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Trade Deadline Recap: Giants Acquire Keppinger, Cabrera

August 1, 2011

Leading up to the deadline the San Francisco Giants made a pair of trades that should help fill the same need. Depth, particularly in the middle infield, has been a concern since the season began in April. Starting second baseman Freddy Sanchez has been out of action since the beginning of June with a dislocated shoulder and there still is no word on whether he’ll return this season. Starting shortstop Miguel Tejada has been a disappointment and he was only expected to hold down the position so the team wouldn’t need to rush Brandon Crawford to the Majors (which, of course, they did anyway and he wasn’t ready).

As the season progressed the Giants have remained in contention thanks to the success of their pitching staff. With the problems they have endured offensively, the team needed to bring in reinforcements up the middle. They completed the first of the two trades on July 19th when they acquired Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros in exchange for relief pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel.

Keppinger, 31, has experience at second base, shortstop, and third base over the course of his seven year career and gives the Giants some versatility going through next season as he has a year of arbitration eligibility remaining. He’s making a modest $2.3 Million this season so he shouldn’t see significant dollars in 2012 before reaching free agency. In 2011 he had been batting .307/.320/.436 with 4 HR and 20 RBI in 163 at bats prior to the trade. He’s been strong against left handed pitchers this year, as he has his whole career.

Sosa, 25, was once considered one of the Giants’ top prospects after a breakout 2007 season but his stock has since fallen dramatically. He was first moved to the bullpen in 2010 and he pitched so poorly at the start of this season that he was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A and removed from the team’s 40-man roster. Since the demotion he’s thrown the ball better, posting a 2.68 ERA and 5-2 record in 40.1 innings.

Stoffel, 22, has pitched principally in middle relief his entire professional career, including a 3.98 ERA and 1-2 record in 31.2 innings in Double-A this season. Without a stronger secondary pitch there’s likely little chance he develops as anything more than a middle reliever, according to most of the experts.

Perhaps wondering if Keppinger wasn’t enough, the Giants agreed to a second trade on July 30th, acquiring Orlando Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for outfielder Thomas Neal.

Cabrera, 36, has really started to show signs of age over the past few seasons, especially at the plate. Through 324 at bats this season he was batting .244/.277/.321 with just 17 extra base hits. Defensively he’s still strong, although his range is not what it used to be by any means. Last offseason was a test for Cabrera as there wasn’t significant interest in the veteran shortstop so it will be interesting to see how he can help the Giants reach the postseason and whether that will turn into another one year contract offer from someone this winter. He became expendable in Cleveland due to the number of infielders from their own minor league system have started to arrive in the Majors.

Neal, 23, has primarily been playing left field for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate. This season he’s batting .295/.351/.409 in 220 at bats – number resembling much of his minor league career at the upper levels. He has limited power potential but has handled lefties better than righties.

Ultimately both Keppinger and Cabrera should provide some value to the Giants over the season’s final two months – at least more than Bill Hall, Emmanuel Burris, or Mike Fontenot might offer – which makes the trades worthwhile. Neal is the only player surrendered who shows much promise but there are more than enough outfielders ahead of him on the depth charts that he’s not likely to see the field in San Francisco anytime soon.

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