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SAN FRANCISCO -- This offseason's salary-arbitration process might prompt Giants officials to scrape some of the ornate gold leaf off the dome of downtown's City Hall.
Club management will need every dollar it can muster to pay its arbitration-eligible players, a whopping group of eight.
This contingent includes outfielders Andres Torres and Cody Ross, left-handers Javier Lopez and Jonathan Sanchez, right-handers Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Chris Ray and infielder Mike Fontenot.
The Giants must announce by 9 p.m. PT Thursday whether any of these players will not be tendered a contract. Non-tendered players will become free agents, though their former club remains able to sign them.
Traditionally, arbitration-eligible players reap the benefits of their status. The 128 players who filed for arbitration last offseason received average pay increases of 107 percent.
Among San Francisco's arbitration-eligibles, half earned seven-figure salaries in 2010: Ross ($4.45 million), Sanchez ($2.1 million), Ramirez ($1.155 million) and Fontenot ($1 million). The remainder consists of Ray ($975,000), Lopez ($775,000), Torres ($426,000) and Casilla ($400,000).
The cumulative increases could tax the Giants' budget. San Francisco's payroll appears guaranteed to soar past approximately $95 million to more than $110 million. Thus it would behoove the Giants to avoid arbitration with as many players as possible by negotiating one-year deals or multiyear contracts that control pay hikes or non-tendering one or two individuals at the risk of losing them on the open market.
Based on performance and overall value, Torres, Ross, Lopez, Sanchez, Casilla and Ramirez almost surely will be tendered contracts.
Torres (.268 batting average, 16 home runs, 63 RBIs, 26 stolen bases) claimed the center field/leadoff role early in the season and won the Willie Mac Award as the most inspirational Giant. Ross accumulated pedestrian regular-season statistics (.269, 14 homers, 65 RBIs) but hit .294 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 postseason games and was named Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series against Philadelphia.
Sanchez (13-9, 3.07 ERA) endured inconsistency but established himself as a legitimate starter by striking out 205 in 193 1/3 innings and limiting opponents to a Major League-low .204 batting average. Lopez was solid in the regular season (4-2, 2.34 in 77 games with the Giants and Pittsburgh) and sparkled in the postseason as left-handed batters went 1-for-13 off him with six strikeouts. Casilla (7-2, 1.95 ERA in 52 games) stranded 41 of 47 inherited baserunners. Ramirez recorded a 0.67 ERA in 25 appearances after joining the Giants from Boston in a July 31 trade.
Less certain is the status of Ray (5-0, 3.72 ERA in 63 games with Texas and San Francisco), who pitched capably but didn't make the postseason roster, and Fontenot (.283 in 103 games with the Cubs and Giants), a utility man who's handy but can be replaced with relative ease.
General manager Brian Sabean, who indicated as the offseason began that he'd tender contracts to each arbitration-eligible Giant, has backed off that stance since then, likely due to the payroll's imminent expansion.
"I can't tell you that we'll tender all of them or arbitrate with all of them," Sabean said.
The payroll increase can be traced partly to first baseman Aubrey Huff and shortstop Miguel Tejada. Huff will receive $10 million in the first year of his two-year contract after earning $3 million in 2010. Tejada, whose signing is expected to be made official Thursday, reportedly will get $6.5 million.