The San Francisco Giants could have had their eyes on Jeff Keppinger for months for all we know, but they simply couldn't wait until July 31 to make a trade. That day, better known to all of us as the MLB trade deadline, is Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all in one for transaction-addicts. And for the Giants, who've spent most of the year leading the National League West despite an offense that can't even muster 4 runs per game, it's the day they'd like to have at least one hitter in addition to Keppinger, who doesn't strike out much but doesn't have a significant amount of power, either.
In this space we've gone over the Giants' and Carlos Beltran's supposed mutual interest in each other, but Beltran's also coveted by about 10 teams right now, including the Phillies, Red Sox and Braves. If the Mets want another team to shoulder the rest of Beltran's money owed, the Giants could probably handle it. If they're looking for the best prospect haul can net for Beltran, he won't end up in San Francisco. But if not Beltran, who? Brandon Belt was the hero in his third first game with the Giants on Tuesday night, but could Brian Sabean possibly feel comfortable the rest of the season with a nucleus of Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Belt (only one of whom has actually proven themselves enough in Bruce Bochy's eyes to be an everyday player?
Here's a quick rundown on five hitters the Giants could go after besides Beltran, in order of likelihood.
1. Ramon Hernandez: He makes sense because he's good hitter and decent enough defender at the Giants' weakest position, and the Reds have other catching options and need pitching help badly if they want to stay in the NL "Almost as Mediocre as the AL" Central race. He doesn't make sense because he hasn't played 100 games in a season since 2008.
2. B.J. Upton: Bossman Junior's average has been routinely terrible and he doesn't particularly like running out ground balls, but his value has probably never been lower and he's a 30-30 threat (Okay, 20-40) every season. Plus, he plays centerfield and the Giants have to be wondering if (a): Andres Torres can stay healthy, and (b): whether the Giants believe Torres is a viable option next year. He would bring much-needed speed to the Giants' lineup, but the high strikeout rate and what the Rays would ask for him (probably Zach Wheeler, if not more) are red flags. Of course, if the Upton brothers are a set of twins made perfectly for the NL West, and getting traded to the Giants meant he'd be a little quicker version of his brother Justin, then the Giants should make the trade ASAP. And even though that last sentence was completely ridiculous, you have to admit you're at least partially intrigued at the idea of what Upton would do in front of sellout crowds in his brother's division, right?
3. Hunter Pence: Do the Giants have room for two outfielders with odd batting stances? (And if you think the Giants have any chance of trading Aaron Rowand at the deadline, you're probably reading this while on hold waiting for a KNBR host to take your call.) Pence and Upton are kind of in the same boat as talented, multiple-tool-possessing outfielders who are arbitration eligible after the season -- and would probably be extended soon after becoming Giants. Pence hasn't played center since 2007, which to me means that Upton has the edge.
4. Adam Jones: The only player on this list who hasn't been involved in several trade rumors over the last week, but he's a logical trade candidate for a few reasons. One, he's an Oriole. The Orioles are terrible and just gave J.J. Hardy a contract extension they probably shouldn't have, seeing as Hardy has a very difficult time playing more than 140 games. He also plays center (not all that well, admittedly), and he's having his best power-hitting season as a Major Leaguer.
5. Michael Cuddyer: Total Brian Sabean guy. A pro's pro, if you will. Okay, I have no idea what that means other than Cuddyer's white and plays for the Twins, so it's automatically assumed he played hockey as a kid while growing up on Nebraska corn and Wisconsin cheese. Cuddyer's versatile and he's hitting pretty well in his contract year, but the Twins reportedly aren't sellers even though they have the 4th-worst run differential in the league. Why? Because they're only 5 games out in the AL Central, which is such a bad division that if it resided on the West Coast every national baseball media personality would be campaigning for its eradication.
Honorable Mention: Melky Cabrera (CF who's made a nice comeback for the Royals after playing horribly last year for Atlanta); Jeff Francouer (oh please God no); Yorvit Torrealba (not as valuable if he doesn't get to hit against the Giants); Ronny Paulino (.370 BABIP is fooling everyone into thinking he's actually a good hitter); Jamey Carroll (only if the Giants wanted another Keppinger); Jose Reyes (the Mets say they aren't dealing him because they love being saddled with 9-figure deals so much they're going to try to extend Reyes and his faulty hamstrings).