Giants president comments on Dodgers, A's
Baer talks payroll prudence, willingness to help cross-bay neighbors
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer addressed issues involving two of the franchise's chief rivals Wednesday, insisting that the club doesn't need to match the Los Angeles Dodgers' monstrous payroll and holding the door slightly open for the Oakland A's to play home games at AT&T Park.
The Giants finished ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West for three consecutive seasons until 2013, when division-winning Los Angeles outdistanced San Francisco by 16 games. Meanwhile, the Dodgers spent freely to obtain free agents such as outfielder Yasiel Puig, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and right-hander Zack Greinke. The Giants concentrated largely on retaining their own free agents.
The Giants hold territorial rights to San Jose, where the A's want to build a new ballpark. But Baer hinted of the possibility of easing the A's transition by giving them a temporary home -- as long as their plans suited the Giants.
Speaking to reporters in the home dugout at Scottsdale Stadium about two hours before the Giants opened the Cactus League season against the A's, Baer estimated that San Francisco's player payroll will settle at around $150 million, roughly 10 percent higher than last year's $137 million estimate.
By comparison, with their coffers restocked by the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten-Mark Walter ownership group, the Dodgers more than doubled their payroll from 2012 ($105 million) to 2013 ($217 million). Nor were the Dodgers shy about spending during the last offseason. Among their moves: Ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw received a seven-year, $215 million contract extension; Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero coaxed a four-year, $28 million package; and starter Dan Haren and reliever Brian Wilson each signed one-year, $10 million deals.
The Giants weren't exactly reluctant spenders. They spent nearly $175 million to retain or acquire right fielder Hunter Pence, left fielder Michael Morse, left-hander Javier Lopez, infielder Joaquin Arias and right-handers Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong. Still, the Dodgers' outlay has been regarded as more spectacular, and they did wrest the division title from the Giants. Thus Baer was asked to discuss the temptation of trying to keep up financially with Los Angeles.
"We're mindful of the Dodgers. We'd be crazy to say that we're not," Baer said. But, he added, "We're fine with not matching them dollar for dollar."
Citing the influence of First-Year Player Draft selections such as right-hander Matt Cain, catcher Buster Posey, left-hander Madison Bumgarner and Lincecum, Baer said, "If those guys weren't the right judgments, where would we be now? Those were judgment calls. Those weren't money calls. So it's an art, not a science, and I don't think we have to match anybody, the Dodgers or anybody else, dollar for dollar."
Baer stated the Giants will continue to increase the payroll gradually and rely on their player development system.
"If you look at the Dodgers' track and other teams' track, it's pretty wild [payroll] swings," Baer said. "There was a period recently, before the new Dodgers ownership, that we were $30 million, $40 million ahead of them. They've gone up and down; I don't know where they'll go from here. But we think we can get it done with a plan where each year as long as business stays strong we can go up. But we're not looking for wild swings up, because usually what that necessitates is wild swings down."
Nothing remotely wild has occurred in the A's efforts to secure a replacement for O.co Coliseum. Interestingly, Baer didn't reject the suggestion -- which originally generated news last November -- of the A's temporarily relocating to AT&T Park, the Giants' home, if the Oakland franchise ever finalizes a ballpark deal. A precedent for this exists; the Yankees shared Shea Stadium with the Mets while Yankee Stadium was refurbished in 1974-75.
"We've said it all along: The A's need a new ballpark and we believe they should get one," Baer said. "Anything we can do to help them get one in their territory, we'll cooperate."
Baer emphasized that the A's must form a plan for their own ballpark before the Giants will welcome them as part-time tenants.
"Once that's arrived at, then you look at taking a step back and say, 'Is there something we can do to help them?' Could be, as a neighborly thing," Baer said.