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The Giants are allowed to take a moment or two to curse their role in the Greinke negotiations -- which, a cynic might say, was to be used as a vehicle to increase the right-hander's asking price. The club endured this last year, when it sustained a maximum effort to recruit free-agent left-hander Jon Lester before he signed with the Cubs. In fairness, given Greinke's stature and accomplishments, he didn't need to create a bidding war to coax the salary he sought.
Once the Giants' frustration passes, which shouldn't take long, expect them to charge hard after right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Either would fit nicely as a No. 2 starter alongside ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
Cueto went 11-13 combined with the Reds and Royals this year, his worst regular-season mark since going 9-14 with Cincinnati in 2008. His 3.44 ERA was his highest since logging a 3.64 ERA in 2010. But Cueto sold himself nicely in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, pitching a two-hitter in Kansas City's 7-1 victory. The Giants already developed a positive impression of Cueto, who's 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in six career starts against San Francisco. He's also 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three outings at AT&T Park.
Cueto reportedly spurned a six-year, $120 offer from Arizona last week. Even if his asking price exceeds the $20 million average annual value of that offer, which it doubtlessly does, that would represent a welcome comedown from the rarefied atmosphere of the talks with Greinke, for whom $30 million a year was not enough.
The same goes for Samardzija, who's said to have commanded nine-figure multiyear offers already. With an average of 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, his stuff is beyond question. Though Samardzija's career record of 47-61 and his 4.09 ERA seem less than impressive, the former All-America wide receiver at Notre Dame has performed mostly for mediocre clubs.
Insiders say that right-hander Doug Fister also has intrigued the Giants. Forearm issues nagged Fister this year, as he went 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA for the Nationals. But he finished a combined 30-15 with a 3.12 ERA for Detroit and Washington in 2013-14. San Francisco witnessed Fister's toughness when he remained in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series despite getting struck by a Gregor Blanco line drive.
The Giants clearly stated long ago that they want to bring back right-hander Mike Leake, their prized acquisition from this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Given his unusually young age (28) for a free agent and a career free from arm trouble, Leake has drawn heavy interest. Signing him could be as challenging as signing Greinke -- who has already faded into the past for San Francisco.
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.