The Giants front office needed some good news this morning, after Buster Olney reported in his survey of general managers that Sabean was roundly considered the most difficult to deal with. One GM even told Olney he had difficulty getting Sabean to return his calls. This can't possibly go over well with Giants fans, who have, for essentially half a decade, been waiting for Sabean to pull the trigger and bring in a legit middle-of-the-order hitter. That he has not been able to pull off this task is indictment enough, but that he hasn't even been putting forth every effort to get it done is frankly unforgivable. Shame on you, Brian Sabean. Shame on you.
However, though it's hardly a blockbuster, the Giants did respond to this morning's report by announcing a trade. Apparently Sabean returns Jon Daniels calls, because the two agreed to a deal which sent Bengie Molina and cash to the Rangers for Chris Ray and a player to be named later. Unless you count the Mariners reacquisition of Russell Branyan, this is the first trade of the season involving a team (in this case both) which is gearing up for the pennant race.
As far as the Giants are concerned, this has to be considered a win. They surprised everybody this offseason by resigning Molina and thus delaying the arrival of Buster Posey. Molina made Sabean look good for about six weeks, but since the middle of May, a stretch of thirty games, his performance has fallen off dramatically, much as it did in the latter stages of 2009. Over that span he's hitting .182 with a 436 OPS, 7 RBI, and two (that's right, 2) runs scored. In doing so, he is essentially stealing at-bats from guys like Posey, Pat Burrell, Travis Ishikawa, and Nate Schierholtz, all of whom have been significantly superior hitters, in a lineup starved for runs. This is definitely an improvement by subtraction, as it allows Posey (C) and Aubrey Huff (1B) to move back to their natural positions, thus opening up more at-bats in the outfield.
As an added bonus, the Giants receive a respectable veteran reliever in Chris Ray. Ray has been having a minor renaissance this season in Texas, with a 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 35 appearances. One would expect his numbers could even improve as he moves from a bandbox to a pitcher's haven and from the AL to the NL. Unfortunately, this helps the Giants very little, as their bullpen was already amongst the best and deepest in the league and Ray is unlikely to see much more than mop-up duty, but with many other would-be contenders (Phillies, Reds, Angels, Red Sox) in need of relief reinforcements, Sabean might be able to convert Ray into a valuable utilityman, a sixth starter, or a B-level prospect.
For the Rangers, who remain among the hottest teams in baseball following a Vladimir Guerrero driven win in Anaheim last night, this may seem a bit desperate. Granted, Ray was also a bit extraneous in their bullpen, which is also excellent, and catcher has been an accursed position in Arlington for the last couple seasons. However, in June, Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez combined to hit .253 with a .377 OBP, .421 SLG, 13 R, and 17 RBI. Those aren't stellar numbers, certainly, but they are respectable for the position and easily superior to Molina's. He has 17 RBI as well, but for the whole year! Perhaps the move to Texas will awaken Molina's bat, but I suppose what Jon Daniels sees, regardless, is a player with a long track record success working with young pitchers, definitely a valuable skill to bring to the Rangers, who enter the second half depending heavily on unproven arms like Colby Lewis, C. J. Wilson, and Tommy Hunter.
It's possible this trade could be win-win. However, I think the major outcome here is that Sabean will be saved from evisceration in the San Francisco press-box every time Molina grounds into a double play while Posey and/or Burrell are sitting on the bench. When the major upside of a trade is covering the GMs ass, that's probably not a good thing for the franchise.