© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
12/01/10 12:43 AM EST
Giants head to Winter Meetings ahead of game
Addition of Tejada provides options on left side of infield
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Winter Meetings last occurred at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in 2006, Brian Sabean went home hoarse. Sabean won't have to talk as much next week when the meetings return to the shadow of Walt Disney World. The Giants approach the meetings with relatively few needs. This reflects the pitching depth and the mostly stable roster that carried them to their World Series triumph. It's also the result of their two major offseason moves. Last week they filled a potential void by re-signing first baseman Aubrey Huff, their top run producer in 2010, to a two-year, $22 million contract. They lost free-agent infielder Juan Uribe, their primary shortstop this year, who received a three-year, $21 million pact from the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. But scant hours after Uribe's deal became official Tuesday, word leaked that the typically proactive Sabean addressed the unsettled left side of San Francisco's infield by forging a one-year agreement with free agent Miguel Tejada. Thus, Sabean is unlikely to reach the frenetic pace he maintained at the 2006 Winter Meetings. He busied himself and taxed his vocal cords by signing free agents Bengie Molina and Rich Aurilia, bringing back Pedro Feliz for another season and essentially completing a one-year deal with Barry Bonds. News of the Bonds accord broke as the Giants' braintrust flew back to San Francisco. Giants officials wouldn't comment on obtaining Tejada until he passes a physical examination. Conventional wisdom indicates that Tejada will be San Francisco's Opening Day shortstop in 2011. But until the Giants explain themselves, the notion can be entertained that Tejada, who appeared in 97 games at third base last season, was acquired to handle that position. Incumbent third baseman Pablo Sandoval entered the offseason with a mandate to improve his physical condition or risk demotion to Triple-A. If the Giants indeed view Tejada more as a third baseman than as a shortstop, Sandoval would have to push for playing time at first base, with Huff occupying one of the outfield corners. If that proves to be the case, the Giants will continue searching for a shortstop at the meetings. They'd likely do so by pursuing trade possibilities, which Sabean already has acknowledged exploring. Shortstops believed to be on the market include Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett, Boston's Marco Scutaro, Minnesota's J.J. Hardy and Kansas City's Yuniesky Betancourt. "You guys have seen the free-agent list. It's not very sexy at that position," Sabean said. The Giants also could stay busy, if they feel so inclined, by negotiating contracts -- multiyear or otherwise -- with salary arbitration-eligible players to control costs. With the team payroll likely to escalate past $110 million and eight players eligible for arbitration, the Giants might elect to save money where they can. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, for example, earned $2.1 million while finishing 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He'll receive a significant raise no matter what the Giants do. But saving a few hundred thousand dollars by making a deal with Sanchez instead of going to arbitration might be worth the trouble for the Giants. The other arbitration-eligible Giants are outfielders Andres Torres and Cody Ross, left-hander Javier Lopez, right-handers Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Chris Ray and infielder Mike Fontenot.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.