Rumors & Rumblings

Shortly after the 2004 World Series was completed, the San Francisco Giants brain trust held a meeting to discuss a game plan that would devise a blueprint for which to follow this offseason. With the recent in-house transactions, General manager Brian Sabean intimated that he and his able assistants have since changed their position on that offseason plan.

During Sabean's infamous radio interview last month with KNBR host Ralph Barbieri, the Giants GM seemed disinclined to the notion of improving the National League's No. 2 ranked offense. Despite some fans' lust for a big-name slugger to follow Barry Bonds in the lineup, Sabean disregarded the request by explaining that the pitching, more directly, the bullpen, was in a more pressing need of a makeover.

On Wednesday, the Giants went against that train of thought by retaining three starters from their everyday lineup, then stating that two of the three, center fielder Marquis Grissom and shortstop Deivi Cruz, could be vacating their 2004 starting jobs for lesser roles in 2005.

"We've looked at our potential here, and we're a little more open-minded as to how we pursue things," Sabean said. "If there's a chance to improve the offense to a further extent, we'll look at doing that."

"In a perfect world, we're still hoping to pursue what we can do on a long-term basis with a shortstop, center fielder and closer," Sabean said.

According to Sabean, the Giants are in the "60-plus range" in terms of payroll budget. With a self-imposed cap of about $80 million, the Giants would need to explore the trade market to fill some of those glaring needs on offense, as well as their much-publicized bullpen deficiencies.

"It's an interesting time because there are a lot of names, and I've probably spoken to 20-plus teams to find out what their what-ifs are," said Sabean, who has begun surveying the landscape for potential deals. "We'll be as active as we possibly can."

Presumably, the Giants will try to jettison Edgardo Alfonzo faster than the other team's GM can say, "Done deal." The overpaid third sacker will command $7.5 million in 2005, which includes his annual deferral from his initial signing bonus.

Another expensive infielder, Ray Durham ($6.5 million), has been linked to a speculative article from the New York Post's Joel Sherman, who absurdly offers a potential salary-swap for Yankees relievers Felix Heredia and Steve Karsay.

In any case, it is believed that San Francisco is trying to clear some bad salaries off their books, as well as an attempt to vacate a spot for Pedro Feliz, who last season displayed what damage he can do with more at-bats.

"We would like to try to find a role for him to stay put," said Sabean, who has annually praised the homegrown talent. "It's going to be a challenge, but it's something we're going to have to resolve."

San Francisco will also have to resolve bullpen issues that ultimately contributed to their failure to reach the postseason for the first time in three seasons. The first priority in reshaping the bullpen would be to identify a closer, whether it would come internally or externally.

Last season's closer, Dustin Hermanson, has kept a constant dialogue with the Giants and has made it clear that he would like to return, but only if he were guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation or reassumes his closer role. The former Kent State University (Ohio) pitcher has been mentioned in connection with the Cleveland Indians as an alternative to the Giants. This information comes via speculative articles from two newspapers that cover the Indians, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beakon Journal.

Sabean and company are in the process of evaluating whether Hermanson is a viable long-term option with regard to the other possibilities on the market. Should San Francisco decide to go in another direction, the free agent market features closers such as Armando Benitez and Troy Percival, who according to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin, is on the Giants' radar. The 35-year-old Percival was allowed to walk by the Anaheim Angels, who have handed the closer reins to Francisco Rodriguez.

Another rumor that passed through the radar last week came from Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Hagen, who wrote, "One fascinating bit of gossip that has been circulating at the World Series envisions [Pedro] Martinez signing with the Giants' as the closer." Hagen cited Martinez's affiliation with Giants manager Felipe Alou and how close the two are, but failed to realize how much Pedro would blow San Francisco's budget through the roof.

Speaking of Alou, the skipper was asked if he has given any thought to the possibility of being reunited with his son, Moises Alou. It would be the first time for the father and son to be on the same ballclub since their days with the now defunct Montreal Expos.

"I visited with him twice," Felipe Alou said. "One time, baseball came up. No team was mentioned. Not the team he played for [Chicago Cubs] or the Giants. I'll stop at that. I know there are a lot of free agents, including (him), who can help us."

Maybe so, but because Moises would be playing left field, a position already manned by someone who wears No. 25 for the Giants, it's doubtful as to how much of an impact Alou could essentially provide. As for other free agents who can "help," the New York Post's Joel Sherman wrote in an article this past week:

"Keep an eye on Brian Sabean," an NL GM said. "He is a great bottom-feeder. I wouldn't be surprised if he got both [Nomar] Garciaparra and [Magglio] Ordonez to surround Barry Bonds for a year."

Garciaparra and Ordonez would make the kind of splash long-suffering Giants fans would love to see happen this offseason. As would 2004 playoff sultan Carlos Beltran. Or All-World shortstop Edgar Renteria. Perhaps even Adrian Beltre or Troy Glaus could be that big-ticket free agent acquisition the Orange and Black faithful have been waiting for since 1993.

However, with San Francisco less than $20 million away from their proposed budget and more than half of a roster still left to employ, they will be hard-pressed to land an eight-figure player that would put them in the red. About the only hope Giants fans have of attaining a high-profile name would be through creative trades.

But with the economic climate affecting the majority of teams throughout the league, Sabean will have a tough time finding a worthy partner to tango with. At the very least, the Giants GM has back-pedaled from his earlier stance of not focusing on the offense. Surely now he has come to realize that the Giants have more holes than swiss cheese throughout the roster and upgrading just the bullpen would not complete an offseason's list of goals.

"It is a fluid situation, and it has changed a little bit," Sabean said, referring to potential trades. "Whether that means incremental improvement or a big splash remains to be seen. Our hope is we find a way to strengthen ourselves further, both position-wise and in regards to the bullpen."

The offseason has just begun as free agency will be open for business next week. Stay tuned.



Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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