Aubrey Huff

Lincecum’s the dessert after “piecemeal” offseason

After a winter in which the Giants heard their fans’ wishes for a tropical vacation or a luxury car and answered those requests with a few nondescript household appliances, they finally made a splash by doing what we all knew they would: sign Tim Lincecum to a tidy little “stay of arbitration” deal.

Two years is great for the Giants, since what they’ll probably do is wait until midway though 2011 to decide whether to offer Lincecum some sort of Zito-sized contract extension. Two years is also good for Lincecum, who should have a good enough idea by then if he even wants to stay in San Francisco any longer than the time it takes to become eligible for free agency.

Because if the Giants follow up this off-season with subsequent ones full of underwhelming additions, Lincecum’s going to become San Francisco’s LeBron James starting in 2012, when everyone will fret over the possibility/probability that he’ll be wearing pinstripes and getting a haircut in 2014.

Grading on the curve, the Giants had a decent off-season, if your only focus was whether the Brass threw together a slightly better group up to the plate on opening day than last year’s lineup. And they did that, as long as Freddy Sanchez stops his transformation into baseball’s version of Tracy McGrady, Aubrey Huff doesn’t let hitting in AT&T Park turn him into the 2010 version of Ryan Garko, Mark DeRosa’s wrist doesn’t act up and Juan Uribe doesn’t tire of being called a “super sub” anytime soon.

But rest assured, the Giants are going to have to step it up to keep Lincecum interested. They have to make a real splash, like signing Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz. Because while Larry Baer might tell you how DeRosa’s an incredible clubhouse guy partly because he went to an Ivy League school (because everyone knows how much baseball players love those egghead-types), the rest of the nation isn’t impressed.

Take Joel Sherman from the New York Post, for instance. Today I got pulled into reading the entirety of his “Hardball’s winners and losers of the offseason” column, mostly because the link from MLB Trade Rumors noted that Sherman’s No. 1 loser of the offseason was the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That’s the good news.

The bad news, along with the Rockies and D-Backs being listed as No. 9 and No. 10 on the “winners” list, the passage about the Giants, who in Sherman’s mind joined the all the usual suspects (including the A’s) in his group of the 10 biggest offseason losers.

8. GIANTS

They needed a big run producer or two, and continued to go piecemeal by retaining Bengie Molina and Freddy Sanchez (an overpay in this second base market) and adding Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff.

Normally I wouldn’t trust the New York Post to inform me on anything other than how to write sexual-innuendo-laced headlines about NY politicians, but Sherman aptly and efficiently described what had been bugging all of us (well, me, at least) about the Giants’ offseason in 34 words, and “piecemeal” was the icing on the fat-free, gluten-free, taste-free cake.

Don’t get me wrong, the Giants still have the best chance of any local non-Sharks team to make the playoffs the soonest. It’s not surprising that Sabaerean went “piecemeal,” either. Giants fans are a whiny bunch, but their only deal breaker at this point is a roster that doesn’t include Lincecum. Everyone’s been handling mild disappointment from the front office with aplomb for years, content to complain sarcastically about Sabez and make “due diligence” and “kicking the tires” jokes, hoping the next year will be the one when the team finally gets over their Barry Zito fears and makes another Barry Bonds-like splash in free agency.

But it’s getting high time (no pun intended) for the Giants to collectively grow a pair when it comes to free agency, because Lincecum surely won’t be happy with another off-season that brings a new toaster, a Dustbuster and a food-dehydrator. Lincecum’s going to want — scratch that — he’s going to expect a big ticket item or two under the tree in the coming years. You know, somebody who allows the Giants’ pitchers to actually expect that their offense will supply them with 5 runs per game.

The fans are powerless in this scenario, as the Giants’ caution/miserly approach over the years has proven time and again. But unless they want to experience the same fate as the Cleveland Cavaliers will this summer when/if they don’t re-sign LeBron James, the Giants need to loosen the purse strings next winter, and the winter after that. Because even though Lincecum looks like he could stand to eat an extra cheeseburger or 200, there’s no way he’ll be satisfied with “piecemeal” for long.

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