Urban: A bad season, or two, could help Giants

Signing Aaron Rowand to patrol center field at AT&T Park for the next five years is a great start for the Giants, mostly because it didn’t cost them any young pitching.

What the Giants need to do now, though, is sit back, congratulate themselves on securing the lone remaining “premier” position player on the free-agent market and resist the temptation to make another big move.

Confused? Check it out.

Andruw Jones is in Dodger blue, and don’t let his pedestrian numbers in 2007 fool you. He’s going to hit 35-40 homers, drive in 110-120 runs and play Gold Glove-caliber defense next season, moving Los Angeles, with it strong core of young studs, right back into relevance.

The San Diego Padres have added another capable starter in Randy Wolf, upgraded at second base with Tad Iguchi and appear on the verge of adding outfielder Jason Bay. Book it: They’ll be in the National League West playoff picture, too.

And as good as the young Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies were this year, they’re bound to be better in 2008.

The Giants, meanwhile, have said good riddance to their only legitimate power threat in Barry Bonds; they might be saying goodbye to power threat No. 2 in Pedro Feliz; and their lone addition has been Rowand, whose 27 homers last season have to be viewed with some arched eyebrows in that he played his home games at the launching pad known as Philly’s Citizens Bank Park.

Is the team the Giants have today appreciably better than the team that finished last in the NL West this year? No. It’s a more appealing team in some ways, certainly, but it still might be a long year at AT&T Park.

And you know what? That’s OK.

As evidenced by the Rowand signing, Sabean and the rest of the Giants’ brass don’t want anybody to think that they’re rebuilding — reloading is the popular phrase these days. But call it whatever you want. The Giants are still at least two — probably three, actually — star-quality hitters away from having the kind of offense a legitimate contender needs.

Could the Giants contend with a lineup that includes Rowand, Alex Rios and Hideki Matsui? Not without Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, and that’s what the Giants reportedly would have to give up to get Rios and Matsui (who will be 34 in June).

Throughout the 2007 season, Giants fans — on sports talk radio, in letters to the editor and in watering holes from here to Sausalito — expressed a willingness to put up with a down year or two as long as they see the team making a sincere effort to fix what’s been broken.

So give them a dynamic rotation of Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Noah Lowry and Sanchez.

Let them watch gamers such as Rowand, Bengie Molina and Omar Vizquel take over and change the clubhouse culture.

Give them a long look at Daniel Ortmeier, Nate Schierholtz, Rajai Davis, Eugenio Velez, Fred Lewis and Kevin Frandsen so everyone can figure out, once and for all, who among them fits the plan going forward.

If that means taking some lumps, fine. At least a foundation will be in place. And remember: Rowand didn’t break the bank. There will be plenty of money to spend next winter, too.

Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).

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