Belief throughout the industry is widespread that the Giants should retain Lincecum, the 23-year-old who finished 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2007. Sabean shares that sentiment, the Giants' hunger for Rios notwithstanding.
"We're not going to trade pitching for the sake of making a trade, even though the one scenario that has presented itself is a unique baseball trade," Sabean said Thursday. "Our responsibility is to try to keep as much pitching intact as we can, yet change the lineup. That's what the challenge has been."
Although baseball's Winter Meetings concluded, the Giants' search for hitters could be accelerating. Sabean said that he still has some trade options to explore and planned to intensify talks with representatives for several free agents before leaving Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, site of the Meetings. Steve Hillard, one of the agents for Japanese center fielder Kosuke Fukodome, was known to be on the premises.
"You have to flush out other alternatives so you don't have to move a certain player," Sabean said, still refusing to name Lincecum publicly. "In my estimation, I don't think this proposal on either side is going to go away. There's a luxury in that because it buys you more time."
Sabean stayed cool while one of San Francisco's National League West rivals ostensibly strengthened itself. Late Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a two-year, $36.2 million deal with free-agent center fielder Andruw Jones, who aroused lukewarm interest from the Giants.
"I think it would be bad business to react to other people doing business -- or overreact, let's say," said Sabean, who indicated that the Giants weren't willing to offer anything close to the salary Jones received from the Dodgers.
Other options are more affordable. Although Sabean said he didn't envision acquiring a player who earns eight figures annually, the Giants are believed to have inquired about New York Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui, who'll receive $13 million in each of the next two seasons. Matsui will turn 34 next June, but his production remains high (.285, 25 homers, 103 RBIs in '07). To escape the Yankees' overcrowded outfield, Matsui is thought to be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
The Yankees need a proven starter -- which fits the description of Noah Lowry, who compiled a 34-31 record while the Giants finished 41 games below .500 (222-263) from 2005-07. So far, Sabean hasn't been impressed by inquiries from other teams about Lowry, who impresses NL West brethren. Arizona is known to covet Lowry, and Colorado needs starting help.
"His interest is from people I wouldn't necessarily trade him to. Draw your own conclusions," Sabean said. "I don't see that we could get value back."
Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge remains an intriguing possibility for the Giants, though his contract is mildly cumbersome ($6.2 million next year, $6.3 million in 2009 and $6.6 million in 2010). Sabean said that trading for Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada, who would move to third base, is no longer an option.
The Giants apparently can find a trading partner without dangling Lincecum or Matt Cain, their other prized 23-year-old right-hander. Lowry, who finished the season with a tight left elbow, is said to be throwing freely, and Sabean said that left-hander Jonathan Sanchez "has been mentioned a lot" in trade talks.
But, Sabean said, "we can't move any of these guys unless it makes good baseball sense [with] a good position player coming back. We're not interested in prospects or people who are a year or two away. They're going to have to show their face and contribute next year."
None during the Winter Meetings. Last month, the Giants signed shortstop Omar Vizquel to a one-year, $5.3 million deal with a vesting option for 2009.
Rule 5 Draft activity:
In the draft's Major League portion, the Giants selected left-hander Jose Capellan from Boston and lost left-hander Travis Blackley to Philadelphia. They took shortstop Juan Ciriaco from San Diego in the Minor League phase and lost right-hander Joe Bateman to Milwaukee.
San Francisco left Nashville with its prized starting rotation intact but still might have to part with a talented arm or two to obtain the hitter(s) needed to bolster the lineup.
Besides filling that gaping hole in the 3-4-5 spots in the batting order, the Giants also must try to add bullpen depth. They could pursue free-agent bargains in both areas.
GM's bottom line:
"I'm hoping that people will take a step back and everybody will revisit what their options are and open up more conversation." -- Sabean, on the possibility of trade talks accelerating with other clubs.