SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Giants general manager Brian Sabean and the World Series champions have reached out to the representatives for first baseman Aubrey Huff and infielder Juan Uribe about bringing them back in 2011.
Yet Sabean doesn’t figure either situation will be resolved soon because he expects both players want to relish in the team’s improbable title for a while—and get some much-needed rest. Huff said Wednesday he would be “an idiot” not to want to return.
“It doesn’t appear that they’re in too much of a hurry, which is understandable,” Sabean said Friday at AT&T Park. “They want to soak this in. I hope it’s if and when, but you don’t know how the outside world is going to present itself. Our biggest challenge will be to decide how many years and for how much money. It will be definitive, but I can’t predict what the action will be from the outside world on both of those players.”
San Francisco’s payroll should exceed $100 million for next season, assuming the Giants are able to reach agreements with all eight of their arbitration-eligible players—lefty pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, center fielder Andres Torres, right fielder Cody Ross, infielder Mike Fontenot and relievers Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Chris Ray. That doesn’t factor in the possibility of re-signing Huff and Uribe.
Pablo Sandoval, coming off a down year in his second full major league season, will show up for spring training without a starting job. After batting .345 in 2008 and .330 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs last year—when he was the last player left out of the All-Star game—the free-swinging Sandoval hit .268 in 2010 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs while striking out 81 times.
The 24-year-old has battled his weight and the Giants consider conditioning to be one of his problems at the plate and on defense. This offseason, he isn’t headed home to Venezuela to play winter ball. Instead, he will work out in San Diego and then report to the Giants’ Scottsdale, Ariz., training complex in January.
A year ago, San Francisco embarked on an “Operation Panda” fitness and nutrition routine for the out-of-shape slugger—after his nickname of Kung Fu Panda. The new health habits were hard to maintain, though Sabean also points to some tough times in Sandoval’s personal life. He went through a divorce and custody fight that took him back home for a few days during the season.
Sabean said the Giants won’t put the same kind of offseason expectations on other young players in the future. Namely: rookie catcher Buster Posey.
“I think we learned a lesson as an organization that we probably put him too far out there in our offseason with the “Panda Inside” banner and we learned that can put a lot of pressure on a player or, in fact, maybe in some ways it worked against him having to live up to that hype,” Sabean said. “The reason I mention this is we’re not going to make that same mistake with Posey. We’re going to try to let these guys fly under the radar, because we know the second time around they are marked men. … This kid right now is a hole card and he doesn’t really have a position until he gets his act in order.”
Manager Bruce Bochy, who still lives in San Diego, said he will be in close contact with trainers working with the infielder in the coming months.
Sandoval played in six games this postseason, starting at designated hitter in Game 3 of the World Series and going 0 for 3 with a strikeout and also grounded into a double play. He made two starts in the NL division series against Atlanta and two more in the NLCS versus the Phillies.
Sandoval grounded into an NL-high 26 double plays during the regular season for the NL West champs.
“It’s obvious it didn’t quite work out like we had hoped. And there comes a time where he’s got to take responsibility to get himself into the type of shape he needs to be in,” Bochy said. “His priority is to get back in the type of shape he needs to be in to play third base or wherever he plays. He knows what’s at stake and there was some tough love involved here. I think the world of Pablo, but at the same time, he’s got some work to do. He knows it. If he wants to play in the major leagues he’s got to get in better shape. I was up front with him and he understands.”
While Sabean didn’t rule out making a run at left-handed hitter Carl Crawford, he doesn’t see the Giants being able to compete with the front-runners of the Angels, Red Sox and Tigers.
Still, he hopes players will consider San Francisco a desirable spot following the team’s first title since moving West in 1958.
“I’ll start by saying what the nation saw from our crowds, our fans and how it worked both ways between the people in the clubhouse and the fans and the fact that we take great pride in saying San Francisco’s a baseball town,” Sabean said. “It can only be bigger and better and help. It’s not only keeping our own players that we want to re-sign, but it’s got to be a destination for a lot of people. It can only help. We hope that’s a factor.”
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