Sabean sketches out Winter Meetings plan

Sabean sketches out Winter Meetings plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey's fatigue means less rest for the Giants.

Any catcher the Giants might obtain this offseason probably will begin next year as a regular while Posey continues his apprenticeship, probably at Triple-A Fresno.

This adds a dash of urgency to the Giants' search for a catcher as they approach baseball's Winter Meetings, which start Monday in Indianapolis.

After meeting with his staff this week, Giants general manager Brian Sabean issued the organization's conclusion in a Friday conference call: Posey, 22, simply isn't ready to handle the grueling duty of catching regularly. Thus, San Francisco's pursuit of free-agent catchers such as Yorvit Torrealba and Brad Ausmus will be sweetened by the assurance of ample playing time, though the Giants have made no offers and won't be dangling more than a one-year contract.

Posey, San Francisco's top position-player prospect, hit .325 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in 115 games for high-Class A San Jose and Fresno last season. He then appeared in seven games for the Giants, batting .118 (2-for-17). But the physical erosion of Posey's first full professional season was evident as he hit .225 in a 19-game Arizona Fall League stint with Scottsdale.

"It was pretty obvious to us that the rigors took their toll," Sabean said. "Nobody thinks he's ready to catch 100-plus games [in the Majors]. That would be a tall order."

Sabean acknowledged the possibility that Posey still might open 2010 with San Francisco and catch a significant number of games if the Giants can't lure a qualified catcher with a one-year contract. The best free-agent catcher available happens to be Bengie Molina, who spent the previous three years with the Giants. But the Giants not only remain unwilling to offer Molina more than a one-year contract, but they also declined to offer him salary arbitration by Tuesday's deadline. That denied Molina the option of taking the Giants to arbitration and probably earning a huge raise.

"We don't need another arbitration case. I think that's obvious," Sabean said, mindful of looming arbitration clashes with right-handers Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson and Brandon Medders, first baseman Ryan Garko and left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. "While we'd like to have [Molina] back, in the short window of one year, we'd rather be in control of the situation."

Skipping arbitration with Molina, a Type A free agent, also increased the likelihood that he will sign elsewhere, since whoever signs him won't forfeit a first- or second-round Draft choice. The Giants are employing the same logic with the free-agent hitters they're eyeing. Four of the Type A free agents who have been confirmed or rumored to be drawing interest from the Giants -- Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson and Miguel Tejada -- were not offered arbitration. "We're not in the market for signing a Type A free agent and losing our first-round Draft pick," Sabean said.

Sabean repeated his distaste for trading for players who will be free agents after next season, ruling out potential commodities such as Garrett Atkins, Jorge Cantu, Carl Crawford and Paul Konerko.

Sabean added that he's more optimistic about acquiring a hitter through free agency rather than trade, due to "what you'd have to give up" in a deal (translation: pitching) and since "we wouldn't have enough control of the player or hitter coming back." This would seem to dampen speculation involving a trade for Florida's Dan Uggla, who's eligible for free agency after 2012.

In other matters:

-- If the Giants don't re-sign free agent Brad Penny, who spurned their initial one-year offer, Sabean said that rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner might be a more attractive alternative for the starting rotation than a more costly veteran free-agent pickup.

-- Sabean said that infielder Juan Uribe declined to accept the Giants' offer of a one-year contract with an option for 2011. No further talks are currently scheduled with either Penny's or Uribe's representatives, Sabean said.

-- Sabean indicated that the Giants might add a veteran reliever and haven't ruled out re-signing Bob Howry, who trimmed his ERA from 5.35 in 2008 with the Cubs to 3.39 last season.

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