Giants get two prospects for Durham
Veteran sent to Brewers for speedy outfielder, lefty pitcher
SAN FRANCISCO -- In perhaps the first of several transactions made before the July 31 Trade Deadline, the Giants on Sunday moved Ray Durham from one AT&T Park clubhouse to another, swapping the second baseman for a pair of Brewers prospects. Conveniently, Milwaukee was in town for a three-game series, which it swept.
A few weeks ago, the Giants were considered possible contenders in the moribund National League West, but they appear to be in "sell" mode after losing nine of their past 10 games and remaining eight games behind first in the division.
Durham, 36, was leading the club in batting average (.293) and on-base percentage (.385). Without his bat, San Francisco likely will struggle for offense more than it already has. Before Sunday's game, the club was 11th in the NL in batting average (.254) while tallying the second-most strikeouts (747).
"It's kind of a shock," said Durham in the Giants' clubhouse after Sunday's game. "I think it's better for both parties. This organization is building for the future. They felt that this move had to be made."
Ultimately, though the deal had been rumored since Saturday night, it wasn't announced until after the game. Durham said he asked for the deal to be put on hold so he wouldn't have to play against his now-former teammates, "out of respect for the guys in this locker room."
General manager Brian Sabean, who is friendly with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, said the two first spoke about a deal over the phone last week during the All-Star break. But details weren't worked out until Melvin came to town with his team Friday night.
"Milwaukee was aggressive in their pursuit of Ray," Sabean said. "It just so happened we had them in town and Doug Melvin in town, and we go back a long way. It didn't take too long to strike accord."
The Giants are happy to be off the hook for some of the approximately $3 million remaining on Durham's two-year, $14.5 million contract. San Francisco did agree to pay the Brewers an undisclosed sum to consummate the deal, but it'll still save a considerable amount. Milwaukee paid Durham a $200,000 assignment fee for him to agree to the trade; any player who's been in the Majors for 10 years and five years with the same team -- which Durham has -- can veto a deal.
The move appears to signal the Giants' willingness to begin looking toward 2009 and beyond, while abandoning their hopes of earning a spot in the 2008 postseason.
"We needed at some point to turn our fortunes to our young players," Sabean said. "Our older players, if they were good enough in the market to be able to be acquired by somebody else, we were willing to do that.
"Ray is the first transaction."
The clubhouse is home to seven rookies, and, in all, 12 players have made their Major League debut for the team in 2008 -- easily the highest total in the bigs. The team has been in flux for the past few seasons. Kevin Correia is the longest-tenured Giant (July 10, 2003), and only Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel, Matt Cain and reliever Jack Taschner have also been around since 2005.
Durham's departure will allow more playing time for younger players and potentially open the floodgates for a potential Giants youth movement, something for which Bay Area fans have been clamoring.
Emmanuel Burriss probably will be the deal's biggest benefactor. A natural shortstop, he's often out of the lineup because manager Bruce Bochy prefers to start Vizquel at that position. But now Burriss, who's batting .286 in 49 games, can help replace Durham at second. Rookie Eugenio Velez also will see more playing time.
"That's something we are going to talk about," Bochy said of adjusting the lineup. "We are going to huddle up, Brian, myself and the staff. We have some options."
The Giants made it clear they'd be open to moving their other veterans, Rich Aurilia and Winn in particular, if suitable offers present themselves. Taschner, who was originally rumored to be part of the Milwaukee deal, has drawn substantial interest, too.
"We will be as active as we can," Sabean said. Regarding possibly obtaining a player who might help immediately as well as in the future: "You have to listen. You never know what is going to get thrown your way and that kind of a deal would be attractive."
No potential deal, though, would include any of the club's young pitchers, Sabean said. The Giants also have no interest in acquiring a "rent-a-player."
With this deal, San Francisco adds to its increasingly formidable farm system. Neither Triple-A Nashville lefty pitcher Steve Hammond nor Class A Brevard County center fielder Darren Ford are top prospects, but adding them while clearing salary made it easy for the Giants to pull the trigger.
In four starts at Triple-A, Hammond has struggled, allowing 14 runs in 17 innings. But the 26-year-old Vallejo native was decent at Double-A Huntsville, maintaining a 3.45 ERA in 88 2/3 innings.
Noted for his speed, Ford, 22, is the more heralded player. Baseball America rated him the fastest baserunner and the best defensive outfielder in the Brewers' Minor League organization. He has 48 stolen bases, currently second best in the Minors. Ford's offense is his downside -- he's batting just .230 with 88 strikeouts.
It's more than likely the players won't help the Giants this season. The significance of this trade, though, reverberates beyond 2008 -- it's another step towards rebuilding the club during what has been a bumpy beginning to the post-Barry Bonds era.
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.