Giants near agreement with Lopez, prioritize pitching over LF

Baggarly: Hudson will be great influence on Giants pitchers

Giants near agreement with Lopez, prioritize pitching over LF
November 19, 2013, 1:30 pm
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We are fully engaged with Lopez and hope to have him signed soon.
Brian Sabean

Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason Giants news on the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants targeted Tim Hudson and got him. But they aren’t done spending to upgrade their pitching staff.

Right now their fish finder is trained on bringing back left-hander Javier Lopez, and he’s all but back in the boat. And they’ll add one more starting pitcher, too, whether it’s Ryan Vogelsong or Bronson Arroyo or someone else, GM Brian Sabean said.

“We are fully engaged with Lopez and hope to have him signed soon,” said Sabean, on a conference call to announce Hudson’s deal.

[RELATED -- Hudson: 'It felt right' to choose Giants over A's]

Giants vice president Bobby Evans told Sirius/XM radio that the two sides were in agreement on terms and were hammering out other details. Lopez’s first choice was to return, although the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees also showed significant interest.

Perhaps the game’s best left-handed specialist, Lopez was coming off a two-year, $8.5 million contract. He’ll probably get something a little better this time, if only because he was in demand.

The 36-year-old was 4-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 69 games this past season and held left-handers to a .156 average. In three-plus years as a Giant, he’s faced 605 batters and allowed just two home runs. The sidewinding specialist was forced to pitch more against right-handers this season (they hit .296 off him) because of Jeremy Affeldt’s groin injury.

Sabean said the consensus in the club’s front-office strategy session was to spend money on the pitching, and then spend more.

“It’s a proven model and it worked for us and it’s worked for other teams -- including teams that went to the playoffs this year,” Sabean said. “We are in play with Vogelsong, but we have a lot of feelers out and a lot of conversations other than Vogey’s possible return.”

Sabean reiterated that he hopes to have that starting pitcher signed “sooner rather than later” so he can use the winter meetings to explore trade options for a left fielder.

The GM also reiterated that he does not envision signing a Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury or anyone else that received a qualifying offer and would cost the Giants the 14th overall pick in the draft.

As for Matsuhiro Tanaka? “We’ve pretty well moved past that,” Sabean said.

Sabean said he wouldn’t pursue more than one additional starter because he believes Yusmeiro Petit can provide depth and the GM is “really banking” that left-handed prospect Edwin Escobar will be big-league ready in the near future.

So where does that leave left field? Sabean cautioned against any high expectations, saying Gregor Blanco could platoon with a right-handed hitter.

It’s not that the Giants are going cheap, said CEO Larry Baer, pointing out that payroll has risen every year and will go up from the $145 million they spent last season.

“In the partner meeting we talk about the number we’ll land at, but it’s not necessarily a function of money,” Sabean said. “It’s the choices at hand. To restructure this year’s team, we have the money to do so. But I’m not sure we’ll have the appetite for the choices at hand from the outside world.”

Sabean also downplayed the Giants pursuing a left-handed hitting outfielder, such as Nate McLouth, saying he didn’t see anyone out there who would represent an upgrade over Blanco’s skill set and defensive ability.

“It’s not a particularly deep list, almost non-existent, and you’ll have to create some trade possibilities,” Sabean said.

If you don’t like that answer … well, neither does manager Bruce Bochy.

“Boch would like to settle for more of an everyday guy,” said Sabean, “but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”