Giants sign Vizquel, focus on third base
San Francisco reluctant to bring back Feliz with multiyear deal
The Giants officially welcomed back shortstop Omar Vizquel on Friday and unofficially may have begun to separate themselves from third baseman Pedro Feliz.Finalizing a deal reported earlier in the week, the Giants signed Vizquel to a one-year, $5.3 million deal with an option for the 2009 season. While discussing Vizquel's return, Giants general manager Brian Sabean declared that finding a third baseman is the club's next priority, given Feliz's possible departure in free agency. "Third base is what we're presently going to work on," Sabean said. "I think that definitely has to be the first thing we try to address." Sabean said that Feliz, who has averaged 21 home runs and 84 RBIs in the past four seasons, and is widely considered to have developed into a Gold Glove-caliber defender, has received "quite a bit of action" from teams seeking a third baseman. Sabean indicated that the Giants are reluctant to fulfill Feliz's hopes for a multiyear contract -- a request that could extend "closer to three years," the GM noted. "If that's the case," Sabean said, "it's not going to be something that we'll pursue, at least at this time." Sabean indicated that the Giants, who have a surplus of pitching, will try to obtain a third baseman through trade. Florida's Miguel Cabrera is the most prominent third baseman reportedly available through that avenue, although the Marlins surely would demand multiple prospects in return. Asked about Cabrera, Sabean replied, "In general, there seems to be some interesting names out there now. Players like that are going to command a lot of interest and obviously a lot in return." Accomplished, yet expensive veterans who could be shopped include St. Louis' oft-injured Scott Rolen, who has three years and $36 million remaining on his contract, and Toronto's Troy Glaus, due to earn $12.75 million next season with a player option for $11.25 million in 2009. Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura, Colorado's Ian Stewart, Houston's Ty Wigginton and Texas' Travis Metcalf also could be potentially available. The Giants might also consider a handful of proven third basemen trying to overcome injuries, such as Arizona's Chad Tracy (right knee), the White Sox Joe Crede (back) and Oakland's Eric Chavez (back). Of course, the premier free-agent third baseman up for grabs is Alex Rodriguez, who supposedly is demanding a long-term deal worth more than $30 million a year. Sabean said that he's taking a "wait-and-see" stance toward Rodriguez, who's represented by agent Scott Boras. Without revealing the level of the Giants' interest in Rodriguez, Sabean said that there's no rush to open talks with Boras, adding that they held no discussions during the recently completed General Managers Meetings in Florida.
"You'd have to gauge, and we don't know this, what somebody's legitimate interest is -- how do we know he doesn't want to stay in the American League, how do we know what he really thinks about San Francisco," Sabean said. "So at this point, the best track for us is to be on the outside looking in, until things really get defined. ... Knowing Scott's due diligence, this is going to go all the way to or through the Winter Meetings, so there's still plenty of time."Sabean re-emphasized that acquiring players through trade probably will be more fruitful than free agency for the Giants and most clubs, given the shortage of attractive free agents. He did issue a qualified hands-off policy regarding right-hander Tim Lincecum, the 2007 rookie sensation who has been cited in various trade rumors. "Right now the only way it's come up is if teams have asked about him. And that's where it ends," Sabean said. "I am in no position to think that there's a trade out there that we would make to want to give up Lincecum. But when you finish 20 games below .500 and you're in last place, you have to listen." Vizquel contributed to the Giants' forgettable season by batting .246, a 49-point drop from 2006. But the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner also maintained his deft defense, prompting the Giants to retain him. Vizquel, said Sabean, leads by "a higher level of example." "He's never in the training room, he's always ready to play, he's enthusiastic, he has passion, he's completely all-out on the field," Sabean said. "For a younger team, or with people who are learning this game, there's nobody better to learn from. He's going to the Hall of Fame and he still has the passion of a rookie and plays every game like it's his last."
In fact, the 40-year-old Vizquel spent Friday playing his second game in a three-month stint for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, a gesture meant to reciprocate the appreciation of fans in his native country.Coming off a three-year, $12.25 million contract, Vizquel will earn $5 million next season. Reportedly, if he appears in 140 games, he'll be guaranteed $5.2 million in 2009. After that, the Giants hope that either Emmanuel Burris or Brian Bocock, their top shortstop prospects, will be Major League ready. Vizquel will get a $300,000 buyout if the option clause isn't activated. "It just depends on the way I play," Vizquel said. "Everybody knows if you play good, they're going to give you a lot of playing time."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.