. After two mediocre seasons he was supplanted in spring '91 by rookie bust Steve Decker, but ended up starting 69 games anyway before Kirt Manwaring took over. As for Melvin, the Giants were right about him; he never established himself as a starting catcher, though he's gone on to be a fine manager. And we did win the pennant with Kennedy in '89, which helps. Grade: B.
 


June 18, 1989 
Traded Terry Mulholland, Dennis Cook and Charlie Hayes to Philadelphia Phillies for Steve Bedrosian and a PTBNL. San Francisco Giants received Rick Parker (August 7, 1989).
The "Mike LaCoss Experiment" was such an unmitigated disaster that the whole league knew the Giants were desperate for a real closer. Mulholland and Cook won both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday; on Monday, they were Phillies. Both went on to long and valuable careers; Mulholland, of course, returned to San Francisco not once but twice over the next decade. But the goal was to win now, and without "Bedrock" it's unlikely the Giants would have won at all. The ultimate proof: three straight saves in Games Three, Four, and Five of the NLCS, including the last out of the pennant-winner. That Bedrosian only pitched effectively for half a season in Giants uniform is immaterial. He was brought in to win, and we won. (Parenthetical note: Parker made a contribution in 1990, and Hayes came back to do so later.) Grade: A.

August 4, 1989
Bob Knepper signed as a free agent.

Having traded away their only left-handed starters for Bedrosian, the Giants needed a southpaw and a fifth starter down the stretch. Knepper, the erstwhile Giant and subject of one of the worst trades ever (see December 8, 1980) started six games, winning three, over the final month as they sewed up the NL West. Kelly Downs' return from his annual injury kept Knepper off the postseason roster, but he returned to start a few more games in 1990 before finally hanging up the ol' spikes.


November 16, 1989
Kevin Bass signed as a free agent.

A worthy gamble that unhappily failed. Bass, one of the game's true class acts, was a fast-rising young star with the Astros when he tore up his knee. Though pronounced fully recovered, he never regained his speed, and recurring injuries limited him to less than 1800 innings in two-plus years with the Giants.


November 9, 1990
Buddy Black signed as a free agent.

Desperate for starting pitching, with a rotation made up of two rookies and three geriatric cases, the Giants broke the bank for Buddy, a talented lefty who, at 31, already had a decade of major-league experience under his belt. The product of a sound organization in KC, Black had always been a second-line starter with the Royals; with the Giants he was anointed ace of the staff the moment he signed his contract. It worked out about as well as most predicted; Black was a good, consistent, but unremarkable starter, soon passed by John Burkett and Trevor Wilson, and later by Bill Swift. Oddly, Black's true value to the team may have been revealed only by the career-ending injury that sidelined him in August 1993; without him the starting rotation was unable to keep pace with the red-hot Braves down the stretch.


December 3, 1990
Willie McGee signed as a free agent.

As a ballplayer, Willie McGee was solid, dependable, and versatile. As a replacement for Brett Butler in the leadoff spot and center field, he was unequal to the task. And fairly or unfairly, that's how Giants fans would have remembered him, were it not for 1993. Moved to right field and the sixth spot in one of Dusty Baker's forgotten masterstrokes, McGee responded with his best campaign since his MVP year of 1985, and was one of several big reasons the club won 103 games that season. The following year, he was still playing well when he tore his Achilles tendon, effectively ending his career.


December 4, 1990
Dave Righetti signed as a free agent.

Righetti, a Bay Area native and a childhood Giants fan, was welcomed home with open arms. A rookie lefthander with eye-popping "stuff" on the 1981 Yankees, "Rags" could well have won over 200 games in the major leagues had not Billy Martin converted him to a "closer" in 1983. By the time he arrived in SF, he was firmly established as one of the game's top relievers, and everybody forgets how good he was in '91 because the team was so awful. That was it, though; he lasted two more forgettable seasons before retiring at 34. Now, of course, "Rags" is the club's beloved pitching coach, the man who developed Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner. Will he ever take a manager's job? Does he even want a manager's job?
Traded Ernie Riles to Oakland Athletics for Darren Lewis and a PTBNL.
Let's see... Mike Ivie gave us two good years, then brought Jeffrey Leonard, who gave us four good years, and he brought Riles, who gave us three good years, most of them as a utilityman, and "Easy" then fetched Lewis, who was asked to bat leadoff and did so respectably in 1991. After that it was all downhill offensively (one of the great statistical anomalies is the Giants winning 103 games in 1993 with a .302 OBP at the top of the order), although his defensive skills kept him in demand for another decade with five clubs. The trade chain stops here, however-- Lewis brought no sustained value as a throw-in on the Mark Portugal deal four years later. Grade: C.


December 7, 1990
Brett Butler granted Free Agency.

A major blunder, equal in proportion and effect to the Darrell Evans debacle of a decade earlier. Al Rosen's open despisal of Butler's agent, Scott Boras, poisoned any chance at negotiation from the start, and the McGee signing a few days earlier telegraphed the club's intention. Butler was a great player who deserves Hall-of-Fame consideration, if not induction; the Giants' offense floundered without a leadoff man for six years. As Bill James noted, "I'm sure the Giants felt there was no justification for going higher (in dollars) for Butler than they would for McGee... They're wrong... We shouldn't overlook the possibility (they) really are stupid enough to believe that Willie McGee is a better hitter than Brett Butler just because he has a higher batting average."


June 19, 1991
Rick Reuschel released.
July 3, 1991
Mike LaCoss released.

Goodbye and Godspeed to two heroes of the Roger Craig Giants. Reuschel's 19-win 1988 campaign may have been the highlight of his long career. LaCoss did everything the team asked of him, and more. Both started playoff games for the Giants; Reuschel won the 1989 NLCS clincher. But it's a cold hard business at times: neither had done anything since early 1990, and by the time this news came down we all wondered what took 'em so long.


December 11, 1991
Traded Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger to Seattle Mariners for Bill Swift, Michael Jackson and Dave Burba.

"They're breakin' up that old gang o' mine..." Swapping the 1989 NL MVP for a sore-armed pitcher, a prospect, and a project was a clear indicator that Al Rosen believed he'd gotten all the mileage he could from that colorful, exciting '80s club, and it was time to move on. Seeing Mitchell go from a hard-working, popular if cheeky young slugger to an overweight, surly injury magnet in just three years was painful enough. After he'd been arrested (though never indicted) for a sordid crime in the early offseason (and this shortly after his ballpark-chauffeur/homeboy had been picked up leaving the 'Stick with a body in the trunk of his car), Rosen likely would've peddled him for a sack of peanuts. Instead the Giants got sinkerballer Swift, who immediately became the team ace, won 21 games and some Cy Young votes in 1993, and totaled 39 wins in three SF years out of 94 career total. He might've stayed longer if not for recurring arm issues which convinced the club to let him walk after 1994. Jackson developed almost immediately into a fireballing setup man for Rod Beck and likewise left after three years; he went on to be a solid closer for Cleveland and pitched in the '97 World Series. Then we have Burba, who won 10 games in '93 but did most of his work for other clubs. That's about seven good seasons of pitching in return for the final third of Mitch's career, which amounted to one good season (with the Reds in '94) and a lot of cameo appearances. What's that? Yes, we also have to count Remlinger, the one-time Giants phenom-turned-bust, whom most of us had forgotten by the time he took the mound against the Giants in the 2002 NLDS, and who went on to a 15-year career in several bullpens. What weighs heaviest in our favor is Mitch's five years in San Francisco, which were by far the best of his career and excellent by anybody's standard. We got 'em, they didn't, we also got a Cy Young season, and even if the relievers are a wash, this trade wasn't. Grade: B+.


December 8, 1992
Barry Bonds signed as a free agent.

Bobby's gifted, unquestionably pampered son, the phenomenally talented two-time NL MVP with Pittsburgh, had all but turned his back on the Pirates before his contract ran out, and thus left more than the usual bitterness behind. The shape of things to come? He won his third MVP the year he hit town, built the
greatest career of his era over the next few seasons, and then let loose with a four-MVP run from 2001-2004 that may never be equalled. On the way he set the season and lifetime records for homers, walks, and intentional walks, hit .370, had season OBPs in excess of .500, then .600, inspired at least one creepy motion picture, epitomized the distant, arrogant, vaguely hypersensitive modern athlete, and was reviled from coast to coast as a steroid-abusing "cheater." Meanwhile, the Giants contended every year for eight straight seasons, won three pennants, and reached a World Series they really should've won, a Series in which Barry Bonds set records for homers, walks, and OBP. Quite a legacy, huh? If the Hall of Fame voters don't
figure it out for themselves, that's their problem. The greatest player since Mays, and the greatest free agent signing to date.


October 25, 1993 
Will Clark granted Free Agency. 
"The Thrill is gone, baby, the Thrill is gone away." Bob Quinn refused to match a five-year contract such as the one Texas offered. Was he right? Will played out the five years in Arlington averaging over .300, but never again reached the Hall-of-Fame level he established from 1987-1992 in SF. The real mistake was made when the Giants failed to replace him with a quality player; it took three years to repair the damage.


November 21, 1993
Mark Portugal signed as a free agent.
In the "If you can't beat 'em, join'  em," department, this may be Exhibit A. Portugal, the Houston Astros' famed "Giant-killer," had reached the point where his mere presence on the mound ensured our defeat. After he went 18-4 in 1993, beating the Giants twice down the stretch in a race we lost by one game ("Mark Portugal owns the Giants," we wailed after one such loss), the club rushed to sign him, at least partly as salve for the painful loss of Will Clark to free agency. It worked out about as well as you'd think; having just cashed in on his career year, Portugal was in no hurry to have another. He won 15 games in 38 starts for the Giants before reality set in and forced a salary-dump trade. 


June 19, 1994
Darryl Strawberry signed as a free agent.
We'll never know, will we? "Straw" managed a .787 OPS in 29 games with the Giants before the strike killed the season, then was arrested for solicitation and drugs during the off-season, and it was 'adios, amigo' to the man with Cooperstown talent and no self-control. Still the greatest hitter in the history of the New York Mets, Strawberry finally earned a measure of redemption with the Yankees in 1998 at age 36. What we remember is the Giants were 35-50 when he joined the team and 20-10 afterward, and were about to take over first place when the hammer fell. 


December 22, 1994   
Traded John Burkett to Texas Rangers for Rich Aurilia and Desi Wilson.
How many Giants fans know this is how we got the ever-popular "Richie"? At the time, the focus was on losing both of our top two starters in one week-- Bill Swift, to free agency because we wouldn't pay what Colorado paid, and Burkett, quickly peddled before he could likewise cash in. The Giants then endured two dreadful, pitching-poor seasons before Aurilia began to pay off this trade.  From 1998 through 2003 Richie was one of the game's best shortstops, including his epochal 2001, and he played on three playoff teams. Meanwhile Burkett, who went to Florida rather than sign with Texas, won 99 games for several clubs (eventually including the Rangers) over the next decade, and, notably, pitched for six playoff teams. But 40% of Burkett's career wins were as a Giant, and he averaged 15 wins a year here, 11 afterward. Grade: B-.


May 21, 1995
Traded Salomon Torres to Seattle Mariners for Wilson Delgado and Shawn Estes.
Estes' 19-5 season in 1997 alone rates this trade a ringing success. He won 64 games in five years with the Giants. Torres eventually became a respectable relief pitcher for the Pirates.  Grade: A.


July 21, 1995
Traded Mark Portugal, Darren Lewis and Dave Burba to Cincinnati Reds for Ricky Pickett, John Roper, Deion Sanders, Scott Service and Dave McCarty.
Your basic salary dump. The real cost of offloading Portugal's millions was giving up Dave Burba, who went on to a fine career in Cincy, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. None of the players the Giants received did anything for the club after '95, while even Darren Lewis continued on as a backup outfielder for several years.  
Grade: D.


December 14, 1995
Traded Royce Clayton and a PTBNL to St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Watson, Rich DeLucia and Doug Creek.
Desperate times-- such as fielding the league's worst starting rotation-- call for desperate measures, such as trading your starting shortstop for three mediocre pitchers. Don't worry, there's a silver lining later in the story.   Grade: D+. 


March 29, 1996
Mark Gardner signed as a free agent.
When second-year starter Jamie Brewington stunk up the joint in spring training, the Giants found themselves without a fifth starter. A week before the season began, they went bargain-basement shopping and discovered a gem. For five years, Gardner was "Old Reliable," never the best but steady as a rock. We like to compare and contrast his Giants tenure with that of Jim Barr twenty years earlier. These guys are our kind of players. 


July 27, 1996
Traded Kirt Manwaring to Houston Astros for Rick Wilkins and cash.
Look at it this way. The best five years of Manwaring's 9-year career were spent in San Francisco. When he began to decline, the Giants got a great half-season (.293/.366/.510) out of Wilkins, who was something of a Milt May type with more power (did you know he hit 30 homers in 446 at-bats for the Cubs in '93?). Then, when Wilkins slumped to .195 in '97, the Giants kept dancin' and brought in Brian Johnson. So, apples for apples, would you make this trade again?  Grade: C+.   


July 30, 1996
Traded Mark Leiter to Montreal Expos for Kirk Rueter and Tim Scott.
Leiter's value was as high as it ever would go; the career journeyman had led all Giants starters in most categories in 1995 and was an unquestioned 'gamer.' There were also rumors that Rueter had gotten into Felipe Alou's Montreal 'doghouse.' Whatever the reasons, this trade paid off big-time, albeit slowly. When we look at the final tally, we see eight solid years from Rueter, with 105 wins and six postseason starts. He was the anchor of an oft-changing rotation through thick and thin, and when you stop and think about it, he may be the most valuable Giant lefthander since Johnny Antonelli. Considering Leiter had already given us his career year (he won 14 with the Giants, 21 total afterward), how can you not love this trade? Grade: A.   
  

November 13, 1996
Traded Matt Williams and a PTBNL to Cleveland Indians for Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez, Jose Vizcaino and a PTBNL. 
As we all remember, Brian Sabean was obliged to host a press conference following this trade in which he announced, "I am not an idiot."  Indeed. Trading away the team's most popular player and the game's best third baseman was no easy move, but Matt's 120 missed starts due to injury and, most importantly, the Giants' 94 losses in '96 made it a little easier. ("Son, we lost 112 games with you," Branch Rickey told Ralph Kiner under similar circumstances in 1952. "We can certainly do it again without you.") OK, let's get the packing peanuts out of the way first: Tavarez did little for the Giants, though he did become an effective reliever years later, and Vizcaino was solid, if unremarkable, at short in '97 before moving on. It comes down to Matt, with his huge reputation and record at the time, against the "classic underachiever" Kent, who had gone through three teams in five years. Well, you all know what happened. Kent drove in 700 runs and hit 175 homers in six years with the Giants, winning the 2000 MVP and teaming with Barry Bonds to lead three championship-level teams, and earning at least a shot at the Hall of Fame.  Matt had two legitimately great years left, including a monster 142-RBI campaign for Arizona in 1999, and he got his ring in 2001 despite missing 50 games. The bottom line: for 13 years, from 1990-2002, the Giants had a great power-hitting infielder in the middle of their lineup, and it cost them two extra years at that level from one guy to get six of those years from the other. That kind of result is what baseball trades are all about. Grade: A.     


November 26, 1996
Traded Jamie Brewington to Kansas City Royals  for a PTBNL. San Francisco Giants received Ramon Martinez (December 9, 1996).
Few backup players were more valuable than Ramon over the six years he played in San Francisco. The  quintessential late-inning defensive replacement and spot starter at three positions, he could hit a little, too. And his story is oddly intertwined with that of J.T. Snow (see below). In 2000, when Snow struggled, Ramon often started at second against lefties while Jeff Kent moved to first.  And in Game Two of the 2002 NLCS, it was Ramon's suicide squeeze that scored Snow standing up as the Giants took a two-games-to-none lead. The guy we gave up, Brewington, had already done all he was going to do. Grade: A.   

Traded Allen Watson and Fausto Macey to Anaheim Angels for J.T. Snow.
Watson was supposed to replace Bud Black; instead, he reminded us of Ray Sadecki. What a coup to trade him for the golden-gloved Snow, whose mere presence at first base gave us the league's best defensive infield. And though inconsistent with the bat, he still drew a lot of walks, drove in 100 runs in 1997, was awesome in the 2002 postseason, and hit .327 in 2004 when we needed someone to support Barry Bonds' one-man show. Yes, the Giants have had some great first basemen over the years, and for that reason J.T. ranks 'way down the list. But this was an absolute steal of a trade, and a great day for the Giants all around. Considering also that the "loss" of Watson forced  Shawn Estes into the rotation, we can say a large chunk of that 1997 pennant was won on November 26, 1996. Grade: A.
 

January 10, 1997
Darryl Hamilton signed as a free agent.
Well, the Giants hadn't had a leadoff man worthy of the name since Brett Butler in 1990, and Hamilton, with OBPs consistently in the .350-.360 in the AL, was the real deal. He missed a month in '97 so his overall numbers are down, but he was a big part of that unlikeliest of winning teams. And he was doing even better in '98 when he was suddenly traded away.


July 16, 1997
Traded Marcus Jensen to Detroit Tigers for Brian Johnson.
A catcher who couldn't hit for one who could, however briefly. Down the stretch Johnson hit 11 homers in 56 games, including the twelfth-inning Candlestick shot that beat LA and put the Giants in first place to stay. That was about it, but that was enough.  Grade: A.   


July 31, 1997
Traded Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Brian Manning and Ken Vining to Chicago White Sox for Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez.
Decried as a "surrender trade" by Chicago fans, this one actually balanced out over time. Foulke and Howry went on to lengthy and solid careers, both with the Sox and elsewhere-- Foulke was among the AL's top closers for awhile and Howry even returned to the Giants for a short stint in 2010. But at the time, this one helped put the Giants over the top. Alvarez gave the club another experienced lefty starter alongside Kirk Rueter, and Hernandez was superb in relief down the stretch, briefly threatening Rod Beck's closer role. Both moved on in 1998, and it turned out to be the 42-year-old Darwin who paid off this trade as a valuable swingman for two years.  Grade: B+. 


December 9, 1997
Orel Hershiser signed as a free agent.
One of our favorite enemies, the John Smoltz of his day, finally put on a proper uniform. Truth be told, Orel was almost done by this time, but he gave the club 200 innings in '98 and Russ Ortiz, among others, testified to his positive influence on the Giants' young pitchers.


July 31, 1998
Traded Darryl Hamilton, Jim Stoops and a PTBNL to Colorado Rockies for Ellis Burks.
At the time, this seemed like a warning shot across the clubhouse bow: trade a popular player having a fine season to remind the underachieving ballclub that no one is indispensable. Can't argue with the immediate result; the Giants, 57-51 the day of the trade, went 32-22 down the stretch and forced a one-game playoff for the wild-card spot. While Hamilton had three years left, two of them good, in return came three years of Burks. The same age as Hamilton and once a five-tool player, he'd been battling debilitating knee injuries, but in his SF stint he was a monster. A .306/.387.463 '98 was followed by .292/.365/.496 in '99, and then came the epochal .344/.419/.606 in the pennant year of 2000, capped off with a three-run homer in Game One of the NLDS. The dark side? His knees cost him 40 games a year, and after 2000 all he was fit for was DH duty. The darker side? Losing Hamilton convinced Dusty Baker to start Marvin Benard in center field. Still and all, we'd make this trade again and Ellis, we still miss ya.  Grade: B. 


November 10, 1998
Traded Dante Powell to Arizona Diamondbacks for Alan Embree.
Worth noting because Embree was one of the first of his now-common type: the lefty pitcher used almost exclusively against lefty hitters, thus averaging about two-thirds of an inning per appearance. One good year was followed by a bad year and when 2001 started off as a worse year, he was sent packing. Remarkably, he lasted almost another decade and was a member of Boston's 2004 "Reverse-the-Curse" World Champions. Now, Powell did absolutely nothing after this trade, so who's to criticize? Grade: C+.


December 8, 1998
Traded 2 PTBNL to Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Felix Rodriguez.
Jerry, can we get 'em back? Aw, just kidding. Right? OK, 376 strikeouts in 400 innings over six seasons, and five of those were pretty good seasons. And if the only things anyone remembers are Jay Payton's tenth-inning single in Game Two of the 2000 NLDS and Scott Spiezio's seventh-inning homer in Game Six of the 2002 World Series, that's not Felix's fault, is it?... is it? Grade: B-.  


July 25, 1999
Traded Jason Grilli and Nate Bump to Florida Marlins for Livan Hernandez.
It's no coincidence these two trades are side-by-side, huh? Now, if you look at the first two years of this trade, it's pretty good. If you look at the whole trade-- well, it's kind of a wash. Bump never did much, and it took a  decade for Grilli to pan out, but then we also have to consider the 2002 World Series again, and we'd really rather not. Okay, 747 innings in three-plus years, remember? Struggle for objectivity, we shall.  Grade: C+. 


December 12, 1999
Traded Chris Brock to Philadelphia Phillies for Bobby Estalella.
Your typical Giants trade: a guy who can't pitch for a guy who can't hit, made by a guy who can't think. Awww, c'mon, that's unfair. True, Brock couldn't hack it even as a fifth starter-- he allowed more walks than the traffic signal at the corner of West 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City-- but Estalella actually did hit, for about two months. After that, nobody cared, because the Giants won. That is, until they got to the playoffs against the Mets, and nobody hit. Then they cared. A lot.  Grade: C.  


October 30, 2000
Ellis Burks granted Free Agency.
Tough to see him go, but with the knees and all, he really couldn't last long in the outfield, and AL teams were offering three-year deals to DH.


November 18, 2000
Traded Bill Mueller to Chicago Cubs for Tim Worrell.
The scapegoat for the Giants' 2000 playoff failure against the Mets, Billy had given the club four good years at third, and he went on to a long and valuable career elsewhere. That said, Tim Worrell proved to be the right man at the right time when Robb Nen's career was ended by shoulder problems. Already a solid member of the 2002 NL champions' supporting cast, Worrell took over as closer and quietly saved 45 games as the Giants won the 2003 pennant. The tally? Four years from Mueller plus three from Worrell. Grade: B.


March 17, 2001
Benito Santiago signed as a free agent.
"They all laughed when I squatted down behind the plate..." The conventional wisdom on Santiago was he was a burnout case, a washed-up former great who had squandered his potential over 13 seasons, and that the Giants were fools for giving him a starting job. Benito proved 'em all wrong. For two years he was an iron man, catching 150 games a year, which was good because the Giants had gotten rid of both their veteran backup catchers. He was the MVP of the 2002 NLCS, and then, as might be expected, stayed one more year, demanded lots of money, and didn't get it. Still a ballsy signing that worked out great.


July 24, 2001
Traded Chris Magruder, Erasmo Ramirez and Todd Ozias to Texas Rangers for Andres Galarraga.
Three cardboard cutouts for Galarraga, even a 40-year-old Galarraga, has to rate a ringing success. Had the Giants won, "The Big Cat's" outstanding half-season platoon with J.T. Snow would rate even higher. 
Grade: A.  

July 30, 2001
Traded Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong to Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal.
Mishandled in Pittsburgh, Schmidt blossomed into one of the most dominant starters in baseball from 2002 through 2004 with the Giants. Rios had already proven himself another Marvin Benard, and Vander Wal filled the same role for half a season, which was all anyone asked. A one-time "phenom", Vogelsong was the centerpiece of the deal from the Pirates' perspective, but repeated arm troubles saw him flame out in spectacular fashion and eventually they cut him loose. This makes his 2011 comeback with the Giants all the more improbable and amazing, and puts the cherry on top of this lopsided  trade. Grade: A+.


December 16, 2001
Traded Shawn Estes to New York Mets for Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Desi Relaford.
Dreadfully mismanaged as a leadoff man, Shinjo played himself out of a job despite being one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Relaford never played for the Giants at all. Estes, meanwhile, pitched for six more seasons with six different clubs, and despite a 15-8 campaign with Colorado in 2004,  64 of his 101 wins came in a Giants uniform. Still, it's no good when you get nothing for something.  Grade: D. 


July 28, 2002
Traded Felix Diaz and Ryan Meaux to Chicago White Sox for Kenny Lofton.
The deal that saved the season? With no leadoff man, the Giants didn't score enough runs. With Lofton on board, they did, and his NLCS-winning base hit ranks right up there with the team's most memorable moments. A liability in the field, he may have cost them Game Two of the World Series-- but without him, there probably would have been no Series. Blame the manager for that one. Trade cost? Nil.  Grade: A.  


December 7, 2002
Ray Durham signed as a free agent.
Marquis Grissom signed as a free agent.
December 15, 2002
Edgardo Alfonzo signed as a free agent.
The undoing of the 'Dusty Baker' Giants and the configuration of the 'Felipe Alou' Giants began in earnest. Durham replaced Jeff Kent in the field and Kenny Lofton as the leadoff man. Grissom took over in center and in Kent's number-3 slot. Alfonzo replaced David Bell, bringing his "Giant-killer' rep from the 2000 playoffs. All three, especially Grissom, had excellent years in '03 as the Giants won 100 games and the division, their first back-to-back post-season appearance since 1937 in New York. Durham remained a force in the lineup for five years; both Alfonzo and Grissom were done after 2004.  


December 17, 2002
Traded Russ Ortiz to Atlanta Braves for Damian Moss and Merkin Valdez.
The party line was the Giants were avoiding either (a) a big payday or (b) an uncompensated loss to free agency after 2003, so they acted pre-emptively. At first, the move looked comically bad. Ortiz went 21-7 for the mighty Braves and won the Cy Young Award, while Moss, after starting 6-0 in the rotation, fell completely apart (1.6 WHIP) and in July was shipped to Baltimore, where he was even worse. But Ortiz' emergence as a star under Leo Mazzone ("See, I told you he was gonna be great!") lasted only one more year. Looking back, we see 67 of Ortiz' 113 career wins came in his first five years with the Giants. And yet we wonder: if we'd kept him, we wouldn't have made that deal for Sidney Ponson, and mightn't we, and not Florida, have won that 2003 World Series?  Grade: D.       


January 28, 2003
Jose Cruz, jr  signed as a free agent.
Shoot, he might still be out there if he hadn't dropped that confounded fly ball.


March 24, 2003
Traded Edwards Guzman, Livan Hernandez and cash to Montreal Expos for Jim Brower and a PTBNL.
How much cash? Brower was helpful in the bullpen and even made a few starts. Grade: C.


May 8, 2003
Pablo Sandoval signed as a non-drafted free agent.
We're gonna go out on a limb and say this one worked out fairly well. 


July 31, 2003
Traded Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman to Baltimore Orioles for Sidney Ponson.
Four guys who can't pitch.  Grade: D.


November 14, 2003
Traded Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to Minnesota Twins for A.J. Pierzynski and cash.
Three guys who can pitch for one guy who immediately alienated every pitcher in his own clubhouse and was released after the season ended. That's our Giants!  Grade: D-.


January 12, 2004
Brett Tomko signed as a free agent.
A 30-year-old journeyman pitcher with a reputation for great "stuff" but less-than-great confidence, Tomko had just gone 13-9 for his fourth team in six years, the Cardinals, and evidently the Giants thought he'd "turned the corner" after a year of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan. They might've looked closer-- at the 5.28 ERA, the league-leading 252 hits allowed, the 1.5-plus WHIP, or the Cards' 876 runs scored-- but in any case Tomko responded with his best career season in 2004. After a slow start, he was excellent down the stretch, helping to keep the Giants in the race. That was it, though; he lost 15 games in '05, got worse as the year went on, and walked quietly away after that season, though he remained in the majors for four more years, primarily as a reliever.      


March 31, 2004
Deivi Cruz signed as a free agent.
The sudden black hole at shortstop was occasioned by a belief that Neifi Perez actually could hit well enough to play every day and replace the departed Rich Aurilia. He couldn't, of course, so his backup Cruz eventually took over. In 127 games the 32-year-old Dominican hit .292 with 30 doubles and did his best in the field. Felipe Alou frequently replaced him late in games with rookie Cody Ransom which, as you'll recall, worked well enough until the next-to-last game of the season.


July 30, 2004
Traded Felix Rodriguez to Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Ricky Ledee and  Alfredo Simon.
Addition by subtraction: Felix was a liability by this time; the whole league was on to him. Ledee was intended to strengthen a weak outfield, but if you blinked, you likely missed his 53 AB's as a Giant. Points off for waiting too long to peddle Felix.  Grade: D. 


November 1, 2004
Dustin Hermanson granted free agency.
This one ended kinda ugly. Hermanson, a passable fifth starter 2003, had answered the call and taken over as a passable closer in 2004 when the team desperately needed him.  The Giants were slow to make a free-agent offer and Hermanson signed with the White Sox, and, feeling perhaps a little underappreciated, he leveled a parting shot at Giants' management before leaving.  


November 16, 2004
Omar Vizquel signed as a free agent.
December 2, 2004
Armando Benitez signed as a free agent.
December 15, 2004
Mike Matheny signed as a free agent.
January 5, 2005
Moises Alou signed as a free agent.
A big free-agent flurry with mixed results. Omar gets nothing but thumbs-up from this corner; in the  dreadful Year Without Bonds that followed, he was the team's unquestioned leader and best player. He held down his corner of the universe through 2008, when, at 41, he just stopped hitting. Matheny, the former Cardinal,  actually looked like the cherry on this deal for one year. Already regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game, he also hit a little and was beloved by his pitchers, especially in the wake of the Pierzynski experience. Sadly, his career ended the following spring due to a severe concussion. (The good news: in 2012 Matheny took over for Tony LaRussa as manager of the St Louis Cardinals.) As for Felipe's son, he was great when he played, slugging over .500 in 222 games (out of 324) during his two-year stint. Finally we have Benitez, brought in as the latest 'stud' closer. Beset by injuries, he managed 45 saves-- in three years. Feh.


July 30, 2005
Traded Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert to Seattle Mariners for Randy Winn.
The Giants had brought in A.J. Pierzynski ahead of  Yorvit, and when that didn't work, they went out and got Mike Matheny. That tell ya somethin'?  Desperate for an outfielder, the Giants traded for Winn and never regretted it. He wasn't going to sustain his MVP-level numbers past that half-season (.359/.391/.680), of course, but over the next four years, Winn played all three outfield positions, starting in center, moving to right after Aaron Rowand came aboard, and finally settling in left. Over his career, three of Winn's best four seasons were in SF. Now Yorvit, given a chance to start, has done very well since the trade and reached the World Series with Texas in 2011. But with Bengie Molina and then Buster Posey on board, he wasn't ever going to start here anyway.  Grade: A.        


December 13, 2005
Matt Morris signed as a free agent.
Mark Portugal redux: sign a guy because he did well against you earlier. Morris had pitched his heart out in a losing effort in Game Five of the 2002 NLCS, and first impressions of this signing were good. At 31, though, he was already nearing the end of the road. His slow decline accelerated at the 'Bell: walks up, K's down, 458 hits allowed in his 405 Giant innings. Jamey Wright's unexpected early success in '06 masked Morris' struggles for awhile, but a year later he was dead weight and the club unloaded him in a trade-deadline deal. 



December 21, 2005
Traded Edgardo Alfonzo to Anaheim Angels for Steve Finley.
Two guys who built their reputation as Giant-killers. Finley had been tormenting the Giants for so long by the time he arrived, that we figured he was bound to uncork some gawdawful bases-loaded three-base error in the bottom of the ninth in a winner-take-all playoff or something. But the Giants never contended and Finley actually played quite well in his one season with the club-- 12 triples, tying Mays' San Francisco record . Good trade considering Alfonzo hadn't hit a lick since early 2004.  Grade: B.


July 22, 2006
Traded Jeremy Accardo to Toronto Blue Jays for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinnie Chulk.
The nicknames followed quickly: "Hillabeans" and "Choke." Not that Accardo set the world on fire or anything, although he was pretty good for the Jays in 2007 . Just Sabean trying to make something happen at midseason.  Grade: C-.


December 6, 2006
Bengie Molina signed as a free agent.
Bruce Bochy, himself a former catcher, clearly believes this is a critical position. So after Mike Matheny's untimely forced retirement, Sabean went out and signed the best veteran backstop on the market. Big Bengie, butt of many an "unhitch-the-trailer" joke when on the basepaths, gave the Giants three solid seasons, combining excellent defense (and a truly great throwing arm) with a strong bat. He was the club MVP in 2008: 145 games, .292/.322/.445 with 95 RBI. Despite his 2009 decline he kept the chair warm for Buster Posey, and established a standard of excellence at the position for the Giants.  


December 29, 2006
Barry Zito signed as a free agent.
Okay, everybody sing along to "The Man Who Broke the Bank at San-Fran-cis-co." One hundred and twenty-six million dollars over seven years was the total as Zito, still only 29, arrived with a big curveball, a Cy Young Award, and 102 career wins for the cross-Bay rival Oakland A's. The Giants' "new Barry" also signified a shift in thinking, to a pitching-first mentality which has served the club well in its wake. But he was 43-61 after five years, or two million bucks per win, including a Livan Hernandez-like 17-loss campaign in 2008. In short, OUCH! Then came 2012. Following a 15-8 campaign, Zito won three critical games in the postseason, including a shutout in Game Five of the NLCS with the Giants down 3-1 at the time. Considering he wasn't even on the 2010 postseason roster, we believe those three wins and the ring they wrought have balanced the scale appreciably. Shall we say, NOT the worst free-agent signing ever?  

July 31, 2007
Traded Matt Morris to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Rajai Davis and a PTBNL. 
Morris was essentially finished, and for half a season Davis, 26, was sort of a weird cross between Dan Gladden and Marvin Benard: leadoff man with speed and a little pop, "exciting" in the field, and a breath of fresh air in a dull lineup. Soon after, he became Marvin Benard for good, and moved on. Grade: C+.
  

December 4, 2008
Edgar Renteria signed as a free agent.
Despite the inevitable puns associated with his dugout nickname, "Rent" stuck around for two full years. Expected to replace Omar Vizquel at short, he really couldn't play every day and soon was passed by Juan Uribe. But of course there remains the glory of the 2010 World Series and his Game Five homer, for which he was named MVP and which will be remembered as the capstone of his long and remarkable career.. 


December 26, 2008
Randy Johnson signed as a free agent.
"The Big Unit", who had more than his share of success against San Francisco in his Astros and Diamondbacks days, came home (he was born and grew up in Livermore) to finish out his Cooperstown-bound career at age 45. Of his 8 wins with the Giants, the biggest came on June 4, 2009-- career number 300.


January 29, 2009
Juan Uribe signed as a free agent.
Who'll make a case for Uribe as the most valuable player on San Francisco's first World Championship team? He played wherever he was needed-- second, short, and third-- and was out there, somewhere, every single day all season, while Renteria, Sandoval, and Sanchez battled injury and inconsistency. He finished second on the team in homers, RBI, and runs scored-- and then came the postseason. Game-winning hits in Games One, Four, and Six of the NLCS were followed by his three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the World Series. Whether or not the team ought to have tried harder to retain him for 2011 is moot, of course, but still an interesting question.  


July 29, 2009
Traded Tim Alderson to Pittsburgh Pirates for Freddy Sanchez.
Sanchez, 31, a former batting champion with the Bucs, was a big part of the Giants' World Championship club in 2010. Injuries limited his effectiveness afterward; he had missed 50 games that year, then missed over 100 in 2011 and didn't play at all in 2012. He hit consistently well when he did play. Alderson, the Giants' top minor-league prospect at trade time, has yet to pitch in the big leagues. Grade: B.  


January 10, 2010
Aubrey Huff signed as a free agent.
Great single-season move. The Giants needed a first baseman, and Huff was desperate to prove himself after washing out with Baltimore in 2009. The result? .290/.385/.506, a few MVP votes, and top dog of the Giants' lineup, which was just good enough to boost the world-class pitching to the championship. After that it was all downhill. But you can't take away that ring.  


May 29, 2010
Pat Burrell signed as a free agent.
This is the kind of often-overlooked move that helps define a GM's legacy. Desperate for a right-handed bat in the wake of Mark DeRosa's injury, Sabean signed the veteran Burrell, who had established himself as one of the game's top power hitters with Philadelphia over the previous decade, but had been released outright by Tampa Bay ten days earlier. A true slugger-- home runs and walks-- Burrell hit 18 homers in 289 at-bats with the Giants and was unanimously credited by his teammates as a leader on the championship team.


January 15, 2011
Ryan Vogelsong signed as a free agent.
Should this be a TV movie or what? Traded away as a top prospect in 2001, released outright by the Pirates in 2006, pitching in Japan in 2009, signed by the Giants as a non-roster invitee-- and on July 12, 2011, introduced as a member of the National League All-Star team! He was 13-7 in 2011 with a 2.77 ERA, and-- no fluke, folks-- he won 14 more in 2012, plus one in the NLCS and another in the World Series, and continued in the Giants' rotation through 2014 and another world championship. That's 48 wins in five years, starting at age 34,  when none were expected-- c'mon Hollywood, do your stuff.


July 28, 2011
Traded Zack Wheeler to New York Mets for Carlos Beltran and cash.
Similar to Alderson-for-Sanchez two years earlier, except Wheeler was a better prospect and Beltran was a superstar and potential Hall-of-Famer. Unfortunately, he was also just a "rent-a-player" here. Paradoxically the Giants, clinging to the lead at the time, immediately tanked and fell out of first as soon as he arrived! No fault of Beltran's, though; he put up a .920 OPS in his 44-game 'Frisco stint. Then he signed with the Cardinals to replace Albert Pujols. Wheeler made the Mets' rotation in 2013, and was just establishing himself when he had Tommy John surgery a year later. His promising career remains in limbo. Grade: C.

November 7, 2011
Traded Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City Royals for Melky Cabrera.
For four months this looked like the trade steal of  the decade. Sanchez, who'd given the Giants a few good years, completely cratered in KC and was DFA'd before the All-Star break. Meanwhile Cabrera was tearing up the league (.346/.390/.516) and looking like a MVP candidate. Then came the season-ending August suspension (for testosterone supplements), and in November he signed with Toronto. Nothing to see here, people. Grade: C+.    

December 7, 2011
Traded Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez to New York Mets for Angel Pagan.
At the time, it looked like "old Torres" for "new Torres" and mostly we lamented the loss of reliable Ramirez. Well, after a slow start the veteran Pagan had a historic second half in 2012, leading the league in triples, playing great defense, scoring 95 runs, and leading off for the World Champions throughout the postseason. He has remained a fine player since, albeit only when healthy, which is about half the time.  Neither Ramirez nor Torres did much for the Mets, so what's that second ring worth to ya? Grade: A.   

July 27, 2012
Traded Charlie Culberson to Colorado Rockies for Marco Scutaro and $1,000,000.00.
At the time, few noticed this trade. A young backup middle infielder for an old one didn't have quite the headline value of the rival Dodgers' "blockbuster" deal with the Boston Red Sox. Then Scutaro hit .362 down the stretch, won the second-base job, was nicknamed "Blockbuster" by his teammates, and was named NLCS MVP for the 2012 World Champions. Culberson, a former first-rounder, has since made the majors as a utilityman, but for now this is another jewel in Sabean's crown. Grade: A.   

July 31, 2012
Traded Nate Schierholz to Philadelphia Phillies for Hunter Pence.
We all loved Nate, but after four seasons he was no closer to being a full-time regular than before, and the Giants needed more power. Like Pat Burrell before him, Pence brought a certain presence that inspired his teammates, and he also drove in 45 runs in 59 games down the stretch and started in right field for the World Champions. He has since become one of the best outfielders in the league. Grade: A.  

November 18, 2013
Tim Hudson signed as a free agent.
Hudson, 39, had done it all by the time he arrived here-- except win a championship. His early sucess (7-2) got the Giants into the race, and though he barely made it across the finish line, he did finally win a postseason game, he did pitch in the World Series, and he did get that ring.

December 17, 2013
Mike Morse signed as a free agent.
Looking for an "Aubrey Huff" comeback season from the big guy, the Giants got half of one before Morse landed on the DL for two months. He returned in the postseason with one of the greatest pinch-hit home runs in Giants history, and earned himself a ring in his one season with the club.

July 26, 2014
Traded Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar to Boston Red Sox for Jake Peavy.
With Matt Cain on the DL, Sabean made his best-available-pitcher-for-fewest-prospects deal, and down the stretch Peavy won six of eight decisions. Though he did little in the postseason, he was instrumental in getting the team to the postseason. Hembree has become a promising young reliever in Boston, Escobar has yet to make the big leagues, and for now it's still Grade: A.

January 16, 2015
Signed Norichika Aoki as a free agent.
The pint-sized Aoki , miscast as leadoff man for much of his career, proved a fine leadoff man with the Giants. He batted over .300, led the team in runs, and was an All-Star candidate until a serious concussion knocked him out of the lineup at mid-season. He wasn't the same afterward, and the Giants let him walk once the season was over. Too bad.

July 30, 2015
Traded Adam Duvall to the Cincinnati Reds for Mike Leake.
At the time, Leake looked like the best pitching option available: 27 years old with a proven record of success. Unfortunately, that success did not accompany him to San Francisco, and this ended up as a 60-day rental. The cost has lately skyrocketed: Duvall, 27, opened 2016 with 23 homers and 61 RBI in 83 games for the Reds, and made the NL All-Star team. This one can only get worse, and it's already a Grade: D.

August 20, 2015
Traded Stephen Johnson to Cincinnati Reds for Marlon Byrd.
Desperate for anyone who could hit the ball in the wake of injuries to Pence, Pagan, and Aoki, the Giants picked up veteran Byrd. He was worth the price, driving in 31 runs in 39 games as a rent-a-player. Grade: B+.


December 9, 2015
Signed Jeff Samardzija as a free agent.
Desperate for starting pitching after the 2015 meltdown, the Giants took a chance on the 6-7 righty,hoping to pull a "Jason Schmidt"-style turnaround. "Shark" went 12-11, 3.81 and helped stabilize a starting rotation that became one of the league's deepest, if not best. We'll see what happens.

December 16, 2015
Signed Johnny Cueto as a free agent.
The cost was steep, but Cueto proved to be the best free-agent starting pitcher for the money. Coming off a championship season in KC, he went 18-5 with a 2.79, made the All-Star team, challenged Bumgarner's status as the Giants' "ace," and had a memorable start in a 1-0 loss in
Game One of the NLDS.

January 7, 2016
Signed Denard Span as a free agent.
Span impressed the Giants during the 2014 NLDS with his versatility; he was a legitimate leadoff man with a career .350 OBP, played good defense, and ran well. He'll have to improve on his tepid 2016 season to justify the three-year, $31,000,000 investment.

July 28, 2016
Traded Adalberto Mejia to the Minnesota Twins for Eduardo Nunez.
The Giants clearly were concerned about Matt Duffy's long-term health, as seen below. Nunez came cheap and gave the team a solid, versatile third baseman, though the current consensus views him as more placeholder than permanent fixture. Grade: B.

August 1,2016
Traded Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox, and Michael Santos to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Moore.
Not since the Matt Williams trade had the Giants dealt away a popular young position player coming off a terrific season. Adding two youngsters only increased the investment in Moore, a 27-year-old lefty with high potential. He was inconsistent over two months, pitching well at home
and poorly on the road, until his superb start in Game Four of the NLDS endeared him to Giants fans. This one coud be a real sleeper, and it still could be a bust; but for now, with Duffy struggling to regain his form in Tampa, it's Grade: B+.

August 1, 2016
Traded Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac to the Milwaukee Brewers for Will Smith.
Two top prospects for a 27-year-old lefty reliever on a bad team reveals how much the Giants needed to upgrade their bullpen. Smith did well, but Bickford will ultimately decide the value of this trade. For now it's Grade: B.







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