DALLAS -- The Giants are realizing that you can't have everything, even with a $130 million payroll.Though they continued exploring deals for proven hitters Monday as baseball's Winter Meetings opened, it became apparent that they're contemplating what 2012 might be like if they don't bolster the offense further. That's a distinct possibility, given their intent to retain the core of their pitching staff -- and the accompanying cost -- as well as the $81.6 million they already have committed to eight players. "We only have so much money to spread," general manager Brian Sabean said. "And you have to play with 25 guys." Thus, barring a breakthrough in the trade market or free agency, the Giants might have to make do with what they have. This means relying on the hope that second baseman Freddy Sanchez and catcher Buster Posey will recover from the injuries that sidelined them last year.
This means depending on Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt to settle into the positions that suit them best, whether it's first base or left field, and for Brett Pill to provide a right-handed-batting complement at first base.This means coaxing adequate offense from shortstop Brandon Crawford, despite his struggles to hit left-handed pitching, and another All-Star-level season from third baseman Pablo Sandoval, regardless of his weight. Asked if he was "comfortable" with his team without a fresh hitter joining the mix, manager Bruce Bochy said, "Yes, I am. You still look at ways you can improve our ballclub, and that's what Brian's doing right now. But ... we have our lineup out there right now. I think it's a club that's closer to what we thought it would be for the whole season last year." Sabean employed the same keyword as he remarked, "I think what we've established is we're more and more comfortable with our younger players." But comfort goes only so far after a season in which the Giants scored a National League-low 570 runs, the team's second-lowest total since the franchise's move west in 1958. "Until we get a team on the field and start the season and score more runs, you're never comfortable with the offense we have, given what our low-water mark was last year," Sabean said. So the Giants and Sabean haven't given up trying to upgrade. Sabean said that prospects for engineering a trade appeared more likely than signing a free agent. But, he added, "I don't see anything happening immediately."
Asked if he'd consider trading for a player who'd become eligible for free agency after next season, something the Giants typically resisted in previous years, Sabean said, "That wouldn't concern us, depending on what we had to give up."
This revived the possibility that the Giants could be contemplating outfielders such as B.J. Upton of Tampa Bay and Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox.Reflecting the need to maximize offense from existing sources, Bochy said that he's strongly considering starting Posey at first base occasionally during the 2012 season -- partly to relieve stress from the 24-year-old's recovering left leg but largely to strengthen San Francisco's lineup against left-handed pitching. Asked if the objective was to protect Posey from further physical erosion or to avoid losing him for the 30 to 40 games that a catcher inevitably skips, Bochy replied, "I'd say more the latter. We'd like to get him out there as much as we can without wearing him down." During his brief career, Posey has hit more consistently off right-handers. He owns a .303 batting average against them, compared with .267 against lefties. But he has been slightly more imposing against lefties, as his .840 slugging percentage against them illustrates. He's slugging .807 off righties. Bochy conceded that the extensive injuries Posey sustained in his May 25 home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins prompted this idea. "With him coming off this injury, there's a little question of how much we can catch him," Bochy said. "We'll know more in Spring Training. But if playing first ocasionally will help him and help us, then we'd like to have that available." The notion of Posey as a first baseman is neither unprecedented nor wholly surprising. Giants insiders raised the possibility of moving him from behind the plate to preserve his offensive skills almost as soon as San Francisco selected him fifth overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He started 30 games there during his 2010 National League Rookie of the Year campaign, mostly before Bengie Molina was traded to Texas on July 1 of that season. Late last season, Bochy mentioned that the Giants' hierarchy had continued to discuss switching Posey to first but emphasized that he would remain the team's primary catcher in 2012. In other Giants-related developments: Sabean said that a meeting was held between representatives for the Giants and Tim Lincecum, though no progress was made toward a compromise on a contract for the salary arbitration-eligible right-hander. Sabean said the chat was necessary "to show we're still open-minded." Sabean expressed pessimism about re-signing free-agent outfielders Carlos Beltran and Cody Ross, who reportedly wants a multiyear deal. "The window could be closing on a lot of opportunities," Sabean said. Sabean also confirmed that the club has contacted utility man Mark DeRosa about a possible return. But, Sabean said, "I don't see anything happening immediately." Both Sabean and Bochy indicated that switch-hitting infielder Emmanuel Burriss has a strong chance of making the Opening Day roster, largely as a possible right-handed-batting complement to Crawford. Bochy said that closer Brian Wilson is continuing to rehabilitate his troublesome right (throwing) elbow but should be ready to resume throwing after the start of the new year. "We're just being cautious," Bochy said. "He's doing well. No setbacks or anything." Sabean downplayed a report that the Giants met with a representative for free-agent outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
"We contacted and talked to a lot of people. But that doesn't mean we're engaged," Sabean said. Sabean ridiculed another report claiming that the Giants submitted a bid for Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. "We did not bid on the Japanese shortstop," Sabean said. "'Not.' N-O-T. Enough said."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.