Why would the Braves trade Marcus Giles? Well, his statistics have dropped since his career season in 2003. He's due a big raise in arbitration and he's a free agent at the end of next season. And finally, there are a few internal options in place to replace him.
Giles was thrown into the role of a leadoff hitter to replace Rafael Furcal, and he said from day one in spring training he didn't want to do it. But fact is the Braves had no other choice. He was a good on base guy and had decent speed, so there was no reason not to believe Giles would not do well as the leadoff man.
But he struggled for most of the season in the role. Giles hit .192 in April and .241 through the first three months of the season. He improved as the season progressed, hitting .289 in the last three months, but there was no doubt he never found a comfort level as the leadoff man. Again, he did do better as the season continued, but his inconsistency and dislike for the job made it unlikely he would remain as the Braves' leadoff man.
And if Giles remains and the team finds a new leadoff man, where would he hit? The second spot in the order will be filled by Edgar Renteria, and chances are Giles would have to hit eighth if he was still on the roster. Do the Braves keep a player like Giles that would only hit eighth?
The Braves have to be a bit concerned at Giles' statistical drop off over the last four seasons. In 2003 he had a great season, hitting .316 with 21 home runs and 69 RBI in 551 at bats. Giles had an OBP of .390, a slugging percentage of .526, and an OPS of .916. But look how his numbers in those categories have declined since then:
2004 - .311 BA - .378 OBP - .443 SLG - .821 OPS – 08 HR – 48 RBI – 379 AB
2005 - .291 BA - .365 OBP - .461 SLG - .826 OPS – 15 HR – 63 RBI – 577 AB
2006 - .262 BA - .341 OBP - .387 SLG - .728 OPS – 11 HR – 60 RBI – 550 AB
Now obviously injuries played a part in his drop off in 2004 as he had almost 200 at bats fewer than the other seasons. But if you still examine the decrease in his stats from what he did in 2003 to the numbers he put up this season it is dramatic. Was 2003 his ceiling? Is that the best stats we can expect for Giles to put up? Or did he simply top out right there?
Giles made $3.85 million dollars in 2006, so as he heads to arbitration he might command over $5 million. Then next winter when he becomes a free agent, he might ask for upwards of $6 million per season or more, even if he duplicates his mediocre numbers from this year. So do the Braves want to pay that much to a player whose numbers are declining?
Then there are the prospects that are knocking on the door. The Braves have several players that could take over if Giles is dealt, including Martin Prado, Tony Pena, Jr., and even Kelly Johnson, who should be back after having Tommy John Surgery last summer.
So all of those reasons present the probability that Giles will, in fact, be traded. Even though he's got only one year left until he's a free agent, Giles has value. And with the Braves having significant needs after not making the playoffs, he could be the price that is paid to help improve the roster.
Let's now look and see who needs a second baseman and which teams could be likely trading partners for the Braves if Giles is shopped this winter.
METS - With Jose Valentin a free agent, the Mets could be looking for a replacement, but it's very unlikely the Braves would trade Giles within the division.
CARDINALS - Ron Belliard was acquired late in the season from the Indians, but he's a free agent. Aaron Miles, who started more games (71) than anybody at second for St. Louis, is an unspectacular player.
The Cardinals first priority this winter will be pitching, as they lose four starters (Mark Mulder, Jason Marquis, Jeff Weaver, and NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan) to free agency. The team will move Adam Wainwright to the rotation, but that will mean they will have to replace him in the bullpen, on top of the questions they will have about the return of injured closer Jason Isringhausen.
But the Cards do have a few interesting relievers. Brad Thompson, a 25-year-old right-hander, pitched in 43 games in 2005 and posted a solid ERA. Lefty Tyler Johnson is also 25 next season, and he had 11 holds for the Cardinals. St. Louis also has lefty Randy Flores (31 years old but 18 holds in 2006), and right-handers Josh Hancock and Josh Kinney. Are any of these five significant upgrades for the Atlanta bullpen?
ASTROS - Craig Biggio is a free agent, and despite the fact that he's only 70 hits away from 3000 career hits the Astros don't seem to be in a rush to bring him back. So with some uncertainty there, the Astros should be listed. Would Houston be interested in dealing Wily Tavares, who could possibly interest the Braves as a left fielder and leadoff man? Some of you might not like Tavares, but he would provide some speed at the top of the order.
Two of Houston's free agents are relievers Trever Miller and Russ Springer, so that might make Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls, two very effective pitchers, unavailable in a deal. Would the Braves want to take a chance at Brad Lidge, adding him to Bob Wickman? Perhaps Giles and Horacio Ramirez could make that happen.
CUBS - With Cesar Izturis scheduled to play shortstop, the Cubs might move Ronny Cedeno to second base. But they may go out and get a more experienced player at that position. The Cubs have some interesting arms that could interest the Braves, like right-handers Michael Wuertz (2.66 ERA in 41 games) and David Aardsma (25 years old and throws gas) and lefty Will Ohman (29 years old, 78 games, and a .158 batting average against lefty hitters).
GIANTS - The Giants need to get younger, and with Ray Durham a free agent they will be in the hunt for a second baseman. Kevin Correia and Vinny Chulk are two decent right-handers that could possibly help out the Braves' bullpen.
PADRES - Okay, so the Padres have Josh Barfield at second base. We know, we know. But there have been a few rumors that they may move Barfield to the outfield to help replace pending free agent Dave Roberts. Marcus is a San Diego native, and his brother plays there, so it's probably always smart to include the Padres in any discussion about him.
If the Braves wanted to shoot for the moon, they could include Marcus in a package with Horacio Ramirez (another SoCal native) and others for Jake Peavy, which would certainly fill the need for a young ace. Peavy is a southerner who grew up in Mobile, Alabama as a Braves' fan.
But if the Padres have any interest in Marcus, expect the Braves to ask for Scott Linebrink, one of the best setup men in the game. He has been terrific coming in before Trevor Hoffman, and he certainly would be effective setting up Bob Wickman. The emergence of Cla Meredith might make Linebrink available.
ROCKIES - Colorado has Jamey Carroll, Luis Gonzalez, and Kaz Matsui. Will they want to upgrade? Could the Braves take a shot at one of the Rockies' young starters (Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, or maybe even Jeff Francis)? Giles would have to be apart of a larger package, but those young arms are intriguing.
RED SOX - Mark Loretta is a free agent. The Red Sox don't have much depth in their bullpen, especially with Jonathan Papelbon heading to the rotation. Lefty Javier Lopez is interesting, as is Craig Hansen, the college kid that was mentioned in the Andruw Jones rumors. The Braves have been rumored to have some interest in CoCo Crisp in the past. Would a Giles-for-Crisp deal be possible?
BLUE JAYS - Aaron Hill and Russ Adams split most of the time at second for Toronto, but the Blue Jays did not seem very happy. Toronto has depth in its bullpen with Jeremy Accardo, Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, and Brandon League.
INDIANS - Cleveland acquired Hector Luna from the Cardinals late in the season. Jason Davis is from Chattanooga and grew up a Braves' fan. He had a decent season in the Indians' bullpen last season. However, it's doubtful the Indians would give up Fausto Carmona or Rafael Betancourt.
TWINS - Luis Castillo is a free agent, but the Twins might not be able to afford Giles if they can't afford Castillo. The Twins do have great young pitching, with Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain certain to interest anyone.
ANGELS - Adam Kennedy is a free agent, and the Angels might look to Giles as his replacement. Marcus would probably welcome a trade to this team, since it would be the closest team not named the Padres to his home. The Angels have some solid relievers. It is doubtful Scot Shields could be pried loose, but it would be worth the try. Shields is one of the most effective setup men in the game. The 31-year-old Shields had 31 holds last season setting up K-Rod. Brendon Donnelly may be non-tendered, so you might be able to wait on him, and Kevin Gregg is another interesting pitcher.
ATHLETICS - I saved the best for last. Two years ago when the A's and Braves were in discussions, Oakland GM Billy Beane wanted Marcus Giles for Tim Hudson. John Schuerholz said no and had to re-work the deal. So with neither Marco Scutaro or Mark Ellis reminding A's fans or Joe Morgan, they may be interested in Giles again.
And do they ever have the relief pitching. How about four different pitchers that could possibly interest the Braves:
Justin Duchscherer – RHP – 29 years old – 2.91 ERA – 17 holds – 9 saves
Kiko Calero – RHP – 32 years old – 3.41 ERA – 23 holds – 2 saves
Joe Kennedy – LHP – 27 years old – 2.31 ERA – 14 holds – 1 save
Brad Halsey – LHP – 27 years old – 4.67 ERA – 8 holds – 0 saves
Could the Braves somehow convince the A's to give them two of these relievers for Giles and perhaps another pitcher? Maybe Giles and Cormier for Duchscherer and Kennedy?
All of you know I've been pushing for this for a while. I think the A's are the perfect candidate for a Marcus Giles deal. It's a west coast team that had an interest in him before and they still could use the upgrade at second base. Plus, their abundance of relievers makes a deal a perfect fit.
So the Braves have a big decision to make. Giles is unlikely to stay, and with his value he could certainly help this team get better. There are a lot of teams around that need a player like Marcus and have good relievers that might be available. So this will be one of the most interesting situations to watch this winter.
Tomorrow: 25. If Giles is traded, who will play second base?
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.