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Meetings signal time to ramp up effort

Meetings signal time to ramp up effort

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants know they must find a hitter or two to fortify themselves for next season. They also know that they can wait beyond next week's Winter Meetings to act, since virtually every other team is seemingly engaged in the same waiting game that they're playing.

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Giants general manager Brian Sabean has stuck to his plan, taking a deliberate approach toward the free-agent market, which could help the club avoid overspending -- as critics claim they did last year by signing shortstop Edgar Renteria to a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

San Francisco has essentially ruled itself out of the pursuit for the pair of premier free-agent hitters, Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, but numerous options remain. The Giants are known to be interested in infielder Mark DeRosa and first baseman Nick Johnson, and appear to be exploring options such as outfielders Jermaine Dye and Xavier Nady. But it's believed that the Giants have not reached the negotiating stage with any free agent.

Memories of the 2009 season should impel the Giants to make moves before it's too late. Their Major League-best record of 76-25 when they score three runs or more demonstrated the need to bolster an offense that can score more consistently. After ranking 13th in scoring, 14th in slugging percentage and 16th in on-base percentage last season, the Giants realize that almost anybody would represent an upgrade.

Should a transaction or two suddenly intensify free-agent shopping, expect Sabean to accelerate his pace. Having pursued free agents aggressively in recent years, the Giants likely would have little trouble regaining an aggressive posture.

DeRosa is one player who might prompt activity. Despite being 34 and recovering from left wrist surgery, he reportedly has more than a dozen suitors. DeRosa provides flexibility with his aptitude for playing first base, second, third and the outfield. He hit 23 homers last season, which would have ranked second on the Giants, and his 78 RBIs would have been third-best.

The Giants want a hitter who can display the benefits of patience at the plate, explaining their admiration for Johnson. His willingness to walk has enabled him to record an on-base percentage exceeding .400 in each of his last four seasons, including .426 in 2009.

Dye will be 36 by Opening Day and hit .179 in last season's second half. He also averaged 33 home runs in the previous five seasons and has hit .359 (14-for-39) in his limited nine-game sample of appearances at AT&T Park.

Nady was the Yankees' Opening Day right fielder last season but was sidelined after injuring his right (throwing) elbow in April. Nady, who played for Giants manager Bruce Bochy in San Diego, averaged .293 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs in 2007-08.

Nady is among several Scott Boras clients who have been linked to the Giants. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is among the others who would seem to be the best fit for San Francisco. Sabean acknowledged that the club has spoken with Boras about his stable of players, who probably won't find homes anytime soon.

"That's usually a longer process," Sabean said, repeating the theme of this offseason.

For now, Sabean has all but ruled out trading for a hitter, which probably would force the Giants to part with one of their promising left-handers, Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner.

"We'd hate ... to give up pitching, unless it's for a sure thing offensively," Sabean said.

Speculation involving Florida second baseman Dan Uggla persists -- the Giants would move Freddy Sanchez to third base in the event of that deal -- but no swap is imminent.

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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