General manager Brian Sabean said Thursday that the Giants have made "multiple offers" to the free-agent position players high on their priority list -- most likely first baseman Nick Johnson and infielder Mark DeRosa. First baseman Adam LaRoche also is known to have intrigued the Giants.
"We don't have anybody close at this time to saying yes to a deal," Sabean cautioned. He emphasized that the Giants have no desire to overspend on any player, explaining their absence from the Matt Holliday and Jason Bay sweepstakes. But, Sabean added, "I think the best thing is that we're active. They know our interest, and they come more down to Earth if the market changes where there are more signings. Things can develop faster."
Each of the free agents the Giants have focused on is capable of batting in the middle of the order to serve as a complement to projected cleanup hitter Pablo Sandoval. Each also has drawn interest from teams other than the Giants.
Johnson's on-base percentage has exceeded .400 in each of his past four seasons, including .426 last season with Washington and Florida. The Sacramento, Calif., native managed to record a .415 OBP despite hitting .220 in 2008. In 12 career games at AT&T Park, Johnson has hit .327 (16-for-49) with two home runs, 12 RBIs and a .921 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Capable of playing first base, second, third and the outfield, DeRosa would ease the sting of free agent Juan Uribe's possible defection. DeRosa, however, likely would start at third base instead of occupying Uribe's super-utility man role. The 34-year-old DeRosa hit .250 with 23 homers and 78 RBIs last season with Cleveland and St. Louis.
LaRoche, 30, batted .278 last season with 24 homers and 80 RBIs for Pittsburgh, Boston and Atlanta. He has hit 123 home runs in the previous five seasons, Like Johnson, he has thrived at AT&T Park, where he owns a .395 average (17-for-43) with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.227 OPS.
Asked specifically about how DeRosa would fit with the Giants, Sabean spoke admiringly of the nine-year veteran's versatility without mentioning him by name: "Certain people play one position, certain people have one place in the order they hit and there are other people who can move around in the order and play other positions. If you know what I mean."
That remark complemented Sabean's response when asked if he had extended offers to more than one player at a particular position. "Don't get hung up on positions," Sabean declared. "The preference is making the offense better. The preference is to get somebody in front of Pablo and somebody behind Pablo."
Sabean tempered reports that the Giants had revived trade talks involving Florida second baseman Dan Uggla. "At this point I'll make a blanket statement: We're not in any trade discussion that's as deep or this close to making something happening as compared to the free agents."
The Giants have a full 40-man roster, which would force them to drop a player for each one they acquire. That doesn't concern Sabean. "We've identified who we'd take off the roster or trade as things develop," he said.
Movement could begin as soon as Saturday, when the deadline for tendering 2010 contracts strikes. First baseman Ryan Garko ranks as the most vulnerable Giant to being non-tendered, which would clear a roster spot.
Rule 5 activity:
In the Draft's Major League portion, the Giants selected right-hander Steven Johnson from the Baltimore organization and lost left-hander Ben Snyder to the Orioles (who shipped him to Texas to complete the Kevin Millwood trade).
The Giants' player-acquisition strategy gained definition. Days of internal meetings and talks with agents and other clubs confirmed their assumption that free agency, not trades, would be the best path toward filling their needs.
Actually signing a player or two would be helpful. San Francisco's offensive deficiencies have been well-documented, and upgrades in the lineup are needed to help the club sustained the momentum it gained last season. The Giants might also pursue a No. 5 starter and catching help.
GM's bottom line:
"I think what we've established, and I predicted this before we got here, is that agents aren't necessarily ready to make a deal. They want to play off whatever signings are at hand." -- Sabean