Giants offer Minors deal to Aurilia
Veteran utility man mulling options; Manny deal remains unlikely
SAN FRANCISCO -- Still seeking right-handed-hitting depth and experience at the infield corners, the Giants have offered free-agent Rich Aurilia a one-year Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, general manager Brian Sabean said Saturday."I think he's taking the weekend to decide. We hope he comes back," Sabean said of the popular Aurilia, who has spent 10 of his 13 big league seasons with San Francisco. Sabean added that the offer to Aurilia was similar to the deal that another utility infielder, Juan Uribe, reached with San Francisco on Jan. 29. Uribe would earn approximately $1 million in the Majors with the chance to sweeten his contract by qualifying for performance bonuses. While Uribe is primarily a middle infielder, Aurilia, who can play all four infield spots, made all of his starts last season at first base (49 games) and third (50). His stability could prove necessary if the Giants decided to use rookie Travis Ishikawa at first base and youngster Pablo Sandoval at third. Aurilia enjoyed a strong 2008 season, batting .283 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. His .321 average against left-handed pitchers ranked 15th in the National League. Sabean addressed the Giants' interest in free agent Manny Ramirez by emphatically repeating the company line: Don't expect San Francisco to sign the slugging left fielder unless he falls into the club's lap. "It's going to take a special set of circumstances," Sabean said. "It's not going to be a long-term contract like you're reading about. It's not going to be at the dollars that are being speculated. It's going to have to make business sense and it's going to have to make baseball sense -- with a player that has tremendous upside on one hand, and some warts that still leave him on the market because of what his lack of all-around play is or what his past has been in previous organizations." Ramirez told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that he is not concerned that Spring Training is less than a week away and he still doesn't have a job. "We're in the seventh inning and I'm waiting for my pitch," Ramirez told the Times. Ramirez also said the difficulty in landing a job would not have a negative impact on his performance this season.
"That won't happen" Ramirez said. "Understand me, I have goals. I know that if I play six more years, I could get to my 3,000th hit and, who knows, maybe my 700th home run."Will Clark, the former star first baseman who recently rejoined the organization as a front-office special assistant, was more blunt in his assessment of Ramirez during a question-and-answer session during the KNBR 680/Giants FanFest. "We do not need a one-dimensional player," Clark said to considerable applause as he responded to a fan's question about Ramirez. "We do not need a guy who just hits ... Manny's a great hitter and all that, but that 'Manny being Manny' -- throw that out." Sabean reiterated another facet of the Giants' player-acquisition strategy: They could seize upon the nation's reeling economy and wait until the approach of the July 31 Trade Deadline, when teams that are both financially distressed and out of contention become willing to trade productive hitters for less than what they're worth. "We're going to be able to take a contract," Sabean said, reflecting the Giants' belief that they're on firmer financial footing than many clubs. Sabean hinted that the Giants already are compiling a "hit list" of players who could be available. "But we won't be the only team doing that," he said. "Any team with flexibility will be doing the same thing." Regarding the Giants' offseason-long effort to obtain a proven hitter who can start at either first or third, Sabean reiterated his frustration with both free-agent options and trade possibilities. Sabean indicated that the Giants would swap left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who's often mentioned in various rumors, only if they could receive a hitter with similar service time who wouldn't become eligible for free agency for another few years.
"Right now that doesn't exist," Sabean said.Sabean said months ago that virtually all available free agents who might help the Giants had "warts" -- that is, they'd be eligible for free agency after 2009, were saddled with injury issues or had reputations as poor defenders. "The warts haven't gone away," Sabean said Saturday. "That's the reason you see name players still out there." Multiple outfielders remain available, but Sabean expressed satisfaction with the Giants' projected outfield of Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.