To no one's surprise...
-Q: Holliday and Bay are the big names… Have you gauged their possible interest? Do you think either of those guys would have genuine interest in coming to the Giants?
-SABEAN: We have not. I don’t think that they would have genuine interest based on the field that they’re going to be involved in. Why would they?
I think Sabean's a little cheektender from when he pursued Gary Matthews, Juan Pierre, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Lee, offered them tons of cash, and watched them use the Giants' offer as leverage. But there are a couple of different ways to take the "Why would they?" line:
a. San Francisco is a smelly town with smelly people and I hate it and they would too because it smells, or...
b. Teams with deep pockets are going to be after those two, and the Giants are not going to get into a fiscal tinkling match with those teams.
I'm, uh, going to guess it's "b." Bay and Holliday are the elite free agents of this class. They're going to be paid like elite players. And the Giants, yet again, are going to choose not to go after the elite players of a free agency class. At first glance, this would appear to be the Geddina Lee philosophy.
Geddina Lee philosophy -- n. -- A belief that it's better to sleep with ten women who look like Geddy Lee rather than sleep with one woman who looks like Charlize Theron
And, brother, that's not a good philosophy. Except that it's a stretch to call Bay and Holliday elite players -- they're just the best of the available lot. Look back at that list of unrequited free agent love: Gary Matthews, Jr. and Juan Pierre were obvious chunks of pyrite, and it's shameful that Sabean considered either of them. But Lee and Soriano are interesting to remember.
Lee was an offense-first left fielder who was a bit of an airship disaster in the field, and who didn't project to age well. Soriano was a guy who had just turned 30, was an average fielder, and hit like an All-Star. Which is all to say: Lee's kind of a rough comp for Bay, and Soriano is kind of a rough comp for Holliday. If you're interested in either Lee or Soriano, you can get both of them for a game-used Lance Niekro wristband. If you're interested in Bay or Holliday, you can hold onto the wristband and just pony up about $100M or so, crossing your fingers that they don't turn into Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano.
That's kind of unfair, as Lee was never the walking machine that Bay was, and Soriano was never as patient as Holliday is. And Lee can still hit a little, so it isn't fair to hold him up as a disaster of a deal. But the point remains: Be careful with your definition of "elite" free agents. Over the past ten years, I count only three players who made sense for $100M+ contracts: A 28-year-old Vladimir Guerrero, a 27-year-old Carlos Beltran, and a 25-year-old Alex Rodriguez. Those are players to build around, to whom you commit a quarter of your payroll. Those are the players you get on your team for not pursuing.
All things being equal, I would like Matt Holliday on the Giants. But if he's going to be paid like a elite hitter by a team with crazy-deep pockets, and the Giants aren't willing to pay elite money, I'm not going to blame them. Now, should the Giants really be a $100M payroll kind of team, or should they be pushing $120M or $140M? That's a post for another time, though I suspect it's the latter. If it's the former, though, Holliday and Bay are huge risks, and I can't fault the Giants for not wanting to take on the commitments.