SAN FRANCISCO -- Announcing Wednesday's major move prevented the Giants from making another that would have forced them to part with one of their most popular players.
Signing free-agent center fielder Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million contract didn't entirely satisfy the Giants' hunger for offense. But it did eliminate the need to trade right-hander Tim Lincecum for Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios -- a prospective deal that was hatched during the Winter Meetings.
Toronto's offer tantalized the Giants until San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean declared, during a conference call to trumpet Rowand's signing, that Lincecum -- and Matt Cain, the team's other promising 23-year-old pitcher -- were off-limits.
"With this move, we're definitively not interested any longer in listening to any offers on Cain and Lincecum," Sabean said.
Many observers questioned why the Giants would even fathom trading Lincecum, who finished 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings as a rookie last season.
But the combination of Lincecum's maximum-effort delivery and slight build has always prompted questions about his durability. And Rios, 26, certainly would have helped the Giants, who ranked toward or at the bottom of most major offensive categories. A two-time All-Star, Rios hit .297 with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs last season.
Sabean explained that trade talks involving Lincecum and Cain, whose talent eclipses his 7-16 record in 2007, were a necessary aspect of attempting to improve a ballclub that has finished below .500 for three consecutive seasons.
"I did my job. I listen," Sabean said. "I said over and over that when you finish in last place, you better be open-minded. I never came out and put either pitcher on the market and said I was going to trade either. We know the value of both individuals, believe me -- and maybe more so now that we've gone through this exercise, where they might be the hottest two names in baseball."
Lincecum did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.