Obviously no one can predict how the off-season will take shape, especially when the focus is on Steve Finley, who is being coveted by as many as nine teams, including the Giants.
The 39-year-old center fielder is a cheaper, albeit older, alternative to Carlos Beltran and is coming off a career-high in homeruns (36) and a fifth Gold Glove award.
Finley's agent, Tommy Tanzer, stated that three teams have extended a contract offer to his client, one of which includes San Francisco. So far, the Giants are believed to be in contention for Finley's services against the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies.
"If they win the Finley sweepstakes, the Giants would quickly become the favorites to win the NL West," USA Today writer Bob Nightengale wrote in his Thursday column.
But what if San Francisco is being merely used as leverage and the "Giant killer" ultimately ends up signing with his hometown team, the Padres?
"If the Giants lose Finley, they could either trade for a center fielder and move Grissom to right, or find a left-handed hitter -- Dave Roberts would make sense if the [Boston] Red Sox do not retain him -- to platoon with Grissom," The Sporting News' Ken Rosenthal suggested. "They also could sign a free agent corner outfielder such as Jermaine Dye or Moises Alou."
Alou's name has been thrown around quite a bit recently, much to the chagrin of some Giants fans, but the Roberts notion is an unprecedented idea. A Grissom-Roberts platoon would be an uncomfortable situation, considering it was that very arrangement that prompted Grissom to sign with the Giants prior to the 2003 season.
At the conclusion of the 2002 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Grissom felt that he was not ready to be relegated to platoon duties with Roberts and signed with the Giants on the premise that he would be the starting center fielder.
Two years later, the 37-year-old Grissom, had his option renewed by San Francisco on Nov. 3, but was immediately told that he could be shifting to right field or, worse, a platoon role. However, the aforementioned Dye could allow Grissom to stay in center field.
"He's a guy that we've discussed," Sabean said of the Vacaville, Calif. native. "Obviously, we want somebody who's going to be able to improve the defense."
Dye recently told MLB.com Radio that the Giants are indeed interested in his services, with the feeling being mutual.
As far as Dye's offensive contributions are concerned, the Giants may be better served looking elsewhere if they intend on improving on their overall ability to hit right-handed pitching. The 30-year-old right fielder posted a mere .307 on-base percentage against RHP in 2004, his first full season after recovering from a freak leg injury he suffered during the 2002 playoffs.
All this talk about Dye could be moot since his agent, Bob Bry, recently said in response to Sabean's interest: "I don't know anything about it."
Then again, that's the way Sabean and Co. like to operate - under the radar. One Giant that was on everyone's radar this past Monday was San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who made news again by winning his seventh Most Valuable Player award.
When asked about the Giants' off-season needs, the 40-year-old left fielder said: "Being walked, yeah, I want a big hitter. There's no question in my mind. I'd like to have him young due to the fact there are things I'd like to teach him. Everyone knows Carlos Beltran. Everyone knows that kid is out there. Everyone knows what a wonderful athlete he is. ... Sure, he'd be a great candidate. There are a lot of great candidates out there that I would love to have the opportunity to spend time with and show them things I know and teach them things I know."
Although it would be preferable in every Giants fans' wishes to acquire Beltran, the grand prize of the free agent class, San Francisco management has again stressed the importance of adhering to a self-imposed payroll budget.
"I think it's doubtful," Sabean said, nearly squashing all hopes of a Beltran-to-San Francisco jubilation. "We also need to fix our pitching and, quite frankly, decide how we can spread the wealth through the rest of the team. That's one of the reasons we've been successful."
While it is difficult to argue with Sabean's track record, the Giants do not have many choices outside of Beltran and Finley to fill their purported center field job opening.
"That (center field) list is very short," the Giants GM said. "That might be an area we explore trading for a player."
The exploration may not need to go any further than Atlanta, where the Braves are making Andruw Jones available. Reports are indicating that the Bravos have soured on Jones, not to mention the three years and $39 million left on his contract.
Jettisoning Jones' contract can create some payroll flexibility for the Braves, who are looking to re-sign several of their own free agents that include starters Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz, as well as right fielder J.D. Drew.
"I don't know that we'll move into the trade market unless something jumps up," said Sabean, somewhat conflicting earlier sentiments. "I think our answers can be solved with free agents."
Should the Giants fail to acquire a free agent outfielder, however, San Francisco feels that they can improvise from within to field a productive outfield.
"We're more focused on a closer and fixing the bullpen than we are on adding an outfielder right now," Colletti said. "If we go into camp right now, we're fine with the outfield we've got, with Bonds in left, Grissom in center and a combination of Michael Tucker and Dustan Mohr in right, and Pedro Feliz might get some time out in right field as well."
Dave van Dyck, in a special article to The Chicago Tribune, expects that Urbina will be dealt soon, "probably to the Giants."
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests the same, but wrote Thursday: "Sources said the Giants are not involved in any talks to acquire the incumbent Tigers closer."
As for San Francisco's incumbent closer, the free agent right-hander, Dustin Hermanson, received a multiyear contract offer from the Giants, according to an article in the Contra Costa Times Thursday.
Sabean and Colletti have expressed interest in retaining Hermanson since the beginning of the off-season and are hoping that they can fend off the Cleveland Indians, among others, in pursuit of the Ohio native.
Colletti indicated last week that if all else fails, the Giants can quite conceivably look within the roster to produce a closer. In an interview with KNBR on Thursday, the Asst. GM suggested that the Giants could also acquire a starting pitcher who can be converted into a stopper.
The other top closer on the market, Armando Benitez, has been reportedly seeking a three or four-year contract in the neighborhood of $6 to 7 million annually.
"It's going to take some time for him to make a decision," Sabean said of the Dominican closer. "I can't tell you we'll be involved in something like that."
One thing the Giants will be involved in this winter is negotiating with catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a contract extension to avoid salary arbitration.
"We'd have liked to have signed him to a multiyear contract last year," Colletti said. "But it takes two to tango."
"You'd certainly like to avoid the process if you can, but sometimes you can't," the Giants Asst. GM said. "That's a long way off. December and January are years away in our minds."
But with the holiday season on the horizon, those months will come sooner than expected. Perhaps the Giants are keeping busy with the signing-a-week plan Sabean had. That would certainly help speed up the drama of this suspenseful off-season.
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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 email@example.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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