Giants look to acquire left-handed bat

The day is long past when Barry Bonds(notes) is going to walk through that door. But the San Francisco Giants, who headed into the holiday weekend on top of a 10-team pack separated by just four games for the National League wild-card berth, are also past the point of conceding they can’t win a playoff spot because of their popgun offense.

The Giants, the NL’s most surprising team in the first half, are actively looking for another bat (or two) to support a pitching staff that could throw a scare into anyone in October.

With less than a month before the trading deadline, the Giants’ search for another hitter, according to one major league executive, has focused on three first basemen: Washington’s Nick Johnson(notes), Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff(notes) and Pittsburgh’s Adam LaRoche(notes).

They’ve also spoken to San Diego about a deal that would send starter Jonathan Sanchez(notes) to the Padres for outfielder Scott Hairston(notes).

Johnson, Huff and LaRoche are left-handed hitters who will become free agents after the season. Of the three, LaRoche began the weekend with the most home runs (12), one more than Huff. Johnson had the highest batting average (.295) and has been targeted by several teams, including the Mets and Red Sox.

Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa(notes), meanwhile, has just five home runs in 158 at-bats.

The Giants entered the weekend with only two hitters, Bengie Molina(notes) and Pablo Sandoval(notes), with more than 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. Only Sandoval is batting .300 or better. They began the weekend ranked 15th in the 16-team NL in runs scored, and are last in on-base percentage and 14th in home runs.

But with 2008 Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum(notes) even better this season, Matt Cain(notes) emerging as a potential 20-game winner, ageless Randy Johnson(notes) holding his own and Barry Zito(notes) occasionally showing flashes of his old Oakland form, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has a starting rotation that leads the NL with a 3.73 ERA. Because of the high-profile Lincecum and Big Unit, the starters have not gone unnoticed.

The bullpen is another story. The unheralded relief corps ranks third in the league with a 3.30 ERA, and it goes beyond closer Brian Wilson(notes) and his 21 saves. Justin Miller(notes), Brandon Medders(notes) and Bobby Howry have been a reliable setup crew, with Jeremy Affeldt(notes), the lone lefty in the pen, posting a 1.44 ERA.

“The Giants are legit,” a rival NL scout said. “Lincecum and Cain are both pitching out of their minds, and the guys in the bullpen have done more than I thought they would. Everybody they bring up has pitched well. They’re not a fluke, that’s for sure.”


Tracking Teahen: Royals GM Dayton Moore is hearing from multiple teams about third baseman-outfielder Mark Teahen(notes), who has been tracked at various times by the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels and Giants. “Teahen fits in with a lot of teams as a nice complementary piece,” one scout said of the 28-year-old left-handed hitter. The Braves, looking for an outfield bat, might be inclined to take a look at Royals outfielder Jose Guillen(notes), who is very much available. The Royals, one source said, would love to talk to the Braves about shortstop Yunel Escobar(notes), whose talent has not kept him out of Bobby Cox’s doghouse. There is some speculation that the Braves might consider moving Escobar to the outfield.

Relief efforts: As usual, many teams are trolling for relief help. So far, the Red Sox have said no to the teams asking about Manny Delcarmen(notes) and Justin Masterson(notes). “Delcarmen has closer stuff,” one scout said. “But if they move anyone, it will more likely be [Takashi] Saito.” … The reliever who may command the most attention is Heath Bell(notes), the Padres closer who is a bargain ($1.25 million) and still two years away from free agency. A potentially great fit for Tampa Bay would be Cleveland’s Kerry Wood(notes), who has struggled but is healthy, though the dollars are probably too rich for the Rays. Arizona, which looks to be moving into seller mode, could move Chad Qualls(notes), who has 13 saves. Plenty of teams would like a crack at Houston’s Jose Valverde(notes) and LaTroy Hawkins(notes), but the Astros, barring a collapse in the next three weeks, look like they may stick with the status quo … The Pirates have movable bullpen pieces in Matt Capps(notes) and John Grabow(notes) (to the Marlins or Cubs, perhaps?). The Marlins, who signed Luis Ayala(notes) after he was released by the Twins, desperately need more bullpen help, while the Cubs are looking for a lefty and could take a run at Baltimore’s George Sherrill(notes). Toronto would dearly love to move B.J. Ryan(notes), who is due $10 million next season and has thrown just 20 innings in 2009 as he struggles two years after reconstructive elbow surgery. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is likely to see interest in less-expensive pieces Jason Frasor(notes) and Scott Downs(notes).

Fungo hitting: One scout tracking the Blue Jays was disgusted by the lack of hustle exhibited by outfielder Alex Rios(notes). “He never got to first base under 4.7 [seconds],” the scout said. The Jays would listen to offers for Rios. … Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the Rockies three weeks ago pushing hard for reliever Huston Street(notes). With the Rockies’ recent hot streak, Street is off the market, although that could change by the trading deadline … Reds starter Bronson Arroyo(notes), who had no takers last season at the deadline, is on the block again, according to one NL executive … Atlanta is one club watching closely to see whether the Tigers release slumping outfielder Magglio Ordonez(notes), who was benched again Friday night in place of Josh Anderson(notes). Ordonez is batting .167 since manager Jim Leyland benched him for four games, and his 2010 salary of $18 million vests if he reaches 457 plate appearances. The players union is almost sure to raise a ruckus if the Tigers don’t play Ordonez enough to warrant the option, so the easier way out may well be to release him. Signing Ordonez for the minimum is a risk worth taking for the Braves, who are looking for a power bat … The Dodgers would love to have Cliff Lee(notes) at the top of their rotation, but there is no indication the Tribe will move him. Indians catcher Victor Martinez(notes) would be in great demand as well, with Boston, worried about Mike Lowell’s(notes) hip, an obvious potential landing spot. But GM Mark Shapiro hasn’t tipped his hand yet on Martinez, a great clubhouse presence … The bidding for Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman is expected to be astronomical. The 21-year-old left-hander was clocked at 100 mph during the WBC, though he fought his control, and composure, in a loss to Japan. “He’s a long lean guy whose arm works well with almost unparalleled stuff,” one scout said.

Gordon Edes is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gordon a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Saturday, Jul 4, 2009