Results tagged ‘ Brian Sabean ’

Notion of Sandoval trade not far-fetched

Monday, Oct. 21

SAN FRANCISCO — Speculation regarding a possible trade involving Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval completely makes sense.

It’s logical to anticipate that Sandoval will thrive in 2014, the final year of his three-year, $17.15 million contract, to propel himself boldly into free agency. Such a projection also would be flimsy given Sandoval’s performance, which has fluctuated along with his weight. Anyone expecting the switch-hitter to use last October’s World Series Most Valuable Player distinction to launch him closer to stardom must be disappointed. Sandoval, 27, hit .278 this year, sixth among Giants with at least 300 plate appearances. He accumulated 14 home runs, fourth on the team, and 79 RBIs, his third-best career total.

This was Sandoval’s fifth full Major League season. He has gone on the disabled list in each of the last three years without establishing consistency at the plate, though he has become a competent defender. If one is to assume anything about Sandoval’s upcoming season, it’s that he’ll somehow disappoint more than deliver. Hence the buzz, started recently by the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, that the Giants might consider proposals featuring Sandoval. Club management is gradually losing patience with him, as general manager Brian Sabean indicated in his season-ending summary (“The sky’s still the limit. We’re still waiting for that”).

At the same time, Sandoval retains enough cachet to attract multiple suitors. The Giants might be able to include him in a package that would fetch them a serviceable starting pitcher. Any club hoping to bolster its offense would be intrigued by Sandoval, who retains 30-homer, 100-RBI talent. So why don’t the Giants keep him? Again, his production has teased the Giants more than it has satisfied them. Even if he puts together a solid season next year, whoever’s employing him must deal with his impending free agency. If the Giants were to swap Sandoval, they could lean safely on the “better to trade a player a year too early” maxim.

Without Sandoval, the Giants could move Marco Scutaro from second base to third. Scutaro’s unremarkable range wouldn’t be as much of a liability at third, where he’d be asked to cover less ground due to the nature of the position and shortstop Brandon Crawford’s excellence. Filling the vacancy at either second or third could be a challenge, however. The free-agent market at those positions basically consists of Robinson Cano (who probably would ask for the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, with Alcatraz thrown in) and a bunch of one-year stopgaps in their mid-30s. Perhaps the Giants could ask for a second baseman in any trade involving Sandoval.

Or perhaps the Giants won’t trade Sandoval at all, which many Giants fans likely would prefer. He’ll forever remain popular at AT&T Park, despite — or even because of — his foibles. He’s the Kung Fu Panda; so what if he struggles with his weight? Who doesn’t? Moreover, the promise he flashes when his line drives find gaps or fly over the fence and frustrate Justin Verlander remains tantalizing. So does the potential of an effective Sandoval forming a solid middle of the order with Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt.

Sandoval will give the Giants much to ponder when they confront the decision to trade or re-sign him. Whether they endure that headache sooner or later remains to be seen.

Chris Haft

Belt, Crawford get attention

Tuesday, Nov. 29

SAN FRANCISCO — Contradicting their reputation for favoring veteran players, general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy sounded upbeat about first baseman-outfielder Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford, who will enter Spring Training as candidates for the Opening Day lineup if they’re not shoved aside by free-agent or trade acquisitions.

Belt hit .300 in 28 games for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The Giants wanted the 23-year-old to accumulate more at-bats after an injury-marred season in which he hit .225 in 63 games for the Giants when he wasn’t making one of his three round-trips back to the Minors.

Sabean was impressed with what he saw of Belt on telecasts and videos.<p/>

“I think he made a concerted effort to make some adjustments,” Sabean said during Tuesday’s conference call. “It’s not Major League pitching, but you still have to have an approach. All the reports that we got from Moises Alou, who’s the general manager there, were favorable. He was playable in the outfield. We know his best position is probably first base, but this was a nice step for him. I’m really happy and pleased that he accepted this challenge.”

Crawford, 24, hit .276 in 21 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. His stint included a 16-game hitting streak during which he hit .338 (24-for-71). That helped Crawford make the AFL’s Top Prospects squad.

“We know what his glove brings, and he tried like hell to make [hitting] adjustments,” Sabean said. “He put the ball in play extremely well. He tried his damndest to stay off the high fastball, which was kind of his Kryptonite.”

Said Bochy of Crawford, “I think he’s a guy who can do some things to make a difference.”

*****

Bochy also praised catcher Hector Sanchez, who owned a .393 batting average in 32 games with La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter League. All year, Bochy has monitored Sanchez’s improvement, which could result in a long look for the switch-hitting 22-year-old in Spring Training. Sanchez won’t unseat a healthy Buster Posey, but he could compete for a backup spot unless the Giants want him to gain more seasoning at Triple-A Fresno.

“I’m not going to be surprised to see him make a lot of noise this spring,” Bochy said.

*****

The hunch here is that the Giants will re-sign either Cody Ross or Andres Torres, but not both. Ross is a free agent; Torres is eligible for salary arbitration but probably will not be tendered a contract. That would save the Giants a million bucks or so if Torres, who would become a free agent after being non-tendered, opts to stay with the Giants.

Sabean lumped Torres along with other arbitration-eligibles, such as Jeff Keppinger and Mike Fontenot. “He’s certainly part of our discussions about what we’re going to try to do internally to go forward,” Sabean said. “He’s in a group of players who we still have time to make decisions on.”

Asked whether he thought Ross might return, Sabean said only, “Not sure.”

*****

Bobby Evans, the Giants’ vice president of baseball operations, said that third baseman Pablo Sandoval hasn’t decided whether to alter his plans for returning to Venezuela, where he had originally intended to participate in the winter league’s home run derby and play for a week to 10 days with Magallanes. Evans indicated that the kidnapping incident involving Washington catcher Wilson Ramos in Venezuela apparently isn’t a deterrent for Sandoval. But being in shape could be. He underwent laser eye surgery on Nov. 18, interrupting his training in Arizona.

Chris Haft

Why Beltran makes sense for SF; more from Sunday

Sunday, July 17

SAN DIEGO — Acquiring Carlos Beltran is virtually imperative for the Giants.

Not to reach the postseason, but to play deep into October.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean wouldn’t dare speak of Beltran as primarily a postseason asset. His healthy respect for San Francisco’s National League West rivals would prevent him from assuming publicly that winning the division is a fait accompli and that Beltran’s value potentially would emerge more in the postseason than in the regular season.

But the postseason is when the Giants will need Beltran the most. Chances are good that if they win the West, they’ll again face Atlanta and/or Philadelphia, as they did en route to last year’s World Series. Then the Giants will truly need a formidable hitter like Beltran to offset the Braves’ or Phillies’ pitching, since both staffs appear to be improved from a year ago.

Pitching becomes doubly important in the postseason; that’s why the Giants proudly wear those big, fat, beautiful rings. Maybe the Giants could outpitch Atlanta or Philadelphia. But the Braves seem tougher, with Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson developing into co-aces and Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel coming out of the bullpen throwing 235 mph. And don’t forget about Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe.

Giants fans believe their team’s starting rotation is the best in the Major Leagues. That notion is ridiculed in Philadelphia, where Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels anchor the pitching staff.

The Giants struggle to score against mediocre pitching. Imagine the challenge they’ll face against the Braves or Phillies.

But if the Giants gets Beltran, they’ll have at least one hitter who the Braves and Phillies must dwell upon in their scouting reports. And San Francisco’s bench would become deeper. For example, manager Bruce Bochy would have one more respectable pinch-hitter at his disposal — anyone among Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Andres Torres or Nate Schierholtz, depending who’s in or out of that night’s lineup.

Moreover, check out how Beltran has fared against some of the key Braves and Phillies pitchers.

The switch-hitting outfielder owns a remarkable .351 lifetime batting average (26-for-74) with four home runs and 17 RBIs against Hudson. Beltran also is a respectable 2-for-8 off Venters, though that’s not a representative sample size. There’s also no denying that Beltran has trouble with Lowe (.225, 9-for-40), Jurrjens (.182, 4-for-22) and Hanson (0-for-10).

Beltran has succeeded against Halladay (.333, 14-for-42, two homers, 10 RBIs) and Hamels (.278, three homers, five RBIs). Lee (.125, 1-for-8) has given him problems. But Beltran loves to face Ryan Madson, Phladelphia’s top set-up reliever (.429 9-for-21, four homers, six RBIs).

As has been reported, several other teams are in the hunt for Beltran. But the Giants might be the club he’s able to help most.

*****

In case you didn’t see the boxscore, the Giants who accounted for the San Francisco-era record-tying six stolen bases Sunday were Emmanuel Burriss and Nate Schierholtz, who had two apiece, and Eli Whiteside and Andres Torres, who each pilfered one.

“I had one of them. I’ll be damned,” said a jovial Whiteside.

The Giants improved to 11-1 when they steal at least two bases. Coincidence or correlation? I think you know the answer. Regardless, they’re more fun to watch when Bochy puts runners in motion. It doesn’t always work, but the Giants sometimes have to try to force the issue with their offense to get anywhere.

This marked the third time since moving to San Francisco in 1958 that the Giants stole six bases. It last happened on Sept. 8, 1987, in a 6-4 victory at Houston. Kevin Mitchell totaled three, Dave Henderson (a stretch-drive acquisition) had two and Chris Speier added one.

The other occasion was June 27, 1984 in a messy 14-9 win over Cincinnati. Dusty Baker stole second, third and home, all in the same inning. Bob Brenly, Johnnie LeMaster and Dan Gladden each had one.

*****

The Giants have maintained that they can survive for up to a month as long as couple of hitters get hot. This happened last year, when Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Torres sustained the team during its 20-8 July. And it’s happening now, though the Giants keep playing mostly low-scoring games.

Nate Schierholtz (.362 in July) and Pablo Sandoval (.322 in July) have been the month’s biggest contributors. But MIguel Tejada (.341) and Andres Torres (.317) have helped. All that’s missing is a little consistency.

Chris Haft

Shortstop search and more from Sabean, Bochy

Monday, Dec. 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — General manager Brian Sabean reiterated that “mutual interest” exists regarding Edgar Renteria’s possible return to the Giants.

“But I would say where we’re going to get bogged down is the [Pat] Burrell precedent,” Sabean said.

In short, Renteria probably would have to accept $1 million or thereabouts, as Burrell did last week, to return to the Giants as a backup shortstop and utility infielder.

Sabean tried to sound encouraging about retaining the 35-year-old World Series Most Valuable Player. “Neither side has ruled anything out,” Sabean said.

But Sabean warned that Renteria will be out of luck if the Giants sign another potential backup shortstop before him.

On another subject, Sabean wasn’t surprised by Boston’s acquisition of San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was either the best or second-best player in the National League West — depending on your opinion of Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.

But Sabean indicated that San Diego could remain a threat in the division. “It’s a pitching-centric division,” Sabean said. “… Like us, they didn’t have a prototypical set lineup and had to make some changes at the deadline. They were unfortunate to have their [10-game] losing streak when they did.”

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy addressed numerous topics during his half-hour session with the media, including:

– Pablo Sandoval’s physical conditioning. Bochy noted that Sandoval already has lost more than 10 pounds. “He seems determined to get back to where he was [in 2009],” Bochy said. But, Bochy added, “He’s got a little ways to go. I don’t want to put a number [on it], but he’s still got probably 15 or so.”

– The care and feeding of the club’s valuable pitchers. Keeping the staff injury-free will loom as a chief concern given the shortened offseason and the starters’ workload. Including the postseason, each starter exceeded 200 innings — except for Barry Zito, who finished with 199 1/3.

Bochy also will watch closer Brian Wilson carefully. “Whether I bring him in as much in the eighth inning this coming year, I don’t know,” Bochy said of Wilson, who led the Major Leagues with 10 saves of 1 1/3 innings or longer this year.

Nevertheless, Bochy said that he’s saddled with fewer roster issues than he ever has faced in his 17-year managerial career, largely due to the pitching staff’s stabiity.

– The wish for a left-handed batter to balance the lineup. Bochy said that this yet-to-be-obtained individual doesn’t necessarily have to be a power hitter. This prompted speculation that the Giants could again be eyeing Scott Podsednik, who they pursued previously. At 34, Podsednik might not be an ideal acquisition. But he has accented his .279 career batting average with 301 stolen bases in 10 seasons, which would meet the Giants’ goal of becoming more “athletic.”

– Existing outfield personnel. Bochy said that he might inform Aaron Rowand, who has spent most of his career in center field, that he’ll might have to fill in at the outfield corners occasionally. Bochy added that speedster Darren Ford, who needs to gain more consistency at the plate, almost surely will open the season at Triple-A Fresno.

– A friendly parting with shortstop Juan Uribe, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers last week. Bochy said that Uribe called to thank him. “And I said the same to him,” Bochy said. “You understand. It’s part of the business. He was a free agent, and you’re not going to sign them all. … We’re champions partly because of what he did for us.”

– His contract status. Bochy is signed for 2011 with a club option for 2012. Asked whether he’d prefer to have a contract extension before next season opens, Bochy replied, “Not to skirt it, but it’s not even on my mind right now.”

Chris Haft

Is Posey the answer? Tough call

Tuesday, April 20

SAN DIEGO — I’m not sure whether I committed the following thought to print. I do know that I expressed it in various conversations and voiced it on radio interviews.

Asked when I thought Buster Posey would be promoted to the Majors, I predicted it would happen at the first sign of trouble.

Well, if trouble’s not here, he’s about to pick up his credential granting him access to the Giants’ clubhouse. They’ve lost three games in a row, each by one run; they’re facing a pitcher in Wednesday’s series finale against the Padres (right-hander Jon Garland) who gives them fits; and they’re about to embark upon a homestand in which they’ll face three consecutive 2009 postseason qualifiers — St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado.

Right now, a one-out walk constitutes a big rally for the Giants. It’s an opportune time to bring aboard Posey, the heralded prospect who’s batting .354 with a .456 on-base percentage through 12 games with Triple-A Fresno.

But where would Posey play? Catcher Bengie Molina, who’s hitting .351, is part of the short-term solution, not the problem. First baseman Aubrey Huff is batting .288 with a .393 on-base percentage. They occupy the two positions Posey is capable of playing. Unless manager Bruce Bochy is ready to bench Molina and/or Huff at least three times a week so Posey can get appreciable playing time and at-bats. Otherwise, summoning Posey would be a waste … as well as being a potentially costly luxury (assuming Posey stayed in the Majors for good, he’d become eligible for salary arbitration after the 2012 season and would cash in big a year early as a “Super Two,” just as Tim Lincecum did this past off-season).

In a way, there’s no need for the Giants to panic. Their biggest strength, starting pitching, remains intact. But, 1-for-25 through three games with runners in scoring position? It doesn’t get much worse than that.

So let’s see what the Giants do, if anything. I found it interesting to watch general manager Brian Sabean enter San Francisco’s clubhouse. after Tuesday’s loss. He didn’t trudge; he didn’t slouch. He strolled boldly through the clubhouse doors. It’s not too hard to imagine that he made a beeline for Bochy’s office to discuss the struggling offense — with or without Posey.

– Chris Haft

RF up for grabs; long look for Posey; new pact for Cain?

Friday, March 26
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will be the Giants’ Opening Day right fielder.

Schierholtz was virtually handed the right-field job before Spring Training began, but his pedestrian offense and John Bowker’s torrid hitting prompted the Giants’ braintrust to rethink matters.

Schierholtz is a superior defender who has proven capable of handling AT&T Park’s tricky acreage in right field. But he’s batting .234 with a .280 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats this spring. By contrast, Bowker began Friday tied for the Major League lead with 18 RBIs — due largely to his seven-RBI outburst Wednesday against Kansas City — and is hitting .298 with a .596 slugging percentage and a team-high four home runs.

Bowker also has been strikeout-prone, with 11 in 57 at-bats.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed that Schierholtz had slipped from his all-but-certain starting perch.

“He’s struggled to the point where you have to pay due respect to the other guys who are going well, including Bowker,” Sabean said Friday.

The Giants’ other reserve outfield candidates are Fred Lewis, who’s batting .222 but has a .528 slugging percentage; Andres Torres, who’s hitting .289 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .578 slugging percentage; and Eugenio Velez, a .298 hitter.<p/>

Referring to the preponderance of qualified outfielders, Sabean said, “Maybe our bigger challenge is how many infielders we keep over outfielders.” He cited left fielder Mark DeRosa, who can play every infield spot, and Velez, who made his first Cactus League appearance at second base Friday and booted a grounder for an error, as “dual-position guys” who can provide flexibility.

*****

Sabean also said that the Giants will keep Buster Posey with them through the conclusion of the exhibition season — though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization’s top prospect will make the Opening Day roster.

Reading between the lines of what Sabean said, it seems — <i>seems</i> — that Posey will begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. If that’s the case, Posey probably will join the Giants at the first sign of trouble.

“We’ll keep him to the end,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that the actual decision will need to go to the end. I think, internally, we know what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re going to hold that close to the vest because it’s subject to change and you never know what might happen.”

With the Giants trailing, 3-2, in Friday’s eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels, Posey hit a windblown ground-rule double that tied the score and lifted his average to .415 with nine RBIs. He has a .442 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. Manager Bruce Bochy said that there are no plans to try Posey at any position other than catcher and first base.

*****

Friday ended with no official announcement regarding the reported contract extensions for relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. This prompted speculation that the Giants are engineering an extension for a third player.

A likely suspect is right-hander Matt Cain, whose ridiculously affordable $6.25 club option for 2011 surely will be picked up by the Giants barring a disaster. It would behoove the Giants to reach an agreement with Cain. Otherwise, they’d enter the 2011-12 offseason facing the burden of negotiating with both Cain and Tim Lincecum, whose two-year deal will have expired.

– Chris Haft

Randy Winn: An appreciation

Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.

But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.

That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.

Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.

Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.

Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.

Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.

One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.

Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.

That’s the essence of Randy Winn.

The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.

Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.

But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.

Wednesday’s Winter Meetings leftovers

INDIANAPOLIS — Could the New York Yankees’ acquisition of Curtis Granderson affect the Giants? Probably not. But if the Giants were so inclined, they might be able to coax an outfielder from the World Champions.

The Yankees probably wouldn’t want to trade Melky Cabrera, since he’s only 25 and relatively affordable, having earned a base salary of $1.4 million last season. But he could be deemed expendable if New York decided it had a glut of outfielders. Cabrera was linked to the Giants in trade rumors a couple of years ago, which of course means nothing.

The Yankees also have Nick Swisher, the former Oakland Athletic who probably wouldn’t mind returning to the Bay Area. Swisher propelled 29 home runs out of the Yankee Stadium launching pad and compiled a .371 on-base percentage despite hitting only .249 last season. But Swisher’s mildly pricey, as he’s owed $15.75 million over the next two seasons.

Though most speculation has linked the Giants to corner outfielders, general manager Brian Sabean said that one or two scenarios “possibly” exist in which the club could acquire a center fielder, who would prompt Aaron Rowand to move to left field. But, Sabean added, “We’re not asking Aaron to move and we don’t anticipate that he’ll move.”

*****

Nate Schierholtz has helped himself by playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. The 25-year-old candidate for the right field job entered Wednesday batting .339 in 15 games for the Gigantes de Carolina, helped partly by tutelage from San Francisco’s globe-trotting hitting coach, Hensley Meulens.

“I give Nate a lot of credit,” Sabean said. “We really appreciate what he’s doing to go to winter ball and he has made some changes with Hensley. Everybody’s pulling for Nate. He’s got too much passion for what he does and he works at it. He’s a good outfielder (with a) good arm, good baserunner. We just haven’t seen enough consistency with the bat, or more so the power that we thought we’d have at this time. But he certainly (has) a captive audience right now. He wants to be out there.”

– Chris Haft

First-day Winter Meetings leftovers

INDIANAPOLIS — To nobody’s great surprise, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Monday in his daily Winter Meetings briefing that Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres will enter Spring Training as the leading candidates to bat leadoff.

As was the case with most spots in the batting order, leadoff presented problems for the Giants last season. Their No. 1 hitters scored 94 runs, 14th in the National League and eight fewer than the league average. They hit .258, 12th in the NL and 14 points below the league average. Their .312 on-base percentage, good for 14th, fell .028 short of the league average.

Many readers have pointed out that Velez, despite his brief second-half surge, would be a poor choice to hit leadoff, given his .308 on-base percentage last season. Torres accumulated only 152 at-bats in 75 games, but .343 his on-base percentage outshone Velez’s. Torres also struggled to stay healthy, going on the disabled list twice with left hamstring strains.

Sabean mentioned that none of this takes into account what position Velez or Torres would play. Bruce Bochy will have a chance to discuss this issue further when he holds a question-and-answer session (as all Major League managers do at the Winter Meetings) on Tuesday.

***

As managing general partner Bill Neukom concentrated on another activity but sat within earshot in the Giants’ suite, Sabean reiterated that the club’s payroll would remain “in the realm of last year,” probably in the low $90 million range. Due partly to the settlement the Giants will have to reach with Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who’s eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, they’ll need every penny (except Brad).

***

As the Giants continued searching for a catcher to play regularly while top prospect Buster Posey continues his apprenticeship, Sabean ruled out two possible fill-ins already on the roster: Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Garko.

The Giants have no desire to expose Sandoval to catching’s physical rigors, which could hamper their best offensive performer at the plate. “It’s too high a risk,” Sabean said. Sandoval started three games behind the plate last year, when he led San Francisco with a .330 average, 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. He caught 11 times in 41 games as a rookie in 2008.

Garko won the 2003 Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher while attending Stanford University. He has never caught an inning in his four-year Major League career, though he caught 141 games in the Minors.

***

Speculation that the Los Angeles Angels might be pursuing outfielder Jason Bay, regarded as one of the market’s few premier free agents, sparked spinoff gossip: Were the Angels to sign Bay, they could be compelled to trade outfielder Juan Rivera.

Rivera would nicely fit the Giants’ needs for a proven hitter. The 31-year-old hit .287 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 138 games last season. Moreover, he’ll earn only $4.25 million next year and $5.25 million in 2011. But the combination of Rivera’s skill and relatively modest salary might prompt the Angels to demand a package of players beyond the Giants’ capabilities.

– Chris Haft

Sabean/Bochy outtakes, and a bit more

SAN FRANCISCO — General manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy had much more to say than what appeared in the story on sfgiants.com. Here are the answers to some of the other questions asked by various reporters:

What will you do at second base if you don’t re-sign Freddy Sanchez?
SABEAN: “I’m not sure because we still have to lay eyes on [Emmanuel] Burriss, who’s about to play in the instructional league and then go off to winter ball. That was really unfortunate, the way he got hurt in the minor leagues, and we didn’t get a chance to see him get back up here. So it’ll be something we’ll have to contemplate. Our aim is to try to get something done with Freddy and I expect that probably will happen.”
 
What about the payroll?
SABEAN: “The payroll, I think, I can characterize two ways. It’s not going to change all that much per se. Some of the models we’ve done obviously reflect what’s going to happen in arbitration with [Tim] Lincecum and [Brian] Wilson, and even [Jonathan] Sanchez. With Freddy’s situation, being the second base spot, the number’s been folded in there. What I’m confident is the dealings we’ve had with Bill [Neukom] the last two years is, no matter what number gets set, if we have something compelling baseball-wise to bring to him, he certainly will consider it and take it through the proper channels. I think we’ll have the latitude to see what we can recommend. Now how it presents itself or how involved we can or will be to follow through with that, there’s no telling. It’s not a very attractive free-agent market in my mind. You guys have got a list yourselves.”

Would you be willing to pursue a hitter who’s defensively challenged, or do you plan to uphold the team’s defensive standards, no ifs, ands or buts?
SABEAN: “I think there are exceptions to the rule, and we’re willing to visit that. … Really, to speak to some of the questions about our style of play or how we were going to go about it offensively, the one thing that didn’t happen was, collectively as a group, we just couldn’t get marginally better. … In some ways, we might have gotten caught in between. We were waiting for guys to hit three-run homers. We were waiting for guys to hit a double with the bases loaded. The more we found out we couldn’t do that, later in the year, we decided that we were going to have to do some other things — bunting guys over or running a little bit more. … I’ll say this: between Boch and the coaching staff, everybody got their chance. Everybody got their chance to play, stay in the lineup or, more so, get rotated back in when it didn’t work out for somebody else.”

Brian, you mentioned you’d like to get a contract done with Freddy Sanchez. How do you see second baseman-outfielder Eugenio Velez fitting in?
SABEAN: “I think it’ll take some discussion. If you’re asking me personally, he probably is a little bit more comfortable as an outfielder. He probably plays a little bit more relaxed. Having said that, he really has come a long ways as a defensive player, both as a second baseman and as an outfielder. It kind of goes to what can make it easier on the manager. Let’s say if Velez and [Andres] Torres are the leadoff component, it’s probably better-suited [for him] to be in the outfield. That’s not to say that he would never play second base. But I think we would look at it that way.”

Q: This team reminds me of the ’86 Giants — young nucleus, playing with passion, finishing a strong third, and the next year Al Rosen and Roger Craig engineered a division winner. Is that the stated aim going into spring training next year?
BOCHY: “Sure it is. It’s getting back to what I talked about. The team has gotten into a win mode now. We reached up and grabbed a pretty good bar this year. Now we want to reach up and grab the next bar. Sure, more will be expected out of us. I’d rather have it that way. I expect more out of us and I know these players feel the same. As we go into Spring Training, we’re going to go in with a lot of confidence and try to finish the job.”

Brian, what does it mean to you to be the longest-tenured general manager?
SABEAN: “Pretty amazing. I don’t feel particularly good about a colleague of mine like Kevin Towers being let go the way he was, but that’s the business. There are only 30 of these jobs. I’ve always tried to treat the position with the utmost respect and be humble going about it. To think that we’ve been here this long as a group is pretty amazing and I’m thankful. I don’t ever think about how long I want to do this or how long I have done it, but it’s been a good run. We’ve had ups and downs, buts an organization, I think that the Giants have a lot to be pleased with, not only from our past but especially as we’re talking about going into the future.”

What about your reputation for having an attachment to bringing in older players?
SABEAN: “We don’t sit here as general managers making unilateral decisions. At the end of the day, do you have to make the final final? Yes. But the manager and those involved, including ownership, pretty much know what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to bring in. I’m not going to speak to track record. You guys keep score; we keep score; what I can say is that a lot of times it doesn’t come down to just dollars and cents as to how you got somebody or brought somebody in or more so what they do for the club.

“And I’ll mention this, not in any way of being defensive, but the [Edgar] Renteria situation: We made a management decision on all levels that we needed a veteran shortstop. Looking back, the choice internally would have been somebody like [Emmanuel] Burriss, which as we all know sitting here today, wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. Secondarily, no matter what the contract threshold ended up being, if you talk to Tony LaRussa, if you talk to Bobby Cox, if you talk to anybody around baseball who’s had this type of player and you listen to how Boch witnessed what he was able to do on and off the field, including or especially just with somebody like Pablo, who he took under his wing in Spring Training and carried that out through the season and let alone how he went out there most days not at 100 percent, probably 75 percent. What we’ve tried to do is bring guys in here, no matter what the contract was like, or really, how it turned out against the contract, that could make a difference. Have we made mistakes? Yes. But in our keeping score, we’ve made a lot of good decisions, too.”

BOCHY: “I think a lot of us …get labeled that you like or prefer veteran players. There’s no getting around it. Sure, there’s a little sense of security or confidence with a veteran player. But … I like young players. I love the energy from Pablo Sandoval, what he brings. Velez. You need those kind of players. But you also need guys like a Renteria or Uribe and what they do. And again, not just on the field but in the clubhouse. It’s great to have a nice blend of these guys and I thought we had that this year.”

Have you had talks about a contract extension with Tim Lincecum?
SABEAN: “No … And it’s really not appropriate yet. The first thing we’re doing is deciding, because of the number of [salary arbitration] cases we have, how we’re going to prioritize getting ready for them, who’s actually going to handle them. And really, to tell you the truth, there’s leverage involved … [Lincecum's contract] is a complicated one. It’s one I have not been through. Nor will many people in baseball go through. You’re going to have the union, on their side, very much interested to see how this turns out, and Major League Baseball is going to have an eye and ear [on] this as to where it could go on a one-year deal. And maybe, until you establish what that threshold is, how do you get to the next level, which is a multiyear contract? The other thing that’s very confusing is, it’s almost impossible now to insure contracts. Or insure a contract like Timmy’s. Timmy has nothing wrong with him.”

What are you expecting from now until next season with Pablo Sandoval to see him improve more?
SABEAN: [Mentioning plans to meet with Sandoval later Monday or Tuesday] “He’s been asked to make a trip with some kind of All-Star team from Major League Baseball to Korea. I think that’s a two-week trip. I don’t know whether he’s going to accept that.”Secondarily, he has somewhat of a commitment — a countryman’s commitment, let’s say — with winter ball [for Magallanes in Venezuela]. I’ve heard somewhere in the range of wanting to play for three weeks.

“But lastly, he understands that we have to do some more things to get him in better shape not only coming into Spring Training, but as the season goes along [Sandoval will spend most of November at the Giants' training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., to work on conditioning and proper nutrition]. And as we know, that’s only going to prolong his career, and he understands that. We just have to figure out the place, the time frame and the cooperation. Because some of it is a change in lifestyle. But he’s saying the right things and he does believe that he needs to make some changes. He’s not the only guy on the ballclub who will go to [a conditioning program].”

What about Tim Lincecum’s strengthening program?
SABEAN: “It’s a slippery slope with him because this guy’s an amazing athlete as is. Last year because of the Cy Young, he was on the circuit pretty good and probably started a little too late calendar-wise and that’s one of the reasons he was taxed in Spring Training and not in an optimal space to start the season. He understands that. As far as I know, he’s staying in the Bay Area this offseason, which will help us with him.”

Are you OK with Sandoval playing winter ball?
SABEAN: “If it’s for a short period of time. [He's] very popular. He’s still a young player. He has a chance to earn some money in doing so. I don’t say there’s a lot of pressure on him, but we have to pay respect to that. That’s what he grew up around. He was very popular there last year. And it’s good for Major League Baseball. But the time lost down there, if he does go, and I don’t know what that time frame’s going to be, might cut into the calendar that we want for him. That’s why we have to sit down and go through each week, each month.”

Do you anticipate not tendering contracts to Justin Miller, Brandon Medders or Ryan Garko, all of whom are arbitration-eligible?
SABEAN: “For the first time, we have more eligible players than I can remember. Secondarily, it comes down to roster manipulation or machinations where we’re going to need spots to add folks from our minor leagues. And we’re also going to want to have spots available in case of signing a free agent or making a trade. so each one of them is going to have to be visited to see what … the value of that spot is. Not only the 40-man roster, but how we predict the 25-man roster could be crafted.”

[Sabean concluded by saluting the pitching staff]
“We’ve got some guys who are tough SOBs. And I think that [Randy] Johnson really helped with that mindset. [Brad] Penny coming in with his bravado. And in some ways, I’m not so sure our whole team didn’t take on that type of personality. These guys wanted to win every inning and every game … and in some ways, took the pressure off what we couldn’t do offensively. There weren’t many position players that would dare half-step that type of group. It’s tough to find a pitching staff not only that good, but that competitive — that competitive among themselves and more so as you went into the game. That’s one of the reasons I think we won as many games as we did. The opposition knew that [he pounded the table for emphasis], our team knew that and they all deserve so much credit. Because they all talk different, they all have different styles, they all act different, but individually and collectively, this was a tough-minded group of people.”

*****

Three Giants underwent minor surgery Monday. Right-hander Justin Miller had arthroscopic surgery to have loose bodies removed from his throwing elbow; infielder Rich Aurilia experienced a similar procedure; and right-hander Brandon Medders had a torn meniscus in his left knee repaired.

– Chris Haft

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