WHAT THE GIANTS GOT: Travis Blackley, left-handed pitcher, 24 years old
As recently as 2004, Blackley had been ranked amongst the Top 10 Seattle Mariners prospects by a certain national publication that does such rankings. But labrum surgery stole that away. Blackley signed with the Mariners in 2000 out of Australia, and immediately began to pay dividends as a left-handed starter in 2001. He rose steadily, and in 2003 at Double-A San Antonio, he had a 2.61 ERA with a 17-3 record. He was named the Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year for the effort.
It was 2004 when things turned around. His performance dropped a bit in Triple-A, but not to the point of killing his reputation. However, six starts in the big leagues led to a 10.04 ERA and a lot of concern. After 136 1/3 innings, he missed time with shoulder problems. The Mariners attempted to have him work through it by rehabbing the shoulder, but in early 2005 he had surgery to repair a torn labrum and missed the season.
In 2006, he returned to baseball at Double-A as a 23-year old. With diminished velocity and a bit of rust, he had an 8-11 record with a 4.06 ERA in San Antonio before splitting a pair of starts in Triple-A with a 4.09 ERA.
A lot of worries remain around his strength and whether he will be able to get his fastball back. The good news is that he appeared to be healthy after pitching 155 innings in 2006, just short of his career high of 162 1/3 innings. If he gets his velocity back, he has the other pitches to become a solid left-handed pitcher in the Giants' system.
One interesting twist since his trade: Blackley was assigned to Triple-A Fresno, as expected. However, manager Dan Rohn has reportedly excluded him from the rotation, in favor of longtime reliever Erick Threets. There's a chance that Threets may be starting just to get more innings of work in regularly, and Blackley could take over soon after, but this appears to be the first time in Blackley's career he won't be a full-time starter.
WHAT THE GIANTS GAVE UP: Jason Ellison, outfielder, 28 years old
Ellison, who turns 29 on Wednesday, has long been an underdog in the Giants system before finding his way into the majors.
Ellison was a 22nd round pick out of Lewis & Clark College in Idaho, and despite his doubters, batted .305 through his minor league career with solid walk rates and decent gap power for a center fielder. His big break was as a 24-year old in 2002, when he was performing solidly in Single-A San Jose and got the opportunity to go to Fresno. He exploded onto the scene with the Grizzlies, and never played underneath Triple-A again in his career.
In Fresno, Ellison won accolades and fans for his defense, and also performed well on the base paths. He appeared to be a legitimate option in center field, and got the chance when he came up with the Giants in 2005 as a 27-year old rookie. He started the season hot, batting .457 in April and turning in some great defensive plays.
However he cooled off in May and June, settling around .260 where his batting average would eventually end up.
Ellison also took some heat for a couple of high profile miscues, including dropping a ball that was knocked out of his glove by former teammate Alex Sanchez. That led to a poor defensive reputation for the center fielder. Ellison got another chance in 2006, but hit poorly in the majors. He was sent back to Fresno, where he did find his stroke and batted .406 in 46 games.
When Ellison plays well, he is a .285-plus hitter with some gap power, speed and above average defense. His reads aren't the best, but he has the speed to make up for that in center field, and he has a very strong and accurate arm. His speed has not been something he's capitalized on in the majors yet, however. He may not be anything more than a bench player, but he's an ideal right-handed pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and defensive specialist. When he's on, that is.
To put it simply, the Giants were minutes away from losing Ellison for nothing on waivers, so the fact that Giants general manager Brian Sabean got anything for him is a plus. That he got a player like Blackley is stupendous. Blackley has a ton of questions, but he's got some good potential, as well, if he heals right.
And this trade works out for Ellison, too. Ellison grew up in Seattle, and the Mariners have always been one of his favorite teams. As expected, he's being used pretty much in a bench role in Seattle, but he's being used and is playing in front of some hometown friends and family.
Overall, this is a winner of a deal on both ends, especially Ellison's. Losing Blackley may end up biting the Mariners, and maybe it won't. But the Giants got something for Ellison. That in itself is something. Maybe Blackley will come back to bite the Mariners, maybe not, but it's a good risk for the Giants to take at the price.