Giants Surrender A-Ball Lefty To Upgrade With Ryan Garko

The Deal
The Giants have hung around in the NL wild card race all season on the strength of their pitching. San Francisco’s offense, however, is another story: The club has generated more runs than only the Padres and has slugged more homers than only the Mets. The Giants took an initial step toward restoring balance by trading high Class A lefty Scott Barnes to the Indians for first baseman Ryan Garko.

In Garko, the Giants get a reliable hitter with playoff experience, plenty of baseball savvy and little fear. An alumnus of Anaheim’s Servite High (where he played with former Indians teammate Ben Francisco), Garko lacks a premium body or big league athleticism, but that never has stopped him. He wasn’t drafted as a college junior at Stanford, even though he had led the Cardinal as the starting catcher to the 2001 and 2002 College World Series. He returned as a senior in ’03, leading a team that included future big leaguers such as Carlos Quentin, Sam Fuld, Jed Lowrie, John Mayberry Jr. and Danny Putnam. The Indians drafted Garko in the third round as he led the Cardinal to its fifth consecutive CWS trip (Stanford didn’t go again until 2008), and by the end of ’04 he was Triple-A Buffalo’s first baseman. He became Cleveland’s full-timer at that spot in 2007, hitting 21 home runs during a .289/.359/.483 campaign.

Garko uses a line-drive swing to make consistent contact from a balanced approach and doesn’t sell out for power offensively. He also can be too aggressive and slumped in ’08 to just 14 home runs and a .404 slugging percentage, but he’s having a bounce-back 2009. Garko hits lefthanders hard (.906 career OPS in 428 plate appearances) and is an everyday regular when he’s hitting righties adequately (career .768 OPS). He’s worked hard to become a solid defender but has limited range and can be a baseclogger. He’s been lauded since his college career for his work ethic, makeup and leadership qualities.

The Young Player
Barnes, 21, has won his last seven decisions in the high Class A California League, emerging as San Jose’s ace after Madison Bumgarner’s promotion to Double-A. A 2008 eighth-round pick out of St. John’s, the 6-foot-4 Barnes went 17-7, 3.39 in three seasons for the Red Storm with 263 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings. He’s remained a strikeout pitcher in pro ball at two Class A stops, with 99 in 98 innings this season after posting 63 in 43 2/3 innings last season , primarily at low Class A Augusta. He was providing a quick return on his $100,000 signing bonus as he showed surprising control of a 88-91 mph fastball that touches higher. He also throws a tight slider, average changeup and show-me curveball from a deceptive delivery.
Quick Take
Garko is an excellent place-holder for the Giants at first base; he’s affordable, he has NorCarl ties and he is a firm righthanded bat who makes contact. Coming to the NL, he should be a solid upgrade over Travis Ishikawa offensively and brings a professional, grinding mentality to the lineup sorely in need of an offensive boost. Barnes is a solid piece but at his best fits a mid-rotation starter profile, while the Giants have similar or better candidates in the system such as Bumgarner, Tim Alderson and Kevin Pucetas.

<< Trade Central 2009