Is the Price Right?


Posted Aug 4, 2003


Brian Sabean has always been heralded by many as a genius when it came to midseason trades, but has he finally made a blunder? Did he give up too much in the trade for Sidney Ponson?

In Sabean we trust.

That’s always been my motto. Since the Williams-Kent trade, few have questioned General Manager Brian Sabean. How could they? His trades always resulted in favor of the Giants. Promising pitching prospects traded away have resulted into nothing. The only one who ever made something of himself was Keith Foulke, closer for the Oakland A’s. But one out of about twenty? Not bad.

In 2001, I thought Sabean absolutely lost it when he traded away Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. But, hah. Good ole Sabes. Proved me wrong again. Rios and Vogelsong both had season-ending injuries and are struggling to crack the 25-man roster this season, and we all know the Jason Schmidt story.

Another A+ trade from Sabean again.

But this deal for Sidney Ponson has thrown me in a loop. I can’t help wondering: did we give up too much?

Oh don’t get me wrong. This trade should turn out beneficial to the Giants. I think Ponson will be extremely helpful to the team, and this transaction may have been the best anyone’s pulled off this season, and I was more than glad to see Moss go. That part that kills me is we gave up Kurt Ainsworth. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a fan of Kurt, or maybe it’s because I hate seeing such a talented young pitcher go.

Ponson – he’s the real deal. Or so they say. I’m going to reserve all comment on this fellow until I actually see him pitch, but we are to expect great things from this pitcher. And I can see why. Ponson is 14-6 with an ERA of 3.77, and he pitches for the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards. He’s coming to a new league and is going to pitch in THE pitchers’ park of all time – Pac Bell Park. Oh, and add on that he’s getting thrown into the heat of a pennant race, he’s going to get a bit more run support (I hope), and he’ll have better defense behind him. All in all, a great deal for Ponson.

But I’m sure it really sucks for Kurt Ainsworth and Damian Moss. I can imagine it’s not a good feeling to suddenly discover that your team atop the NL West has traded you to the Baltimore Orioles. This is no knock on the Orioles, but they’re not even playing .500 ball.

And they are not happy campers. Moss stormed out of Wrigley Park, stopping only to bark, “I’m not saying nothing.” A stunned Kurt Ainsworth managed to say that he wished the Giants all the best, but hoped they would one day “regret” the trade. “I didn’t know you could trade someone on the DL,” said Ainsworth. Well, that makes two of us, Kurt.

I can’t help but sympathize with the young rookie. Last year, he got the infamous Dusty screw. He should have been on the team by at the very latest, August, pitching instead of the (then) struggling Livan Hernandez or Ryan Jensen. After delivering for two months and having everyone wondering if he’d make a good shot of making a run for Rookie of the Year, he got hurt. Then the Giants failed him when they misinterpreted his injury, though to no fault of their own. But to no fault of Ainsworth’s either. He was traded for factors out of his control. Because Dusty hates trusting the rookie, Ainsworth lucked out on a chance to prove himself. Because of his injury, Ainsworth couldn’t pitch, not able to show the Giants organization he could cut it in the bigs. Because Moss isn’t cutting it and Kirk Rueter’s status is unknown, the Giants had to make a deal for a starting pitcher.

Sorry, Kurt. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

To be frank with you, I really do hope Ainsworth comes back to make the Giants regret the trade. And I think he will. People say that Ainsworth is a huge question mark due to his injuries, and I guess in a sense it’s true. Ainsworth has a bit of a “history.” Back when he was in college, he had reconstructive elbow surgery, better known as Tommy John surgery. And he recently fractured his shoulder blade and had to have uh… experimental surgery.

But it’s not like Ponson is without his own history. In 2001, Ponson suffered tendonitis in his right forearm. Tendinitis happens to most pitchers after a while, so no biggie. But in 2002, Ponson went onto the disabled list with an inflammation of his right shoulder. He’s had no problems since.

So will Ainsworth ever return to his once studly form? No one knows. It could very well be that management realized something about Ainsworth’s injury that they didn’t release. Maybe they just decided they want to win it all now, and Ainsworth is more part of a “future” plan, not a “NOW” plan. I don’t buy what Sabean says though: there’s NO WAY Moss is the “main” factor of the trade. Absolutely no way. No team in their right mind trades away a legit major leaguer for the likes of Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman.

About half a year ago, Sabean made another move that disgruntled many fans. And it was another one involving pitchers and young talent, except this one was obviously bad from the start. Russ Ortiz for Damian Moss and Merkin Valdez. Nothing but a pure salary dump. So of course, it just makes perfect sense that we’re picking up salary now. Good going, guys. Management realized its mistake and tried fixing it except it cost them a pretty penny – Kurt Ainsworth. Looking at the trade from a different angle, we gave up Russ Ortiz, Kurt Ainsworth, and Ryan Hannaman for Sidney Ponson. I’d much rather have the farm products.

The question still remains: will Ponson be enough to push the Giants over the edge? It’s hard to say. I still think the Giants are taking a gamble with Ponson. There is absolutely no guarantee Ponson will succeed. There is also no promise Ponson will sign after this year. Likely on both counts, but again, nothing’s certain at this point. After all is said and done, the Giants may have given up a solid, cheap, young pitcher who could have stayed long-term (I am not talking Moss here) for a two-month rental.

And I still have a tough time seeing exactly how much our team has improved after this acquisition. Yes, we have added to our starting rotation (Ponson averages about 7.0 innings per game), but we still did nothing to improve our hitting. Our offense is still the Barry Bonds show, with occasional performances from sidekick Marquis Grissom. Ray Durham has finally come back to earth and is experiencing a slump. Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Cruz Jr. have been struggling pretty much the whole year. So has Rich Aurilia. In the end, the Giants are still lacking that big bat to protect Barry Bonds. Or even just a bat to protect Bonds.

But we needed starting pitching, and we got the absolute best the trading market had to offer. Ponson has succeeded on a team that provides little help. He can only improve on a better team. Cheers to Moss and Ainsworth – I wish you nothing but the best. (Uh… Ainsworth anyway.) They say you have to give up quality for quality, and we certainly did that. So maybe we didn’t overpay – we paid just enough. For once, the price is right. The Giants have taken a big step in their quest for the ring this year. Forget the future – we’re playing for now.



Michelle Lo, also known as the Armchair Manager, writes recaps and other miscellaneous articles and designs some of the graphics at SFDugout.com. She can be reached by email at aznstarlite00@yahoo.com

The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.


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