SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are seeking balance along with offense. General manager Brian Sabean told reporters in a Tuesday conference call that, ideally, the club's next acquisition would be a left-handed batter -- most likely an outfielder, since the signing of Juan Uribe deepened the infield contingent.
A left-handed swinger would complement the batting order that's expected to include right-handed hitters Aaron Rowand, Mark DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez and Edgar Renteria. Catchers Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside also bat right-handed. Sabean also mentioned that he, manager Bruce Bochy and the rest of the Giants braintrust have had skeptical second thoughts about the proposed leadoff platoon of Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres, who would share left field. "We're not necessarily comfortable with that," Sabean said, possibly thinking of Velez's career .305 on-base percentage and Torres' relative lack of Major League experience despite his age. He turns 32 on Jan. 26, yet played his first full big league season in 2009. The Giants could fill both the left-handed and leadoff voids by signing free agent Scott Podsednik, who reportedly has aroused their interest. Podsednik, 33, hit .304 and stole 30 bases for the Chicago White Sox last season. He owns a .277 career batting average and a .340 on-base percentage in seven full seasons and parts of two others in the Major Leagues. Other left-handed hitters available in free agency include outfielders Rick Ankiel and Johnny Damon and first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has spurned San Francisco's previous advances. Sabean reiterated that trading for an established hitter might harm the Giants more than it would help them, since they'd have to part with a precious, young starting pitcher -- probably Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner. "It's almost impossible in our situation to make the trade that would help the lineup," Sabean said. Noting the Giants' lack of rotation depth beyond their top four or five starters, he added, "In some ways, you're in a very precarious situation." Should the Giants fall short in their efforts to secure a left-handed batter, Sabean said that their alternative would be to start Uribe at third base and DeRosa in left field. Nate Schierholtz, who appears to have an edge in the competition for the right-field job, would be the lineup's only pure left-handed hitter, excepting switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval. And if the Giants cement their decision to bypass Velez or Torres for the leadoff spot and don't obtain somebody who can bat first, Sabean said that the club might turn to Rowand, whose best stretch in 2009 was a 17-game hitting streak in which he hit .411 (30-for-73) at the top of the order. The Giants already have a left-handed batter on their roster who has provided occasional thump: first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who hit .349 at home but only .162 on the road. Since the glut of infielders could limit Ishikawa's playing time, Bochy said he might ask the 26-year-old to play some left field, a spot he hasn't occupied since he spent four games there in rookie ball in 2002. "We all know we had two different players with Travis," Bochy said. "It's going to be a challenge to get him the at-bats to stay sharp. He'll get some work in the outfield to maybe get more at-bats. We just felt with his struggles on the road, we needed a little more consistency [at first base]." Other players and situations appear more settled. Despite Uribe's return and the value he demonstrated at the end of last season when he replaced the injured Renteria at shortstop, Bochy said that the job remains Renteria's and that no competition between him and Uribe will unfold in Scottsdale. "I think we're going to see a different player," a hopeful Bochy said of Renteria, who played with sore shoulders and required elbow surgery after hitting a career-low .250 with the Giants last year. The supply of available free-agent catchers dwindled Monday when Colorado signed Miguel Olivo, threatening San Francisco's attempts to find a caretaker for the position until Posey matures. Sabean sounded unconcerned, indicating that the Giants are fully prepared to rely on Posey and Whiteside to open the season. "We'll be comfortable with that," Sabean said. Besides, Sabean reminded, the Giants have bigger priorities. "Our quest is to improve the offense," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.