If ESPN's Jayson Stark is correct, the Giants won't maintain that kind of communication with Scott Boras, who represents Ramirez and Crede. Stark cited sources who insisted that payroll limitations would dissuade the Giants from signing either free agent -- particularly Ramirez, as MLB.com mentioned last weekend.
One industry source said that the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only genuine suitor for Ramirez, who's said to be seeking a multiyear deal worth more than $20 million annually. "The Dodgers are all he has," the source told MLB.com.
This mixture of speculation and common sense would seem to increase the likelihood that the Giants, who ranked last in the Major Leagues in homers and 15th in the National League in scoring and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) last year, will resort to a trade to obtain the offense they need. General manager Brian Sabean has said that the Giants could wait until Spring Training to swap a pitcher for a hitter. By then, the club should know whether Noah Lowry is physically fit to pitch, which could make him or fellow left-hander Jonathan Sanchez available.
Axelrod said Giants officials have told him that they want to address the team's offensive void before focusing on Aurilia, a free agent. This was consistent with Sabean's remark at the beginning of the offseason, when he said that if the Giants were to retain Aurilia, it probably wouldn't happen until shortly before Spring Training.
The Giants typically have not commented on players they're trying to acquire through free agency or trade. But as last month's Winter Meetings ended, Sabean said that he and his staff would discuss whether to pursue Aurilia "to make the roster deeper."
It might seem that the Giants wouldn't need Aurilia if they obtained a corner infielder -- particularly for third base, where they lack depth. Though Aurilia, 37, can play all four infield positions, all of his starts last season came at first base (49 games) or third (50).
But Aurilia could prove handy if the Giants were to sign an injury-prone performer such as Crede, who has endured back problems, or Ty Wigginton, who hurt his groin last September. Aurilia's stability would become especially necessary if the Giants decided to use rookie Travis Ishikawa at first base and near-rookie Pablo Sandoval at third.
Aurilia enjoyed a strong 2008 season, batting .283 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. His .321 average against left-handed pitchers ranked 15th in the National League. The .277 lifetime hitter also ascended the charts of the Giants' all-time San Francisco-era leaders in hits (sixth, 1,200), games (sixth, 1,232), doubles (seventh, 230) and RBIs (10th, 558).