Giants prep for Meetings with ace in mind

Free-agent prize Greinke remains primary target for club

Giants prep for Meetings with ace in mind

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants general manager Bobby Evans might not want to wait until baseball's Winter Meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn., to address the team's biggest need by obtaining the offseason's biggest free agent: Zack Greinke.

As the Giants approach the Meetings, Evans' shopping list consists of just two items: starting pitchers and outfielders, the team's most pressing concerns.

"I've tried to stay engaged with every option," Evans said.

Hot Stove Tracker

Finding a starter -- or even a second one, which the Giants could use -- promises to be particularly challenging. Competition is one factor, since numerous teams are striving to improve their rotations. Expenses are another consideration. Free-agent right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, whom San Francisco was said to covet, signed with Detroit for five years and a reported $110 million. In this market, even average pitchers can command close to $20 million annually.

But there's nothing average about Greinke. And the Giants not only seem willing to pay the $30 million-plus that Greinke will command annually, they're also able to do so, having cleared more than $50 million in contract space for 2016 through retirements and attrition.

The agreement between David Price and the Red Sox prompted reports that Greinke might decide on a team, most likely either the Giants or Dodgers, as soon as this week.

New market after Price's deal

Signing Greinke would be a coup for the Giants. Not only would they add an accomplished starter who's 142-93 lifetime, including 19-3 this year with Los Angeles, but they also would rob their archrival of a co-ace. Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have led the Dodgers to three consecutive National League West titles.

Moreover, the Giants would no longer have to face Greinke, who's 7-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 10 career starts against them. That includes a 2-0 record and 1.78 ERA in four outings at AT&T Park.

Though Greinke is 32, many observers believe that he possesses the skill to adjust to advancing age by learning to rely on guile and precision, as Hall of Famer Greg Maddux did. Hence, if Greinke demands a six-year contract, he'll probably get one. This is not unprecedented for the Giants, who gave seven years to Barry Zito and signed Matt Cain to an eight-year extension.

Alternatives exist for the Giants if they don't get Greinke. They're said to be eyeing right-hander Johnny Cueto, who recently spurned a reported six-year, $120 million offer from Arizona. Doug Fister, another right-hander, also apparently has caught San Francisco's attention. And the Giants already have stated that they'd like to bring back right-hander Mike Leake, whom they acquired at this year's Trade Deadline. But, as an unusually young free agent (28), Leake likely will have plenty of suitors.

As for outfielders, the Giants have expressed interest in utility man Ben Zobrist, whom they pursued last offseason before Oakland signed him. Some might believe that Justin Upton would look good in a Giants uniform, but he received a qualifying offer from San Diego and would require Draft-pick compensation to sign. Alex Rios, whose skills prompted the Giants to briefly consider trading Tim Lincecum for him at the 2007 Winter Meetings, is available in free agency. He'll be in his age-35 season, however, and wouldn't elicit much more than a one-year offer.

Though the Rockies probably wouldn't trade a proven performer within the division, the Giants at the very least might want to explore what it would take to engineer a trade for left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has two years remaining on his contract. Colorado reportedly is willing to part with Gonzalez, despite his impressive 2015 output (.271, 40 homers, 97 RBIs). Then again, Gonzalez has hit .227 in 52 games at AT&T Park.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 8 a.m. PT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 7 a.m. PT.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.