Liotta: Giants entering crucial offseason

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One way or another, this offseason will define the Giants.

With as strong a pitching staff as any club, the Giants will be trolling for hitters this offseason. And their catch will tell us precisely how far they’ll go to produce a championship-caliber roster.

I’m not optimistic.

With Bengie Molina, Juan Uribe and Randy Winn already officially free agents, the already-anemic Giants offense — which ranked 13th among the 16 National League teams in runs scored with 657, hitting just 122 home runs — heads into this offseason on life support.

By comparison, the Philadelphia Phillies scored 820 runs, while hitting 224 home runs. National League teams averaged 718 runs with 155 homers.

So everybody knows the Giants desperately need an outfielder — maybe two — and a corner infielder. Will they roll dice with the big boys? Or will they play little ball along the fringe of slugging talent?

I have the sinking feeling they’ll go the cut-rate route. Again.

It’s safe to say the Giants are committed to three infielders — third baseman-first baseman Pablo Sandoval, shortstop Edgar Renteria and second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Center fielder Aaron Rowand isn’t going anywhere, and catching prospect Buster Posey will get first shot at replacing Molina.

With plenty of options out there, let’s look into the offseason crystal ball and sort through a few possibilities.
The biggest spenders will chase Boston Red Sox slugger Jason Bay and Rockies-turned-A’s-turned-Cardinals masher Matt Holiday. Both are perfect fits for the huge hole in the middle of the Giants’ lineup.

While it’s too-many-millions-to-one the Giants go that way, there are other ways to go if they’re willing to part with some of their young pitching.

Veteran Giants fans who’ve been through this before with Brian Sabean will tell newcomers to look deeper for the 2010 answer to Giants’ offensive woes.

First baseman Nick Johnson, who managed to play 133 games for the Nationals and Marlins this season, looks like he’d attract at least an inquiry. Somehow, he’ll end up being too expensive.

More realistically, I see the Giants doing something like shifting Sandoval to first base permanently, and making a deal for Boston’s arthritic third baseman Mike Lowell.

In all honesty, after looking at who’s available in free agency, there’s one name — to me — that fits the kind of player the less-than-free-spending Giants would parade around the Bay Area as their next big bat: Xavier Nady.

The former Pirate, former Yankee hit 25 home runs two seasons ago. He was hurt last year, which leaves him little to no bargaining power. It’s exactly the kind of player Sabean goes after.

Which is why I’m not optimistic going into this offseason.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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