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Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Beltran, Jimenez deals haven't worked out

By David Schoenfield

Baseball lesson No. 3,247: The trade deadline rarely is the cure for a team’s ailments.

Oh, sure, sometimes you find the right Band-Aid.

And sometimes you trade for Carlos Beltran or Ubaldo Jimenez and the cut turns into a bleeding wound.

The Giants entered Wednesday six games behind the Diamondbacks. While the offense “burst” out with four runs and 12 hits to avoid being swept by the Cubs, Beltran went 0-for-3 with a walk, dropping his numbers with the Giants to .260 with one home run in 77 at-bats and an on-base percentage less than .300.

Meanwhile, Jimenez had one of his better starts since joining the Indians, allowing three runs in six innings. But in six starts with Cleveland, he has been homer-prone (six home runs, just four fewer than he allowed all of 2010) and has allowed 25 runs for a 5.56 ERA.

Both trades drew their share of criticism at the time: namely, that Zack Wheeler was too much of a price for the Giants to pay for a two-month rental, and that the Indians were unlikely to win the American League Central, even if Jimenez delivered down the stretch.

Truth is, the Giants’ woes began long before the Beltran trade. He’s not the only reason the team has hit .231 in August while averaging fewer than three runs per game. As the team saw its division lead slip away this month, GM Brian Sabean finally found a couple of fall guys Wednesday when veterans Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand were designated for assignment.

"We're at a spot in the season where we have to do some damage control with the roster. A couple things played into it. In both cases, there was diminished playing time, diminished roles,” Sabean said.

A couple things? Like the fact that Tejada and Rowand were predictably awful? What took so long for Sabean to realize damage control was needed?

Here’s what I wrote about Tejada on Opening Day, after he made a critical error: “He’s 36 now, his bat is slowing and many people don’t think he has the range to play shortstop anymore. The Giants took a chance, signing him to replace the departed Juan Uribe. Reports from spring training weren’t good. ... Is he too old? His legs might not have Chipper’s scars, but they’re still the legs of somebody who has played more than 2,000 major league games, clocking in 150-plus games year after year.”

On April 28, I wrote, “Considering Tejada isn’t hitting either, how long will the Giants stick with him?” On May 25, I wrote, “What can I say that everybody else hasn’t already said? With Pablo Sandoval back in maybe two weeks, I’m guessing Tejada’s Giants career will end in two weeks.”

It only took just more than three months from that point for Sabean to finally cut loose Tejada, despite a .239/.270/.326 (BA/OBP/SLG) batting line that essentially left him below replacement level.

Rowand was signed to a five-year, $60 million contract after a career-best 2007 season with the Phillies. The signing was roundly criticized at the time, and it got more disastrous with each season. In 2008, he posted a .749 OPS, below the league average hitter. In 2009, he posted a .738 OPS, barely acceptable for a starting outfielder. In 2010, he posted a .281 on-base percentage and .659 OPS, but the Giants won the World Series anyway. With Rowand making $13.6 million in 2011, the club brought him back, which is like your friends who keep acting surprised when their dog pees on the carpet. Rowand’s OBP this season: .274.

Yes, the Giants got ravaged by injuries. I don’t think Sabean and Bruce Bochy entered the season believing they’d give 351 plate appearances to Aaron Rowand. But here’s how you make sure that doesn’t happen: Don’t have Aaron Rowand on your roster.

As for Jimenez, I had hopes he’d pitch better. He had been the only starter in Rockies history to have consistent success in Coors Field but had struggled there in 2011 with a 5.55 ERA. Maybe a change of scenery would be a good thing. He’s had some positive results, like a 38/11 SO/BB ratio in 34 innings, and his season strikeout total of 156 in 157 innings is a good sign that his stuff is still fooling major league hitters, but the bottom line is he hasn’t kept enough runs off the scoreboard.

Hey, some of this is second guessing, I admit. It’s hard to fault either team for making the moves it did. The Indians were 1.5 games out of first place when they acquired Jimenez on July 30 for a package of prospects that included pitchers Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, Cleveland’s No. 1 picks in 2009 and 2010. The Giants were actually four games up on the Diamondbacks when they acquired Beltran on July 28.

So it’s another lesson for all of us: The trade deadline is fun.

But its impact often irrelevant.

PHOTO OF THE DAY
Pablo Sandoval
And you thought Pandas couldn't fly. Well, now we know that this one can.