Giants can’t be quick to trade Jonathan Sanchez now

If you were to have gotten Giants general manager Brian Sabean all liquored up in a private setting (I know you’re probably weirded out by the start of this sentence, but stay with me here) and asked him which players he wouldn’t mind giving up in a trade to acquire a bat, he almost certainly would have uttered this name: Jonathan Sanchez.

Hell, there’s a great chance he would have uttered that name first. But that was before Sanchez’s no-hitter against the Padres on Friday night, when he struck out 11 batters and was a Juan Uribe-error away from throwing a perfect game.

The Giants had been waiting for that kind of performance all season out of Sanchez. Granted, they weren’t expecting that good of a performance, but they did have high expectations for him coming into the 2009 season.

He did show flashes of brilliance earlier this season, most notably in a two-hit, 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks on April 17. But ’09 has mostly been a season of massive frustration for not only Sanchez, but also a Giants organization that had hoped the 26-year-old lefty would be the third leg of a tripod that also featured pitching sensations Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Sanchez has always been a strikeout pitcher, but for much of this season he struggled mightily with his control and he seemed to be racking up K’s only because he was wildly effective. And when he would start to struggle during games, he appeared to be a mental midget on the mound and could never recover.

At the end of June, Sanchez was demoted to the bullpen and the only reason he got the opportunity to start on Friday night against San Diego was because Randy Johnson suffered a shoulder injury swinging a bat in his last outing. But as Sanchez noted after his no-hitter, the move to the pen allowed pitching coach Dave Righetti to work with him on his lower half, getting the lefty to slow down and cock his leg back more upon his delivery. This also slowed his arm action down and it allotted Sanchez more control of all his pitches.

And he was certainly in control last night, striking out 11 batters with a barrage of fastballs, sliders and breaking balls that befuddled a weak San Diego lineup. His performance wasn’t a fluke; Sanchez was just that good last night and maybe the young man is finally turning the corner.

That said, the Giants need to hang onto Sanchez now. Even for as bad as he’s looked this year, maybe Friday’s performance will serve as a steppingstone for Sanchez to become the pitcher San Fran had always envisioned him becoming. With Johnson expected to miss at least another week or so, Sanchez will get another start or two and if he’s lights out again, Sabean can’t trade this kid with the Giants leading the Wild Card race.

San Fran’s offense is bad, but it might not be as bad as everyone initially thought. “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval has ignited this team with his bat, Aaron Rowand has been revived in the leadoff spot and even young players like Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa are starting to come around. If role players like Uribe, Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria can help fill in the gaps, the Giants might not have to part with an arm like Sanchez in order to get a bat on the trade market.

Plus, with Lincecum and Cain, the Giants already had one of the best pitching rotations in the NL – if not the best. If Sanchez has finally turned the corner, the Giants could potentially have the best starting rotation in the entire league (don’t forget about Johnson and Barry Zito, the latter of which has pitched well this season). San Fran would be incredibly tough to beat in the postseason with that rotation, even with a weak lineup.

Now, I know what some are thinking: Sanchez has had more bad outings this season than good and one no-hitter doesn’t mean he’s Cy Young-bound now. But Sanchez isn’t some journeyman that came out of nowhere; the Giants loved his potential coming into the season. And if he has finally turned the corner, SF should reap the benefits of developing his talent.

Plus, with minor leaguers Buster Posey and Angel Villalona on there way to the big leagues soon, maybe the offense is on its way and the Giants don’t have to go outside of the organization in order to acquire bats.

Maybe Sabean is thinking he can turn Sanchez’s no-hitter into trade gold. Maybe Sabean can now get the bat the Giants have needed all season long. Or maybe Sabean keeps Sanchez and builds a starting rotation that resembles the Braves of the mid-90s or the A’s of earlier this decade. After all Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez look like one hell of a trio right now and the sick part is, the Giants still have two more studs in the waiting in minor league arms Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson.

Sabean might be sitting on a pitching gold mind here. Now isn’t the time to trade one of those pieces.

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