"If the bat per se is talented and hopefully not a free agent to be, you pay the market price, whatever that is," Sabean said.And...
"We've got a pretty narrow list and we've had some discussions," Sabean said. "Wherever we can find a bat, we'll make the adjustment positionally."What all that means is that Sabean is willing to listen for anyone, presumably other than Tim Lincecum or minor-league super-prospect Madison Bumgarner. It means that Matt Cain could be the guy the Giants have to move if they want to upgrade their offense.
(Of course, this wouldn't have been so painful for the Giants if they'd been willing to part with Jonathan Sanchez back when he had some more value. Now that he's been around longer, it seems Sanchez is looking less like a potential top-of-the-rotation starter and more like a kid who can't harness his stuff, with some makeup issues to boot.)
Cain would be easy to trade. He's 24 years old (younger than Lincecum, by the way), with a career 3.63 ERA in 114 major league games. He's never been hurt. He's signed to a bargain contract: $2.65 million this year, $4.25 million next year and a club option for $6.25 million in 2011. That makes him attractive to keep, but it also makes him attractive to trade.
The Giants could make two types of deals for him. They could do a one-for-one splash deal, like the rumored Cain-for-Prince Fielder thing that started circulating last fall. That would certainly be easier to swallow for Giants Nation and perhaps even for Giants ownership, who must be appeased because this is the last year of Sabean's contract.
The other type of the deal would be the kind that the A's made with Dan Haren or the Orioles made with Erik Bedard: get four or five minor leaguers, a few of which are ready to step up to the majors right now.
I'd recommend the latter, even though it's riskier and not likely to go down as well from a PR perspective. Why? One big bat is not going to help the Giants. We saw how the Giants looked with one big bat in the middle of the order and no one else in 2006 and 2007. They still lost.
The Giants are a long way from having a competitive lineup, and sticking Prince Fielder or Ryan Zimmerman or Dan Uggla in the middle of it is not going to make them that much better. The Giants are nine games behind the Dodgers. They've lost ground since Manny Ramirez was suspended. The gap is only going to widen when he comes back.
If they're going to trade Matt Cain, it is going to be to contend in 2010 and beyond, not to salvage 2009.