San Francisco Giants face critical offseason 

click to enlarge Albert Pujols is one of the marquee free agents the Giants could pursue in the offseason to provide a boost in 2012. (AP file photo) - ALBERT PUJOLS IS ONE OF THE MARQUEE FREE AGENTS THE GIANTS COULD PURSUE IN THE OFFSEASON TO PROVIDE A BOOST IN 2012. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Albert Pujols is one of the marquee free agents the Giants could pursue in the offseason to provide a boost in 2012. (AP file photo)
  • Albert Pujols is one of the marquee free agents the Giants could pursue in the offseason to provide a boost in 2012. (AP file photo)

As the Giants grind out the final days of the season, hoping to make a near impossible rise from the scrap heap, most players quietly say they are just taking care of business one day at a time.

Not future-thinking Carlos Beltran. The free agent-to-be decided the stretch drive of a playoff race is a good time to publicly reveal he would consider returning to San Francisco next season if given assurances that the Giants would make certain improvements.

This week, his agent Scott Boras also made sure everyone knew that Carlos likes The City and organization and is very open to playing for the Giants in 2012.

In full lobbyist mode, Beltran suggested the Giants go after his former Mets teammate, Jose Reyes, another Boras client who will be on the open market this winter. Of course, while Larry Baer is saying the team’s $125 million payroll will not go down next year, there is no way the Giants can afford to sign both Beltran and Reyes, nor should they.

The switch-hitting Reyes is a fabulous talent, who will have a number of suitors even with an asking price expected to be in the neighborhood of $100 million for five years. But the 28-year-old shortstop is also prone to injuries and costly mistakes, while never being known as a clutch performer. Beltran’s chronic knee problems and likely demand for a long-term contract rivaling his current $17 million-a-season deal also makes him a long shot to be in S.F. next season.

Certainly Baer’s two decades in the front office should serve him well in recognizing prior Giants mistakes in giving lofty contracts to aging players. See: Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada, Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff.

With more than 10 players eligible for salary arbitration this offseason, including Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and Jeff Keppinger, plus a host of other free agents, featuring Cody Ross and Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants are at a critical crossroads. Assuming Jonathan Sanchez is back in the fold and they pick up the 2012 option on Affeldt, the pitching staff will remain among baseball’s best. But even with the return of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, the Giants, last in the league in scoring (3.5 runs per game), need to add another big bat. Which brings us to the most intriguing question of all.

Will the Giants make a run at Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder? Both slugging 31-year-old first basemen are about to become free agents for the first time. Fielder, also represented by Boras, will probably command less money than Pujols. However, at 5-foot-11, 280 pounds there’s legitimate concern how well he’ll hold up in the coming years, although the Giants would have quite a marketing plan with the Panda and a Rhino as corner infielders.

Pujols is the most feared hitter in baseball, who will probably get offers upwards of $25 million a season.

Baer was a newcomer to the front office when the Giants signed Barry Bonds in 1993. Bringing Prince Albert to San Francisco would be an equally crowning achievement.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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Rich Walcoff

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