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Manny coveted, but not a bank breaker

SF eyes Manny, but won't break bank

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are ready to welcome Manny Ramirez. But they're neither waiting for him nor pinning their hopes for 2009 on acquiring him.

San Francisco, which ranked next-to-last in the National League in scoring last season, remains intrigued by the possibility of signing Ramirez, the highest-profile free agent still available. Club insiders maintained that management is continuing to monitor Ramirez's situation but will neither top the Dodgers' offers exceeding $20 million annually nor offer him a contract longer than two years.

With pitchers and catchers due to report Feb. 14 and the first full-squad Spring Training workout set for Feb. 18, the Giants sounded quite content to head for Scottsdale, Ariz., with what they have.

The Giants are largely unchanged from the group that finished fourth in the NL West with a 72-90 record last year, but posted a 28-27 record in the final two months and added four potentially helpful free agents: relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry, shortstop Edgar Renteria and left-hander Randy Johnson.

"We want to make things happen with the 25 guys we have right now," left-hander Barry Zito said Friday on the eve of the Giants' annual FanFest at AT&T Park. "And I think it's important that we focus on that."

Some Giants will allow themselves to fantasize about Ramirez's impact -- but only briefly.

"You'd be an idiot if you didn't say a guy like Manny Ramirez can't help your team," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "But even with that being said, there's not a guy in here who's looking at that and hoping and praying. To a man, we're all confident about what we have right now."

"Manny Ramirez is an unbelievable hitter," right fielder Randy Winn said. "He's probably the best RBI guy that I've ever played against. Of course he's going to help any team he goes to. But it's nothing I can focus on because it's kind of like a trade rumor. It's probably not going to happen."

Hot Stove

Manager Bruce Bochy shares his players' view, whether it regards Ramirez or any other proven hitter that Giants general manager Brian Sabean might obtain through trade or free agency.

"I focus forward, with the team we have," Bochy said. "That's my job. If something's out there that will improve this club and Brian can do it, he'll do it."

But, Bochy added, "I'm excited about the moves that have been made. I'm not going to get caught in what-ifs."

If Ramirez were to join the Giants, he'd bat fourth, the spot catcher Bengie Molina currently occupies. Winn noted the lack of respect outsiders accord Molina as San Francisco's cleanup hitter, despite his 2008 production (.292 with a team-high 16 home runs and 95 RBIs).

"Bengie drove in 90-plus runs for a team that didn't score a lot of runs. I thought he was outstanding," Winn said. "He was our best clutch hitter, so why wouldn't you put him in that position?"

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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