Giants curious about Manny's price

Giants curious about Manny's price

SAN FRANCISCO -- Manny Ramirez could be an option for the Giants, but he's not the option.

Though the Giants are exploring the notion of signing Ramirez, the free-agent left fielder who would firm the sagging heart of their batting order, they apparently don't regard him as a must-have commodity for numerous reasons.

A source familiar with the Giants' operations confirmed the club's consideration of Ramirez on Friday. But the source characterized San Francisco's stance as similar to what it was with left-hander CC Sabathia, another of this offseason's premier free agents. The Giants spoke with Sabathia's representatives -- owing partly to the pitcher's desire to play in his native Bay Area -- but never made a formal contract offer.

In this case, the Giants believe they owe it to themselves to learn what it would take to secure a legitimate cleanup hitter who carried their rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, to last year's National League West title by batting .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 53 games. A fraction of that production over the course of an entire season would benefit the Giants, who ranked last in the Major Leagues in homers and 15th in the NL in scoring and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

The buzz regarding the Giants' interest in Ramirez has risen recently. The Denver Post led the parade by reporting that the Giants were "aggressively pursuing" him. San Francisco's KPIX-TV reported that the team had offered Ramirez a multiyear contract. And SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote that the Giants had "entered the bidding" for Ramirez.

But two industry sources said Friday that any talk of Ramirez receiving a contract offer from the Giants has been overblown.

The Giants' priority still may be obtaining an offensively proven corner infielder, since their outfield is full. Moreover, signing Ramirez would send the Giants beyond their payroll limit and might force them to trade another outfielder such as Aaron Rowand or Randy Winn -- neither of whom has prompted much demand on the trade market despite respectable track records.

Hot Stove

For all his offensive prowess, Ramirez is considered a defensive liability. Bent on maximizing the asset of a strong starting pitching rotation, the Giants have been reluctant to consider players who are subpar defenders.

However, obtaining Ramirez could make the Giants the favorites to win the NL West. And ticket sales -- a concern for all clubs given the nation's economic malaise -- surely would accelerate if he brought his act to San Francisco.

It's believed that the Giants might consider Ramirez if he lowered his salary demands, which reportedly are hovering around $20 million a year.

San Francisco, the NL West's most active team this offseason, already has signed left-hander Randy Johnson, relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry and shortstop Edgar Renteria in an effort to halt its skid of four consecutive losing seasons.

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