SAN FRANCISCO — After watching the market explode over the course of the offseason’s first six weeks, the Giants finally struck in recent days, bringing back two of their own free agents and then trading for a third baseman. The moves allow manager Bruce Bochy to start picturing the way he will use Sergio Romo at the back end of the bullpen, where Jake Peavy slots into the rotation and where Casey McGehee will hit in the order next April.
For Bochy’s boss, the offseason remains about what happens in the coming weeks.
General manager Brian Sabean said Saturday that while the Giants have had talks with right-hander James Shields, they have not negotiated with former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and have no plans to engage the biggest name left on the market. Sabean was thrilled that he was able to put McGehee at third base before the holidays, but he remains on the prowl for another left fielder, and he’ll have a conversation with his boss, team president and CEO Larry Baer, to find out how much remains in the budget for that spot, and possibly for another starter.
“We’ve got some limited financial flexibility still left, and we have to decide how best to utilize that,” Sabean said on a conference call to announce the McGehee deal. “We are engaged in conversations as we speak that may or may not get curtailed, or we may move on to other things.”
The future is a little less murky after the deal for McGehee. Sabean liked that the 32-year-old came on a one-year deal that will likely pay him around $3.5 million next season, saying the price fit the Giants’ budget.
“I’m relieved that third base is spoken for,” Sabean said.
McGehee, a Soquel native, was more than relieved. He was thrilled to be sent home, saying the Giants “jumped off the page” when he and his wife, Sarah, looked at trade options in the hours after the Miami Marlins dealt for new third baseman Martin Prado.
McGehee has ties all over the Bay Area. He grew up a fan of the game more than either Bay Area team, but said he idolized Will Clark and Matt Williams while playing in Soquel and for the Monterey Magic travel team. His parents still live in the area, along with nieces and nephews and many of his closest friends, and he said it will be “really, really special” to share the next step of his career with them.
“I’ve found myself just walking around with a smile on my face,” he said. “I couldn’t be more happy to be in the organization that has had the success it has had, but also it’s a chance for me to get back home.”
It’s been a long journey for McGehee, who was so far off the MLB map two years ago that he had to go play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan in 2013. That year boosted his confidence, taught him how to make adjustments and instilled in him an appreciation for “what it means to put a big league uniform on.”
The journey also taught him that a ballpark shouldn’t affect his game, and McGehee is well aware that he doesn’t hit for much power (four homers last year) these days. He said his focus is on the middle of the field, and he works to just keep the line moving and not give at-bats away. Those traits jumped out to Bochy, who said McGehee could alternate with Brandon Belt in the five-six spots in the order but could also hit fourth behind Buster Posey at times.
“He’s just a great fit for us with what he can do with the bat,” Bochy said. “I thought he did a great job protecting (Giancarlo) Stanton for the Marlins down there. He’s a guy that puts the ball in play and uses the whole field, and he really has become a very smart hitter.”
The Giants zeroed in on McGehee early last month when it became clear they might need a Pablo Sandoval replacement and talks came together quickly Friday after the Marlins made other moves. McGehee mentioned Sandoval’s connection with Giants fans and his production, but said it would be foolish to try to fill the Panda’s shoes.
“There are some things he does better than I do and some things I may do better than he does,” McGehee said. “My job is to go in and find my niche within the team and what my role needs to be and pave my own way, not try to pick up where Pablo left off.”
The swap leaves the Giants without a significant power source at the corner, but while Sabean would like to add a powerful right-handed hitter in left field, pop is not a prerequisite. Sabean pointed out that the Giants won last year’s World Series while going long stretches without home runs.
“You don’t have to have power in the National League to win games or a playoff spot or the World Series,” he said. “The best thing we can do is put together a strong and capable lineup and power will take care of itself.”