Limited by payroll, Giants still improved

Limited by payroll, Giants still improved

Limited by payroll, Giants still improved
DALLAS -- When the Giants struck their $130 million player payroll ceiling, the impact didn't hurt.

During the Winter Meetings, they accomplished their objective of adding a potentially helpful performer by obtaining outfielder Angel Pagan from the New York Mets. Earlier this offseason, they traded for Melky Cabrera, another outfielder with offensive promise, and made efforts to maintain their formidable pitching staff by retaining left-handed relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez.

Nevertheless, it's still remarkable how easily $130 million adds up.

The Giants already have approximately $81.6 million committed to eight players: Barry Zito ($19 million), Matt Cain ($15.3 million), Aubrey Huff ($10 million), Brian Wilson ($8.5 million), Freddy Sanchez ($6 million), Affeldt ($5 million), Lopez ($4.25 million) and Aaron Rowand ($13.6 million), who's no longer with the club.

Right-hander Tim Lincecum, who's arbitration-eligible, will consume another hefty payroll chunk. Lincecum poses a challenge for the Giants, since comparisons to players with similar Major League service time and achievements shape salaries determined through arbitration.

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But comparisons to Lincecum, who has two National League Cy Young Awards, a 69-41 record, four All-Star selections and 1,127 strikeouts in slightly less than five seasons, don't exist. He can legitimately request a salary that's unprecedented for a pitcher with his service time.

Industry sources believe that Lincecum, who earned $13 million this year, could receive a raise to anywhere between $16.5 million and $20 million through either a negotiated settlement or an arbitration judgment. Regardless of the figure or the method, that would push the Giants' payroll near $100 million.

All-Star right-hander Ryan Vogelsong could cash in on his arbitration eligibility. Though MLBTradeRumors.com estimated that Vogelsong will earn $2.5 million next season, industry insiders projected that he'll command between $3.75 million and $4.25 million on a negotiated one-year deal. That figure might vary, depending on whether Vogelsong receives a multiyear contract, as has been rumored. Sources estimated that his wage could escalate to the $6.5 million-$7.5 million range in a second season, then to $7.5 million-$8.5 million in a third year.

Another arbitration-eligible All-Star, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, should garner $3.2 million, according to MLBTradeRumors' estimate. That hoists the payroll past $105 million, even if raises for Lincecum and Vogelsong are as minimal as possible.

Cabrera and Pagan were estimated by MLBTradeRumors.com to be in line for $4.4 million and $4.7 million, respectively. Guillermo Mota, expected to sign any day now, should receive at least $1 million. That increases the bill to approximately $115 million.

Eight other players -- Jeff Keppinger, Mike Fontenot, Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Nate Schierholtz, Eli Whiteside and Emmanuel Burriss -- were projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn a combined $12 million next season. That brings the payroll near $127 million. Keppinger, Fontenot and Whiteside are non-tender candidates, potentially saving the Giants at least $1 million. Either Keppinger or Fontenot will be retained, but not both.

That leaves the handful of non-arbitration-eligible players, whose salaries the Giants can assign. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner probably will approach but might not reach $1 million, while Chris Stewart, Dan Runzler and Brandon Crawford almost surely will earn barely more than the $480,000 minimum salary.

Do the math. The Giants did. There goes $130 million.

Deals done: San Francisco swung its first Winter Meetings trade since 2005, obtaining Pagan from the New York Mets for outfielder Andres Torres and right-hander Ramon Ramirez. Both Pagan and Torres are athletic switch-hitters who can play all three outfield spots. But Pagan is considered the steadier producer. Since manager Bruce Bochy has declared the outfield to be a venue for wide-open competition, it's anybody's guess where Pagan will play. But it's difficult to imagine him not starting.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Giants selected right-hander Luis Rojas, 22, from the New York Mets organization in the draft's Triple-A phase. Rojas, who possesses an above-average fastball, finished 1-5 with a 4.87 ERA in 29 relief appearances for Class A Savannah last season.

Goals accomplished: The Giants knew that they weren't going to acquire a "household name," as general manager Brian Sabean said before the Meetings. But, in Pagan, they found a player whose versatility gives Bochy the flexibility he craves when the time comes to juggle the lineup or substitute. Pagan's speed should prove to be an asset, since the Giants' relative lack of power might force them to resort to "small ball."

Unfinished business: The Giants will take a step toward finalizing the roster Monday, when the deadline for tendering contracts strikes. Sabean has said that the Giants will offer a contract to either Keppinger or Fontenot, but not both. Whichever infielder is non-tendered will become a free agent. He'll remain able to sign with the Giants -- for a lower salary than he would have received had he been tendered a contract.

GM's bottom line: "How can we not think we're better after what we went through last year? Not only from a health standpoint, but also from a runs-scored standpoint. The law of averages would tell you we're going to be better in both areas. But you still have to play the game." -- Sabean

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.