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12/05/08 12:34 AM EST

Busy Giants to eye bats at Meetings

San Francisco seeks middle-infield slugger, more relief help

SAN FRANCISCO -- Having set a quick pace with player acquisitions this offseason, the Giants hope to regain that stride as they approach the annual Winter Meetings, which begin next Monday at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.

The Giants are the only team to sign three free agents, reaching agreements with left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, right-hander Bobby Howry and shortstop Edgar Renteria.

General manager Brian Sabean will continue to seek potent hitters at the corner-infield spots to boost the team that ranked last in the Major Leagues in home runs and 15th in the National League in scoring and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

At this juncture, the Giants appear unlikely to sign any of the three highest-profile free agents -- CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez -- which is precisely how Sabean prefers matters. Keep in mind that San Francisco didn't reach an agreement with left-hander Barry Zito until Dec. 29 two years ago.

The Giants have stated their interest in Sabathia to the left-hander's agents. Insiders believe that the Giants have not made an offer to Sabathia, but have clearly defined the parameters for a deal.

San Francisco officials have spoken with Scott Boras, who represents Ramirez and Teixeira. But both players' contractual demands -- Ramirez reportedly wants more than $20 million annually and Teixeira a 10-year deal -- could be out of the Giants' range.

Other free agents could entice the Giants. They've expressed interest in third baseman Casey Blake, who remains available, and the Joe Crede rumors may linger until he signs elsewhere. San Francisco also would be a fit for Adam Dunn, if he were willing to play first base full-time.

As the free-agent dominoes begin to fall, the Giants will focus on trade options. Milwaukee shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Bill Hall long have been mentioned as possibilities, along with second baseman Dan Uggla and third baseman Jorge Cantu of Florida. But Sabean said Thursday in the wake of Renteria's signing that no deals are imminent.

The Giants probably will have to part with pitching in any deal involving them. But determining who they'd part with is difficult. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez would appear to be the most likely starter to be traded. But Sabean pointed out that left-hander Noah Lowry's questionable status resulting from forearm surgery enhances Sanchez's value to the Giants. Also, Sabean has repeated that right-hander Matt Cain is off-limits.

Of course, Tim Lincecum was considered untouchable last year, too, until the Winter Meetings commenced and Sabean weighed trading the exciting right-hander for Toronto outfielder Alex Rios. The Giants held onto Lincecum, and one Cy Young Award later, the club's fans and employees are glad they did. Interestingly enough, Rios is said to be on the trading block again, although he is now signed to a $69 million contract through 2014.

The Lincecum non-trade is instructive, however. If Rios represented the best offer Sabean could get for Lincecum, the Giants probably couldn't get a big bat for Sanchez alone. They'd either have to give in and dangle Cain, or couple Sanchez with a prospect. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner and right-hander Tim Alderson have received plenty of attention, but the Giants are as reluctant to part with either of them as they are with Cain or Sanchez.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.