On eve of Winter Meetings, Giants still have pressing needs

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On eve of Winter Meetings, Giants still have pressing needs
December 8, 2013, 11:45 am
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The Giants are more likely to focus on improving the bullpen, and Brian Sabean has a few more choices after some right-handers became non-tendered free agents. (AP)

ORLANDO – Think all of baseball’s holiday shopping got wrapped up before the Winter Meetings began?

Don’t tell that to Shin-Soo Choo. And do you really think David Price and Jeff Samardzija are comfortable about renewing their leases in Tampa and Chicago for next season?

Ask 30 major league general managers if they have achieved perfection with their rosters and you’ll receive 30 answers in the negative. So despite all of the big-name signings and deals in the recent days and weeks, there’s still the potential for plenty of activity when baseball’s annual swapfest begins in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom.

[REWIND: Sabean expects 'nothing Earth-shattering' at Winter Meetings]

The Giants certainly have some pressing needs to address. Even though they don’t see many alternatives to add an everyday left fielder, which is what their fans most want to see under the tree, you’d be surprised how one move can become a precursor to three or four more.

Take the New York Yankees’ outfield, for example. Robinson Cano’s $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners was fresher than a salmon at Pike Place Market when the Yanks reacted by signing Carlos Beltran to a three-year deal. As a result, they’ll be listening on offers for outfielder Brett Gardner, although Ichiro Suzuki probably would be even more attainable in a deal.

The Giants, as you’ll remember, looked hard at Ichiro when the Mariners traded him to the Yankees two years ago.

Could Giants GM Brian Sabean find a match with the Yankees? Well, put it this way. It’s a lot more likely than pipe-dream trades for the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista or the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton.

If you’re looking for free-agent solutions, there aren’t many. A few right-handed hitting outfielders that could platoon with Gregor Blanco include Mike Morse, Derrick Robinson and Franklin Gutierrez, but none of those names will move the needle – and besides, it’s hard to attract a free agent of any importance without a promise of everyday playing time.

(Forget about Choo, too, since he’d require a compensatory draft pick. That’s a sacrifice that Sabean has ruled out making.)

Two other outfielders already have been traded in recent days. The Rockies dealt Dexter Fowler to the Astros and the Brewers sent Norichika Aoki to the Royals.

You have to wonder why the Giants didn’t take a shot at Aoki, who would’ve made a terrific pairing with Angel Pagan atop the lineup.

You also have to wonder if the Giants should really consider themselves set in the rotation. That’s their stance after re-signing Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum and adding veteran Tim Hudson. Besides, they don’t have the minor league pieces to deal for Price or Samardzija – two big-time pitchers who could be moved in Orlando.

They’re more likely to focus on improving the bullpen, and they have a few more choices after some right-handers became non-tendered free agents. John Axford has the biggest profile among pitchers on that list.

Then there’s the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, although the Giants stand full with a 40-man roster. They’d have to eliminate a player if they want to participate.

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