Giants well-positioned, but could still seek help

Giants well-positioned, but could still seek help

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants strengthened themselves for the stretch drive without engineering a single deal. Keep that in mind as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

The procession of substitutes and callups who filled in for established performers played well enough for the Giants to ease any urgency or anxiety they might have regarding filling a position.

For instance, when right fielder Hunter Pence's strained right hamstring forced San Francisco to place him on the disabled list in early June, it was initially believed that the Giants would act quickly to acquire a productive veteran hitter. They indeed engaged in trade discussions, with Cincinnati's Jay Bruce a definite object of interest and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun rumored to be one. But the Giants have gone 24-11 since Pence was sidelined, eliminating the need to acquire a corner outfielder immediately.

If the terms are agreeable, the Giants still might pursue outfield help, as they did in 2010 when they obtained Jose Guillen and Cody Ross in August.

More than likely, they'll go after relief help. They did this in 2010, too, adding right-hander Ramon Ramirez and left-hander Javier Lopez to the bullpen. Both contributed significantly down the stretch. Lopez proved so valuable that he's still with the team.

In 1997, San Francisco even traded for a second closer, Roberto Hernandez, though Rod Beck already was entrenched in the role. Don't be surprised if the Giants make a similar move in the next few weeks, though Santiago Casilla is a respectable 21-for-25 in save situations.

TRADE SCENARIO
Imagine that an opportunity existed to add Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller, who has been linked to the Giants in trade rumors. The Giants are typically reluctant to part with Major League talent, and this situation would probably be no exception. They would readily trade Minor League prospects, though they'd be unlikely to part with any of their three top-ranked farmhands -- right-handers Phil Bickford and Tyler Beede or infielder Christian Arroyo. San Francisco wouldn't hesitate to dip into its pool of prospects currently playing at the mid-to-lower Minor League levels to add a reliever of Miller's caliber. And Miller's $36 million contract, which runs through 2018, would not be an issue.

WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
The Giants are spoiled, but in a proper manner. They've reached baseball's summit. So anything short of a trip to the Fall Classic would disappoint them. As manager Bruce Bochy said, "We're in the business of winning here."

THE ROAD AHEAD
It's a challenge. Playing in warmer weather is always a test for the Giants, and between the end of the All-Star break and Labor Day, they're scheduled to go to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago. The Giants also have a series in Miami, but maybe the Marlins will close the retractable roof.

KEY PLAYER
Pence. Should he recover sufficiently from his hamstring injury and regain his offensive productivity, the Giants would benefit as much as they did when they originally acquired Pence from Philadelphia in July 2012.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton served brief stints earlier this season with the Giants, who didn't feel compelled to keep either one around long. But if a starting pitcher is sidelined, the Giants would likely consider one of these right-handers to fill the void in the rotation.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.