Several years ago, I thought Mark Shapiro hung onto Ben Broussard a year or so too long. Broussard was a nice complementary bat, but by the time he was traded in 2006 he was making $2.5M with another raise to come after the season. But thanks to hitting in a platoon, Broussard hit .321/.361/.519 that season, and Seattle's Bill Bavasi bit, sending the Indians Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham.
This time Shapiro traded Ryan Garko at just about his peak value. Garko, thanks to a recent hot streak, is hitting .285/.362/.464, is still cheap, although he'll start getting expensive in 2010 as arbitration kicks in. Garko's a below-average defender at first, and a massive liability on the bases, so his whole value is based on his bat. And the Indians have depth at first base, with Matt LaPorta ready for the majors. In the short term, though, the Indians are utilizing the roster spot to give Andy Marte some at-bats.
The Giants are probably the only team in baseball that views Garko as enough of an improvement over what they have to justify dealing for him. Their current first baseman, Travis Ishikawa, is a good defender, but only hitting .269/.318/.411. And that's not their only offensive weak spot (they're 15th in the NL in runs scored), so any offensive upgrade is a priority for them.
In return for Garko, the Indians get more much-needed young pitching. Scott Barnes is a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher with good command (career 2.6 BB/9IP) and good stuff (career 10.3 SO/9IP). He's also positioned to make the jump to AA fairly soon, which means he'll be ahead of the normal starter development schedule. From all I've read, he's going to be a starter in the majors.
I really like the timing of the move. Garko is more than three years removed from free agency, but will become less and less of a value as he gets into his arbitration years. And if the Indians feel that Matt LaPorta will be best at first base, Garko needed to go anyway.