Programming note: Giants-Nationals coverage starts today at 12:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
WASHINGTON – When you finish second in the standings, at least you have a shot at a wild card.
When you finish second in the bidding for a top international free agent, there isn’t much of a consolation prize.
For the second time in less than a year, the Giants made a strong push to sign a top Cuban position player only to come up with what they believed to be the second highest bid. They stayed involved to the end on outfielder Rusney Castillo, offering in excess of $50 million according to a club source, before the Boston Red Sox trumped them with a six-year, $72 million offer.
[RELATED: Red Sox to sign Cuban outfielder Castillo]
The Giants also came in second last winter in the bidding for first baseman Jose Abreu, who leads the majors with 93 RBIs and is second with 33 home runs for the Chicago White Sox. Abreu got six years and $68 million; the Giants offered five years at a comparable salary.
The Giants at least walk away with the comfortable knowledge that they are doing their homework. They had Abreu pegged as someone who could be ready to hit in the middle of a major league lineup, and his success indicated they made the proper evaluations.
The Giants have acknowledged they were slow to pay attention to the Cuban market as players defected and established residency. The impact could be seen all around them, with Yasiel Puig playing for the archrival Dodgers and, until recently, Yoenis Cespedes playing across the bay in Oakland.
One change the Giants made right away was to shift their scouting plan and have major league scouts, rather than those who scout the amateur ranks, evaluate players like Abreu and Castillo. Because they are older and considered ready to jump into major league competition, it made more sense to evaluate them with eyes who see that level of competition.
Pat Burrell and Michael Kendall delivered strong reports on Castillo’s athleticism, defensive ability and bat speed. Given the paucity of talent in the outfield throughout their minor league system, it made sense to be involved.
"We really liked him," a source said. "And our offer reflected that."
The Giants didn’t have the best offer in the end. That’s just how auctions work.