Head start helps Giants at Meetings
Lack of deals in Las Vegas balanced by earlier signings
LAS VEGAS -- The Giants' pursuit of Randy Johnson likely will be their most compelling activity for the rest of the offseason as a result of what they did at the Winter Meetings -- which was nothing.Of course, no ballclub is completely inactive during the Meetings. The Giants explored their chances of signing coveted left-hander CC Sabathia and weighed trades for corner infielders (including Hank Blalock, Jorge Cantu, Edwin Encarnacion). They rejected those deals, deeming the players they'd receive either defensively challenged or saddled with contractual baggage. Fortunately for the Giants, they were the Major Leagues' busiest team before the Meetings, signing free-agent relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry and shortstop Edgar Renteria. That filled many of their offseason needs. The Giants will still try to acquire an offensively proven first or third baseman and a veteran starter to bolster the rotation. The most ideal starter would be Johnson, the imposing 6-foot-10 left-hander. With prospects Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson ascending and Kevin Pucetas on the brink of reaching the Major Leagues, the Giants will offer no more than a two-year contract to any starter. For the 45-year-old Johnson, who's five victories short of 300, one year will suffice. "He can still pitch," general manager Brian Sabean said of Johnson, who finished 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts last season for Arizona. "He's an intimidating force. The opposition knows who he is and if he's on your side, the team knows that you have a chance to win every time he goes out." The Giants face ample competition. Close to 10 other teams reportedly have expressed interest in Johnson, who's expected to deliberate for weeks before selecting a club.
"He's got some wide-ranging choices, from what the agent has told me," Sabean said. "He has a checklist of what's important to him."Joining a contender is surely among Johnson's priorities. The Giants might fit that description more closely if they can add a capable hitter who would occupy one infield corner while Pablo Sandoval mans the other. Although the Giants found no deals to their liking during the Winter Meetings, Sabean expressed hopes that fresh candidates would soon emerge. "Maybe it takes times for teams to fill things out more and ultimately make somebody available that hasn't been," Sabean said. "That's fine, too, whether it's at the first or the year or in Spring Training." For example, the Giants could reopen talks with the Milwaukee Brewers about shortstop J.J. Hardy (.283, 24 home runs, 74 RBIs in 2008), who could move to third base. Sabean admitted that he and Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin had talked frequently earlier in the year but didn't continue their dialogue.
"Some things have been floated before the [Winter] Meeting, but they've never been revisited," Sabean said.Sabean, who plans to meet with his front-office staff next week to re-examine the club's offseason plan, said that the Giants also must decide whether the team should allow an infield utility man to emerge from the current roster or re-sign the popular Rich Aurilia, who has spent 10 of his 13 years with the Giants and thrived last season (.283, 10 homers, 52 RBIs). Deals done: None. Rule 5 activity: Selected right-hander Luis Perdomo from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Given Merkin Valdez's uncertain health status following impending forearm surgery, Perdomo will be allowed to compete for a middle-relief or setup role in the bullpen. Goals accomplished: None, although the Giants escaped the Meetings without trading left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, whom several teams had sought. Unfinished business: San Francisco could use a hard-hitting corner infielder and a veteran starter to solidify the back end of the rotation.
GM's bottom line: "We're not slightly ahead. We're way ahead. There's no slight about it." -- Sabean, referring to the Giants' pace of meeting their offseason needs, thanks to their trio of free-agent signings
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.