"This was a big part of the puzzle," Sabean said upon concluding San Francisco's reliever search. "I doubt there'll be any further movement in the free-agent-reliever market."
The Giants will shift their focus to bolstering their lineup. They're likely to sign free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria by the end of the week. Scattered rumors have linked them to free-agent left fielder Pat Burrell. And yahoo.com reported that San Francisco is considering sending left-hander Jonathan Sanchez to the Florida Marlins for third baseman Jorge Cantu, who hit .277 with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs last season.
Should the Giants succeed at upgrading their offense, they're confident that their bullpen can hold more of the late-inning leads that will be generated.
Sabean was quick to point out that Howry, 35, has recorded 87 holds since 2005, the Major Leagues' fourth-highest total in that span.
"He's somebody who relishes being in close and late games," Sabean said. "The biggest thing with Bobby is he's been there and done it. You can't deny the bulk of his statistical resume."
Howry owns a 42-43 record with 66 saves, 165 holds and a 3.68 ERA in 668 appearances with the White Sox (1998-2002), Red Sox (2002-03), Indians (2004-05) and Cubs (2006-08). But he's coming off a season in which he posted a career-worst 5.35 ERA, including 6.93 after the All-Star break. He allowed 13 home runs in 70 2/3 innings while opponents hit .336 off him.
"I struggled with being consistent with my mechanics," Howry said. "It's something I fought all year. I struggled to find that smooth place where it's consistent all the time. It messed with my location. It's a matter of ironing out some kinks."
After enduring such a rough year, Howry was flattered when the Giants approached him about handling setup chores.
"I know, after last season, there may be some people out there who think I'm not up for the role I've done most of my career," he said.
Sabean theorized that leaving Chicago's Wrigley Field and making most of his appearance at the largely pitcher-friendly parks in the National League West could help Howry, who finished with a 5.89 home ERA last season. His career ERA at AT&T Park is 5.40, but he has pitched just five games there (five innings, three earned runs).
This will be a homecoming of sorts for Howry, who began his professional career in the Giants organization as a fifth-round selection in the 1994 Draft. He was traded to the White Sox in the memorable "White Flag" deal on July 31, 1997, and made his Major League debut with them the following season. Howry remembered the trade as a "big shock," adding, "When you're young, I don't think you realize how much of a business the game is."
Manager Bruce Bochy indicated that even with Howry aboard, right-hander Sergio Romo will continue to receive late-inning opportunities. Romo excelled in 29 appearances as a rookie last season (3-1, 2.12 ERA).
"Romo has shown that he can help out in the setup role, whether it's the sixth, seventh or eighth inning," Bochy said. "He can give us multiple innings. He's going to fit in nicely."
Howry's contract includes $1.5 million in performance bonuses which, if he reaches them, will allow him to approach the $4.5 million base salary he received last season.