Sabean had pointed out Tuesday that if the club couldn't bolster its lineup by obtaining an offensively proven corner infielder, upgrading the pitching staff would be a logical alternative -- or, in his words, a "fallback position." Sabathia would have strengthened an already formidable starting rotation that features reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, equally talented right-hander Matt Cain, former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito and promising left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.
Moreover, Sabathia, a native of Vallejo, Calif., loves the Bay Area and reportedly hoped to settle down there with his wife and three children.
On Tuesday, Sabean acknowledged that the possibility of signing Sabathia was "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."
But Sabathia, who agreed to a seven-year deal worth $161 million with the New York Yankees, would have strained the Giants' finances. They would have invited skepticism, if not criticism, for an imbalanced payroll that included two pitchers -- along with Zito -- with contracts exceeding $120 million. The Giants never made Sabathia a formal offer, and Sabean repeatedly stated that he wouldn't enter a bidding war with the Yankees. But San Francisco seemed prepared to offer Sabathia more than the five-year, $100 million deal proposed by his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
At least that was the perception created by industry sources familiar with Sabathia's side. Wednesday, Sabean railed against the media process that heightens such expectations among fans -- specifically the notion that if the Giants didn't sign Sabathia, they'd throw those dollars at first baseman Mark Teixeira or left fielder Manny Ramirez, the other premier free agents. In reality, the Giants are unlikely to enter the bidding for either slugger.
"The press created that perception. I didn't," Sabean said. "When did we say that we were going after Sabathia? When? When did we say we were going to make an offer? When did we say that we were going to give him $100 million or $160 million? That's your [reporters'] problem. You created it."
Sabean also questioned whether Sabathia truly wanted to sign with the Giants and blamed media reports for exaggerating that prospect.
"He said he was interested. Do I know that? I never met with the player," Sabean said. "So everywhere you turn with this, because you guys created the perception, I have to respond to it."
The Giants' options for the rest of the offseason appear limited. They're reluctant to part with Cain or Sanchez, whom numerous teams covet, in exchange for one of the corner infielders available in trade -- virtually all of whom possess unfavorable contracts or defensive shortcomings. According to one rumor, San Francisco refused to participate in a three-way deal with Florida and Texas that would have brought third baseman Jorge Cantu to the Giants while sending Sanchez to the Rangers.
Sabean downplayed the chances of signing a free-agent infielder later in the offseason.
"We've been doing this since the middle of last year," Sabean said, referring to the search for offensive help. "I don't know how much more we can spin the Rubik's cube."
San Francisco will continue to explore the free-agent market for a veteran starter who would accept a one-year contract to bolster the back end of the rotation. The Giants need to fortify themselves in case left-hander Noah Lowry, who's recuperating from two forearm surgeries, doesn't recover in time for the regular season, or if rookie right-hander Kevin Pucetas needs further seasoning.
"It's a short list," Sabean said of the free-agent options.
The Giants already have spoken with representatives for 295-game winner Randy Johnson, who at 45, likely won't command an overly exorbitant wage. Johnson's coming off a two-year, $26 million deal that paid him a base salary of $10 million last season. It's believed that he would accept a contract worth more than half that amount.
Few doubt Johnson's ability, even at his age. He finished 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, including 1-0, 1.04 in four outings against the Giants. Johnson struck out 173 and walked only 44 in 184 innings overall. His road ERA of 3.58 outshone his home ERA of 4.22 at hitter-friendly Chase Field.
D-backs manager Bob Melvin, who hopes to retain Johnson, endorsed the future Hall of Famer as an excellent acquisition.
"He's learned how to do it a little differently, but he still pitches in power fashion," Melvin said. "He still has the slider that he throws down and in to right-handers as his strikeout pitch, so he still has the arm speed for that. He'll touch 94 [mph] at times and pitches at 91-92, but uses the other side of the plate a little bit more. He throws a split-finger now."
Melvin added that the prospect of reaching 300 wins motivates Johnson.
"He has a huge 'carrot,'" Melvin said. "He has a lot to pitch for."
Others who could meet the Giants' criteria include Paul Byrd and Randy Wolf. But Sabean indicated that he and his staff are still determining whether the candidates they've identified are feasible ones.
"We're going to find out," Sabean said. "I think it'll take time."