As mentioned several times in this spot, the Giants are going to get attached to some big-name free agents ... before the free-agent bidding actually starts.
Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and CC Sabathia will all be considered targets for the Giants at one point in time -- some people think Sabathia already is! -- but the reality is that San Francisco is unlikely to be involved in any heavy pursuit of big-time free agents.
As Chris Taft of MLB.com writes in a recent mailbag, there are just too many payroll constraints (of his own doing, but still) for Brian Sabean to pursue these guys.
"But the reality is that payroll constraints will prevent them from bidding seriously for any of the free agents likely to receive nine-figure contracts -- Fielder, Pujols and perhaps shortstop Jose Reyes," Taft writes. "Add CC Sabathia to that list, assuming he opts out of his Yankees contract. He already has been linked to the Giants in at least one published rumor, though it's delusional to think that they'll even make him an offer when they must concern themselves with their eight potential free agents and 13 salary arbitration-eligible players, including Tim Lincecum."
This is more or less what we wrote earlier in the week when discussing the CC rumors; even if the stars aligned to chase Sabathia, there's not enough money available and there are more pressing needs.
Interestingly -- and we'll have more about this later -- the market for Reyes may not be as big as some would think, which could give the Giants a decent shot at landing the coveted shortstop. However, he's still going to command a huge contract, which makes things problematic.
In the end, the Giants are more likely to pursue one or two "step-down" offensive free agents -- Carlos Beltran and Jimmy Rollins qualify in that group, despite the "meh" name I decided to use.
Taft agrees and thinks "the Giants will make a genuine effort" to go after Beltran this summer.
They will -- Beltran caught fire his final month or so in San Francisco (and it's probably to the Giants benefit that no one was really watching) and it's clear that he finally got comfortable and healthy.