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SAN FRANCISCO – Does a right-handed reliever tickle your fancy? How about a platoon pal for Gregor Blanco in left field?
Want more from the Giants at the Winter Meetings? Well, Brian Sabean would like to tamp down your expectations. The club’s longtime general manager cautioned that the Giants were done shopping for starting pitchers, wouldn’t give up their first-round draft pick to sign a free agent extended a qualifying offer and couldn’t stomach any more multiyear contracts given the amount they’ve already committed to their own players.
“Nothing earth shattering,” said Sabean, who nonetheless will report to Orlando before the winter meetings begin on Monday.
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Sabean said Giants fans might not be the only ones disappointed if they end up just getting a platoon partner for Blanco in left field. Manager Bruce Bochy wants an everyday bat out there, too. And it won’t be Brandon Belt who fills the outfield need.
“He’s not going to play any position other than first base,” Sabean said.
The plan was to fix the pitching, and repeat the model that worked to the tune of two World Series in three seasons. If they’ve done that successfully, Sabean said, they’ll be in contention in mid-July when other bats might “shake loose.” Their recent experience in the citrus grove, when they made deals for Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, shows that often they do.
Of course, if the Giants make minimal additions in the outfield, they run the risk of being exposed should someone go down with an injury early in the season -- just as Angel Pagan did when he required hamstring surgery. In fact, when the A's acquired Craig Gentry from Texas, Oakland GM Billy Beane said he was motivated to make the deal because he knew he had little depth should anything happen to Coco Crisp.
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Regardless, for now, Sabean doesn't see an everyday answer in left field.
“I don’t know to what extent we’ll be satisfied whether it’s in the market or by trade to have it resolved,” Sabean said. “From a manager’s standpoint we’d like to have an everyday person out there whether it’s right-handed or left-handed. I don’t know how that opportunity will present itself or how we’ll be able to fold that type of piece into the budget.”
The Giants payroll is hovering around $150 million and they have clearance to add more, especially if they find another reliever that they consider a clear upgrade to internal options. Some new names were added to the free-agent list on Monday, including non-tenders John Axford, Ronald Belisario and Mitchell Boggs.
Sabean took part in meetings with the executive board on Wednesday and relief options, mostly internal vs. free-agent possibilities, were discussed at length. The Giants could round out their bullpen with pitchers like Heath Hembree, George Kontos or Jean Machi. Or they could seek more help.
As for the rotation, they’re done after re-signing Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong and bringing on board Tim Hudson ostensibly to take Barry Zito’s spot. The Giants were 13th out of 15 NL teams in rotation ERA last season, and they’re bringing back four of their five starting pitchers. So unless they get bounce-back years, nothing else will matter.
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The Giants preferred Vogelsong on a one-year contract to someone like Ricky Nolasco, who got four years, mainly because they already have expensive long-term commitments with Matt Cain, Buster Posey and others. When the offseason began, only the Dodgers and Angels had committed more future money than the Giants.
That’s part of the reason why you won’t see Shin-Soo Choo holding a Giants jersey in one hand and a $100 million check in the other. And while the posting rules might be changing to become more friendly to major league teams as it pertains to Matsuhiro Tanaka, Sabean gave no indication he was keeping close tabs on that process, either.
So what to make of the money flying around baseball?
“Everybody’s probably viewing the free-agent market as on one hand buyer beware, on the other hand if you can satisfy a need and fit it into your payroll, teams are willing to do that too,” Sabean said.
“We’re satisfied with the choices we’ve made.”