The Giants sold out most games at Pacific Bell Park and earned a few more dollars by advancing to the playoffs. But owner Peter Magowan insists the team lost money in 2002, so the plan is for the payroll to be trimmed.
"The message that needs to be sent is, we've been on a pretty good gravy train," Sabean said. "We really were able to extend our budget above and beyond (this season), and that's not going to be the case this coming year. So we are going to have to retool and think that maybe in a perfect world, we're looking at a way to get a nest egg to be able to attack the market."
The Giants could lose as many as four everyday players. Shortstop Rich Aurilia and catcher Benito Santiago are free agents. First baseman J.T. Snow has a $6.85 million club option, which the Giants won't exercise. And right fielder Jose Cruz Jr., who has a mutual option for $4 million, isn't expected to return.
It could be the second straight winter the Giants lose four regulars. When the 2004 roster is set, Barry Bonds could be the only remaining everyday player from last year's World Series team.
Other free agents include Sidney Ponson (he didn't live up to the billing after the July 31 trade with Baltimore), Tim Worrell (worthy replacement for injured closer Robb Nen), Andres Galarraga (one homer shy of 400), Jeffrey Hammonds (maybe he'll replace Cruz), Eric Young (option won't be exercised), Marvin Benard (an $11.1 million mistake) and Dustin Hermanson (late-season add-on was serviceable).
Sabean likes this winter's free-agent market.
"The pool is probably as good as it has been in awhile in terms of profile guys who could help the team at various positions," he said. "Having said that, and if we're lucky enough to free up enough money, it might not be specific to first base or right field. It might be some other place on the diamond to impact the lineup."