Giants sign free-agent Rowand to bolster outfield
Rowand agreed to a $60 million, five-year contract with the Giants on Wednesday, giving the club a Gold Glove winner without having to trade either of its top young pitchers: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum
The 30-year-old Rowand is expected to bat fifth for San Francisco after spending the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. Before that, he helped the Chicago White Sox win the 2005 World Series.
"Bottom line, I wanted to get in a spot where I would be long term," said Rowand, who noted he weighed four or five similar multiyear offers. "In this day of free agency, that's not commonplace. That's really the thing I was looking forward to most."
He is coming off his best season yet, earning his first Gold Glove award and All-Star selection while helping the Phillies to the NL East title. Rowand batted .309 with 27 home runs and career bests of 89 RBIs, 105 runs, 189 hits and 45 doubles in 161 games.
"It sounds good," Giants outfielder Randy Winn said. "Aaron's a guy who's won a Gold Glove and plays great defense in center field, and he had a great offensive year last year. I'm excited."
General manager Brian Sabean repeatedly said he hoped to hold onto Cain and Lincecum, but being a last-place team it was his responsibility to be open-minded and listen.
"With this move, we will no longer listen to any offers for Cain and Lincecum," Sabean said. "We know the value of both individuals, believe me, maybe more so now that we've gone through this exercise. They might be the hottest two names in baseball."
While manager Bruce Bochy had said Rajai Davis would get a chance to earn the center-field job in spring training, Rowand was brought in to provide a consistent, hard-nosed presence at that position. That means Dave Roberts likely will shift from center to left, replacing departed home run king Barry Bonds. Winn will probably stay in right while Davis and some of the other young outfielders share time in a reserve role. That is, if the Giants don't try to deal them -- something Sabean said is a possibility.
Bochy recently met with Rowand during a trip to Las Vegas, where the outfielder lives during the offseason.
"I said I wanted to change the culture of the clubhouse and get back to the warrior mentality and play the game hard for nine innings," Bochy said. "Aaron's the type of player who can do that. He's the type of player who can hold everyone accountable."
The Giants haven't reached the playoffs since 2003. They re-signed 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel last month, but still have a hole to fill at third and possibly first. If the Giants don't bring back Pedro Feliz at third, Kevin Frandsen or Rich Aurilia might wind up playing that spot.
Sabean said San Francisco will speak to Feliz soon, but the team doesn't plan to give him a three-year deal.
"We still have to address what to do at third base," Sabean said. "We'll wade through what the possibilities are. We're not shutting it off."
The Dodgers (82-80) and Giants (71-91) brought up the rear in the NL West for just the second time since division play began in 1969.
When evaluating Rowand and the other available center fielders this offseason, Sabean said he met with his staff and checked off the many boxes where Rowand could help the club.
"Then it was just a matter of striking a chord with a contract," Sabean said. "He's a winning player. It's a pleasure he's coming to our organization. The timing is great. It will allow us to do other business without busting up our pitching."
Rowand said he believes the Giants will contend in the much-improved division. One thing is certain, many of his new fans will remember Rowand for his hard collision with the wall during May 2006 -- a game in Philadelphia against the New York Mets -- that left him with a broken nose and broken bones around his left eye.
Rowand said being known as a gritty player is the utmost of compliments.
"Hopefully, when I'm done playing this game, that's what I'll be remembered for," Rowand said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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