As the MLB Trade Deadline loomed, many were paying attention to the teams that made the biggest splashes. Toronto, for example, managed to nab Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowiztki and Detroit Tigers ace David Price as an “All-In” push for the postseason. The Texas Rangers traded for Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, while the Kansas City Royals shored up their rotation with Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants – defending champions, and a team that was expected to make a strong push for the league’s biggest trade targets – managed to pull the trigger on only one move: trading for Cincinnati SP Mike Leake, considered the Reds’ No. 2 starter. It was deemed the Giants’ vaunted “backup plan,” in the event they couldn’t land a big-name arm.
And, all things considered, it’s not a bad backup plan: Leake throws the kind of stuff that plays right into the hands of a superior interior defense like San Francisco’s. He is also on a roll as of late – going 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA in the month of July.
However, his arrival comes at a price for the current rotation – 40-year-old veteran Tim Hudson, who has gone 6-8 with a 4.80 ERA this season, has officially been put on the DL in order to make room for Leake. It seems like Hudson may not see the starting rotation again, as the former Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves ace is on the final year of what many – including Hudson, himself – believe to be his swan song in the major leagues.
While this caused a bit of ire among various Giants-friendly forums – calling the move “unfair” for a guy likely on the last weeks of his MLB career – the move comes down to this: San Francisco, for the first time in the Dynasty Era, has a real shot to make the playoffs and defend their World Series title. Unfortunately for some players who simply aren’t producing, including a struggling old vet like Hudson, this is no time to be sentimental.
If Leake can live up to expectations – the kind of a Jake Peavy in 2014, or a Marco Scutaro in 2012, or a Cody Ross in 2010 – he will earn his spot in the rotation, and help the Giants get to the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in more than a decade.
As for Hudson, you can feel bad for a guy who may see the end of his career on the bench (or in the bullpen, depending on what the Giants plan on doing with him). But, you can’t argue that Hudson didn’t deserve it, considering his season-long struggles for a team that has another chance at the playoffs. And – especially if Leake works out in the long-run – you can’t fault the Giants for making a move that they probably realize, while somewhat ruthless, will help the team down the stretch.
Sorry, Huddy – I truly am. But it’s the stretch run, and the Giants can’t blow this opportunity.