Giants closing in on free agents

Giants closing in on free agents

SAN FRANCISCO -- After weeks of tepid and disappointing responses from high-profile free agents, the Giants' hopes to refill significant gaps in their roster are beginning to heat up.

Needs are many -- an outfielder, catcher, infielder, first baseman and maybe another relief pitcher -- and it appears two of those vacancies could be secured by center fielder Dave Roberts and infielder Rich Aurilia.

There are also reports from Boston that the Giants are discussing a trade for power hitter Manny Ramirez, although the left fielder can veto the deal.

Sources say Roberts, a San Diego speedster and longtime favorite of new San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy, is due to sign a three-year contract with the Giants worth about $16 million soon, becoming the team's first offseason acquisition.

"The Giants are a team I've always had a lot of respect for," the 34-year-old Roberts told The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. "I'm anxious to get the process going. Obviously, there are things that have got to happen to finalize things. I'm excited. Hopefully, things will work out in due time."

A seven-year veteran, Roberts hit .293 last season with 44 RBIs and an eye-catching 51 stolen bases. He would supplant Randy Winn as the leadoff hitter and in center, with Winn moving to right field, where he became adept at grabbing balls ricocheting off the brick and metal wall.

Although speed, not power, is Roberts' asset, he would be a significant upgrade in the outfield in the wake of former cornerman Moises Alou's departure to the New York Mets, and he would add zest to the top of the lineup, which features Omar Vizquel as the No. 2 hitter.

Aurilia, who turned 35 in September, starred for San Francisco the first nine years of his career but was not re-signed after the 2003 season. He surprised with a super season for Cincinnati this past year, batting .300 with 70 RBIs and 23 homers, plus a .518 slugging percentage, his highest mark since he slugged .572 with the Giants in 2001.

Aurilia has primarily played shortstop in his career, but he has expanded his coverage to all infield spots. His signing would allow the Giants more flexibility in dealing with free agent Ray Durham, who may seek more money than Aurilia will make. Also, there has been little movement to re-sign third baseman Pedro Feliz, and Aurilia appears willing to play wherever he's needed.

Regarding Ramirez, who batted .321 with 35 homers and 102 RBIs with the Red Sox last season, the Giants are among several teams talking about acquiring the slugging left fielder, who told he prefers going to the American League.

On the Barry Bonds front, the Giants have held discussions with his agent, Jeff Borris, and odds are Bonds will return to San Francisco and continue his quest to top Hank Aaron's all-time homer mark of 755. Bonds is 22 homers shy.

Though it seems problematic, getting the controversial Ramirez would certainly soothe the Giants' frustration in seeing earlier targets Carlos Lee, Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Pierre sign elsewhere.

The Giants had considerable offers on the table for the above-mentioned outfielders -- Lee was offered a deal worth around $100 million for six years, but he opted to negotiate solely with Houston.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.