Giants Answer Opening Bell of Free Agency

Giants players rushing towards the door of free agency, either of own volition or a proactive shove by the Giants. One returns back to the nest nonetheless. Giants clarifies budget situation before there is mass blood-letting by the hoi poiloi (too late...).

Born Free. With the end of the World Series won by the Flying Florida Marlins comes that annual rite of passage when players declare themselves free agents. The first to fly and be free was Sir Sidney Ponson, who despite pitching well statistically, was only 3-6 for the wire-to-wire Giants this past season. He declared Sunday and was quickly followed by Benito Santiago and Jeffrey Hammonds that day, and Richie Aurilia, Tim Worrell, and Andres Galarraga on Monday and Marvin Benard on Tuesday. Only players left eligible to declare free agency are Alberto Castillo and Dustin Hermanson.

Pursuing Other Options. In addition, the Giants bought out or declined their team option for Eric Young ($1M buyout paid for by the Brewers), Jose Cruz, Jr., ($300K buyout of $4M contract), JT Snow ($750K buyout of a $6.5M contract), and Felix Rodriguez (decline of $5M contract option), whereupon F-Rod exercised his player option and now has a contract for $3.05M for the 2004 season. The three players set free bring the total number of 2003 Giants who are now free agents to ten players.

Eric Young and Jose Cruz Jr. are not expected back with the Giants. According to some reports, the Giants are talking with JT Snow about returning, but if his latest public statements about being a full-time starter is to be believed, the Giants who used him strictly as a platoon player this year - and rightfully so - would not be interested in bringing him back as the full-time starter, especially since they are looking for ways to give Pedro Feliz more at-bats.

The Giants may also be negotiating with current players under contract, like it did with Kirk Rueter before the 2003 season. F-Rod is looking for a long term contract, according to his agent, so the Giants may also be negotiating with him to open up budget for 2004's crop of free agents. Robb Nen has a player option for $9.0M that is expected to be exercised. However, some fans have speculated that the Giants may be negotiating with him on a renegotiated contract that will give him more dollars overall but would shift payroll from 2004 to another year. This idea appears to be true because Sabean noted in his press conference that he had some internal ways of freeing up payroll space. This would give payroll relief to the Giants for 2004 but give Nen a little more security given that his return is still a big question mark.

Backpeddling faster than Willie Mays going back on a fly ball. The Giants, after Brian Sabean announced in the annual post-mortem on the season with the media that the payroll budget was being cut from "south of $85M to mid-$70M" which gave many people (and newspaper columnists) the impression that the budget was being cut at least $10-15M, Larry Baer appeared on a local sportstalk radio show and clarified that the payroll was $83M at the end of 2003 season and was being set to $76M, a total drop of $7M, and reiterated what Sabean said: that the original payroll target for 2003 was also mid-$70M.

Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at if you have a question or comment.

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