THE TRADE WITH MILWAUKEE:
The Giants Get:
Wayne Franklin, 30, LHP
Franklins career in the majors so far has been a little rocky. 2003 was his first full year in the majors, and as a starter in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation, he gave up 36 home runs, the most in the majors last year. He just squeaked by the 2nd place guy in the category, fellow new Giant Brett Tomko, who had 35 given up. It seems Sabean is really counting on the SBC Park factor, being the toughest place to give up home runs. He doesnt have exceptional ability in any particular area of the game. He does have just enough control and velocity to get by. His cut fastball and slider are hittable, and he hasnt done a good job of mixing up pitches to be more effective. Perhaps having two good catchers calling pitches for him would help.
Leo Estrella, 29, RHP
Estrella has had an awfully odd path through baseball. He made his major league debut in 2000 with Toronto, appearing in only three games, before disappearing from baseball for a year. He reappeared in 2002, and made his way back to the majors to Milwaukee. He had a good first half of the season, throwing in 31 games and logging a 2.65 ERA. His second half performance (a 6.59 ERA in 27 games) negated all those gains, however. He doesnt strike out many people, but doesnt walk many either, and throws ground balls twice as often as fly balls.
The Brewers Get:
Carlos Villanueva, 20, RHP
Villanueva is fresh out of the Giants latin scouting system. Hes played two straight, short years in the rookie level Arizona league, but has put up numbers to suggest he can advance. His main asset is his high strikeout ratio (more than 1 an inning), but then, every hitter is prone to strikeouts in the rookie leagues. Last year was also his first as a starter, and his performance dropped to more average levels.
Glenn Woolard, 23, RHP
Woolards numbers are encouraging. They dont scream top prospect, but they show potential, at least at an early stage. Woolard was a 10th round selection out of the 2002 draft. His ERA rose slightly as he moved from short season A-ball to Hagerstown, but thats too be expected. He did pitch two complete games in 25 starts there, and had a very impressive 135 SOs against only 43 walks. His ceiling is hard to gage, but hes not anywhere near reaching it yet.
Sabean noted, We didn't acquire them to pitch in the minors -- we needed their experience and versatility now. Thats not a good sign concerning the Giants pitching staff, with two guys on the DL to open the season (Robb Nen, Scott Eyre), and Schmidt still rehabbing. Schmidts recent work has moved up his timetable to be the possible fifth starter for the Giants, which is a good thing. Mostly, it means that Franklin, whose career has a starter is very suspect, may be headed to the bullpen, given the Giants 3 lefty relievers (along with Jason Christensen and Chad Zerbe), and 4 when healthy. Consider theres at least one contender getting by with no lefties in the pen (the Anaheim Angels), this is eye opening. Estrella is probably the better of the two, and both should be helped both by throwing in a pitchers park and with two very good game callers behind the plate. Still, Sabean is perhaps leaning a bit too heavily on the Park Formerly Known As Pac Bell to keep the ball in the yard. The cost was rather negligible, though. Woolard could advance well, but neither are prized prospects, and Woolard would be a luxury in a Giants system with many better pitchers ahead of him in the pecking order. And Villanueva is still young, but needs to show a commitment to the game and more serious numbers before becoming valuable.
MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENT SIGNINGS:
Mike Crudale, 27, RHP
Crudale is a bit of a quandary, but he has undeniable talent, and many thought he could be a prize set up man in the Cardinals bullpen not long ago. The key for him is his slider, an unusually big slider that he can throw hard. When he can throw it for strikes, and mix it with a low to mid nineties fastball, hes an excellent reliever. When he cant, as was the case this past year, hes very hittable as it allows batters to wait for a fastball. He had a terrible spring, giving up 9 runs over 3 innings in the Brewers camp. If he can pull things together, he could be a solid addition to either Fresno or San Francisco
Dave Veres, 37, RHP
Veres has been around for a long time, serving as a closer for both St. Louis and Colorado. He knows what hes doing on the mound. His drawback is that he had offseason shoulder surgery, and has not yet recovered, which led to his release. He knows he needs to rebuild his arm strength, and though his goal is to return to the majors soon, he is willing to work in Fresno, much like Hammonds and Hermanson did last year. His closing days are over, but he still has many good innings left in him.
Deivi Cruz, 29, SS
Cruz is a free swinger who has decent power, but little ability to get on base consistently. He is better against lefties and power pitchers, but falls victim to too many breaking balls. He also doesnt walk nearly enough to get by in the majors, and hasnt posted an on base percentage over .300 since batting over .300 in 2000.
Its easy to worry about having yet another shortstop on the roster whos worse than Neifi Perez, but these are minor league signings. Cruz is unlikely to be anything more than part of Sabeans commitment to bolster the Fresno team unless something goes catastrophically wrong with Ransom or Perez. Veres and Crudale could be different stories, though. Although both will be starting in Fresno, both could be on tracks to the majors. Particularly if Nens injury is truly serious (remember, Conte was quoted as saying Nen will be ready Opening day or never.), Veres would solidify a set-up situation in front of Herges. Crudale is also a little control away from being a very good reliever again. If they get things on track, the big league team could reap some real benefits from these garbage signings.
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