Giants general manager Brian Sabean has talked about wanting to bring in some offense for weeks now and finally pulled the trigger Monday by sending Single-A pitching prospect Scott Barnes to the Indians for Ryan Garko. San Francisco first basemen are 12th in the league with a .283/.320/.440 line and Garko is a career .283/.355/.450 hitter, so he certainly represents an upgrade offensively.
However, he's far from an elite bat, especially against right-handed pitching, and much of the improvement at the plate will be wiped away by the steep dropoff in defense from Travis Ishikawa to Garko. As a low-key pickup Garko makes sense for the Giants, but the problem is that Barnes is actually a legit prospect, posting a 2.85 ERA and 99/29 K/BB ratio in 98 innings at high Single-A as a 21-year-old.
Cleveland did well to pick him up for a 28-year-old first baseman with a mediocre .805 OPS and poor glove who's about to get fairly expensive via arbitration. Matt LaPorta is the obvious choice to replace Garko and is hitting .306/.386/.541 in 73 games at Triple-A, but for some reason the Indians will keep holding him back in favor of giving Andy Marte one last chance to show that he's not a total bust.
While the Giants pay a premium for slight improvement and the Indians get good value for a spare part, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Three weeks ago, when Kevin Slowey went on the disabled list, the Twins said that he'd "battled pain in his wrist for a while" and had issues "opening doors and things like that." At the time the hope was that he'd return in a couple weeks, but unsuccessful throwing sessions were followed by a canceled minor-league rehab assignment and now Slowey is going under the knife.
He'll have surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which while innocuous in the grand scheme of pitching injuries will sideline him for 2-3 months and end his season at 10-3 with a 4.86 ERA and 75/15 K/BB ratio in 91 innings spread over 16 starts. Slowey's great record obviously doesn't match his mediocre ERA, but he had a 4.04 mark before struggling in his final two starts while hurting.
Slowey remains a nice long-term bet, but his injury means that Anthony Swarzak will stay in the rotation after going 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 26/17 K/BB ratio over 46 innings through eight career starts. Swarzak's poor strikeout-to-walk ratio and extreme fly-ball tendencies are a bad combination and suggest that he's headed for a trip back down to earth eventually, but he's still worth an AL-only pickup.
AL Quick Hits: Josh Beckett became the AL's first 12-game winner Monday while striking out 10 … Cito Gaston said Monday that Scott Downs will remain the Blue Jays' closer despite recent struggles … Billy Butler went 5-for-5 and knocked in three runs Monday, giving him 31 doubles and a .295 batting average … Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez were out of Monday's lineup with back problems … A.J. Burnett allowed two singles, two walks, and an unearned run over seven innings Monday … After another rough outing Monday, Rich Hill revealed that he's been pitching through shoulder "issues" … Mike Lowell was a healthy scratch Monday, with Adam LaRoche getting another start … Juan Rivera (hamstring) rejoined the lineup Monday after missing eight straight games … Nick Swisher homered twice Monday, going deep for the first time in July … Josh Hamilton dropped to No. 7 in the lineup Monday after batting third or fourth in every game with the Rangers.
NL Quick Hits: Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Zambrano matched gems Monday before Alfonso Soriano's walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning … Tim Lincecum set a new career-high with 15 strikeouts in Monday's complete-game win … Josh Willingham launched a pair of grand slams Monday after entering the game with just 31 RBIs despite 14 homers … Back spasms knocked Troy Glaus (shoulder) from a rehab game Monday at Double-A and further delays his timetable … Josh Geer fell to 1-7 while serving up three long balls Monday, giving him 27 in 102.2 innings overall … Tim Hudson (elbow) threw just 21 of 47 pitches for strikes in a four-inning rehab start Monday at Triple-A … Chris Carpenter allowed one run in seven innings Monday to end July at 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA … Aaron Rowand has a slightly torn forearm, but will try to avoid the disabled list … Jonny Gomes went deep twice Monday and has homered five times in seven games … As rumors swirl, Freddy Sanchez was scratched from Monday's lineup with knee soreness.