Giants land Rowand with five-year deal
Hardnosed center fielder fits Bochy's vision for 2008 club
SAN FRANCISCO -- With Wednesday's acquisition of free agent Aaron Rowand, the Giants received a huge infusion of the "warrior spirit" manager Bruce Bochy sought for next year's club.The day after last season ended, Bochy used that phrase to describe the passion and abandon he felt the Giants lacked while finishing 71-91. Rowand, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, appears bound to raise the team's intensity just by striding into the clubhouse. The 30-year-old center fielder has become renowned for his ceaseless hustle during his seven Major League seasons. "Boch's goals, as far as the way he wants to play the game, the kind of persona he wants this team to have, really lends itself to the way I've gone about doing my business throughout my career," Rowand said. "For me, it's about bringing everything I have to the table every day and laying it all out there." "He's the type of guy who's going to hold everybody accountable to doing the same thing he's doing -- that's playing the game right and playing it to win," Bochy said. Signing Rowand was essential for the Giants, who had made no major additions to a team that finished last in the National League West -- behind teams that either reached the 2007 postseason (Colorado, Arizona) or bolstered their rosters (Los Angeles with Andruw Jones and San Diego with Randy Wolf). Bochy plans to hit Rowand fifth, filling at least part of the void in the middle of San Francisco's batting order. The right-handed batter, a career .286 hitter, recorded a .309 average last season with Philadelphia while reaching personal bests in hits (189), runs (105), doubles (45), RBIs (89), total bases (315) and games (161). As the roster currently stands, Randy Winn and Bengie Molina would bat third and fourth, respectively. As a reigning Gold Glove winner, Rowand will strengthen the outfield, thus underscoring the Giants' renewed emphasis on pitching and defense. Dave Roberts will move to left field and Winn will play right, although Bochy emphasized that youngsters Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz will provide competition. The Giants obtained Rowand without having to trade Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum, their prized 23-year-old right-handers who embody the team's youth and hope. No longer must Giants fans fret about Lincecum being sent to Toronto for outfielder Alex Rios, a proposal that general manager Brian Sabean seriously considered.
"With this move, we're not definitively interested any longer in listening to any offers on Cain and Lincecum," Sabean said.As the Lincecum-for-Rios deal percolated throughout the Winter Meetings, the Giants had yet to emerge as a serious suitor for Rowand, the top free-agent center fielder available once Torii Hunter signed with the Los Angeles Angels and Jones joined the Los Angeles Dodgers. But Rowand met last weekend near his Las Vegas home with Bochy and Ron Schueler, one of Sabean's senior advisors who was the Chicago White Sox general manager while Rowand was rising through their organization. Rowand spent his first five Major League seasons with Chicago (2001-05).
"He could get some guidance from a friendly figure from a past life," Sabean said, crediting Schueler and Bochy with the "sales job" that attracted Rowand.The Phillies, Rangers, White Sox and Dodgers (before signing Jones) all courted Rowand. But the Giants' willingness to commit to a five-year deal swayed him, along with Bochy's hunger for an energized club and the team's promising array of pitchers. Rowand acknowledged that San Francisco's proximity to Las Vegas also helped, from a family perspective. Rowand, who played for the World Series champion White Sox in 2005 and the NL East-winning Philadelphia Phillies last season, said he's joining a team that "I really, deep down, feel is going to be contending and reach the ultimate goal, and that's winning a World Series." Rowand has proven that he'll do virtually anything to achieve that goal. He captured the imagination of fans and players nationwide when he sped into the center-field fence at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park to make a daring catch, which fractured his nose and bones around his left eye. That play cemented Rowand's reputation for determination. "For me, it's probably the greatest compliment that I could get, not only from people who watch me play, but [also] from my peers," Rowand said. "It's one thing if you say, 'That guy's a great hitter' or, 'That guy's a great outfielder,' but it's another thing to say, 'That guy ... would do whatever it takes to win every day.' ... If that's the only thing I'm remembered for, I'd be completely content with that the rest of my days." The Giants aren't content with their roster, however. Sabean said that he's seeking help in the bullpen and at the infield corners, particularly at third base. To fill that spot, he'll continue to negotiate with free agent Pedro Feliz, whose demand for a three-year contract has left the Giants cold.
"If he's looking for a three-year deal and had one [offered by another club], why hasn't he signed it?" Sabean reasoned.Sabean said that he'll also keep pursuing trades and indicated that, although Cain and Lincecum are off-limits, he'd listen to offers for left-handers Noah Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez. Sabean added that Rowand's arrival deepens the Giants' surplus of outfielders, another commodity they could offer in a trade.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.