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Giants in 'fallback' mode with Sabathia

Giants in 'fallback' mode with Sabathia

LAS VEGAS -- Clarifying the Giants' stance on CC Sabathia, general manager Brian Sabean said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that signing the free-agent left-hander would be a "fallback position" that the club would explore if it can't improve the lineup.

This declaration didn't end the Giants' pursuit of Sabathia, since Sabean noted that trading for an offensively proven corner infielder appeared to be a "long shot." The Giants also are considering signing 295-game winner Randy Johnson, 45, as an alternative to Sabathia.

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Delivering his most extensive comments to date about Sabathia, Sabean acknowledged that Giants director of player personnel Bobby Evans spoke with one of Sabathia's agents, Greg Genske, on Monday night. But proposals were not exchanged. Nor was a weekend meeting scheduled between Sabathia and the Giants, Sabean said, contradicting a FOXSports.com report.

The Giants have not formally offered Sabathia a contract, though sources familiar with the talks said that the club has outlined a deal that falls short of the New York Yankees' six-year, $140 million bid but exceeds the Milwaukee Brewers' five-year, $100 million offer.

Sabathia, a Vallejo, Calif., native, is known to love the Bay Area, explaining his focus on the Giants. Signing him would strain the limits of the Giants' payroll, although Sabean noted that acquiring him would compensate for any inability to bolster the offense. With Sabathia, the Giants' starting rotation would feature three Cy Young Award winners, including Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.

"If we decide that we're going to get involved, we'll have a meeting and make our presentation," Sabean said. "But we're not there yet. Which means there may be no further conversation or there may be a meeting because we have sincere interest.

"To this point, because we're not in a hurry, we're monitoring the situation. We don't have any expectations, he's certainly playing the field and there's no pressure on us to have to do something or to sign him. It's a fallback position, something to look at because there's player interest and why wouldn't we be interested if he's interested? It's as simple as that."

The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are believed to be Sabathia's other suitors, although Boston is concentrating more closely on first baseman Mark Teixeira, another premier free agent. The Los Angeles Angels also could join the Sabathia fray if they don't re-sign Teixeira.

Last season, the Giants ranked last in the Major Leagues in home runs and 15th in the National League in scoring and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), reflecting their need for hitting. But the players they've been offered, a group that includes Texas first baseman Hank Blalock, Florida third baseman Jorge Cantu and Cincinnati third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, are saddled with defensive shortcomings, extensive injury histories or contracts that expire after next season. Sabean considers those factors to be deal-breakers.

That could lead the Giants back to Sabathia.

"If you can't [add offense], what's wrong with lowering what you'd hope to be the runs allowed by improving your pitching?" Sabean asked rhetorically.

Moreover, Sabean reiterated that left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, whom San Francisco likely would have to part with in any deal for an infielder, is too steep a price. Noah Lowry's uncertain health following two forearm surgeries makes Sanchez even more essential to the Giants. Sabean plans on speaking with Lowry in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the left-hander is rehabilitating.

"He's going to have to surprise us," Sabean said of Lowry. "It's tough to count on or understand what he's able to do. And that's the box we're in doubly with Sanchez. Make no mistake, we like Sanchez. What makes it even more difficult to consider trading him is we don't know if we're going to have Lowry."

Sabean said that the possibility of not obtaining an infielder might prompt the Giants to revisit the notion of re-signing free-agent utility man Rich Aurilia, who would serve as a veteran complement to projected regulars Travis Ishikawa at first base and Pablo Sandoval at third.

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

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