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Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera? On my San Francisco Giants?

The horrifying, soul-masticating postscript to yesterday’s post about Rafael Furcal:

Jeff Lane, the agent for shortstop Edgar Renteria, said Monday that he expects San Francisco to make his client "some kind of formal offer" this week. Lane said that Renteria, a career .290 hitter, has drawn interest from about six teams.

This closely parallels the situation with Furcal, 31, who's believed to have received an offer from the Giants but has attracted inquiries from up to 10 teams. And an industry source said that San Francisco also has explored the possibility of signing Orlando Cabrera, another veteran shortstop.

Hey, you know who else is a career .290 hitter? Carney Lansford. He’s already in the organization, so the Giants wouldn’t even need to give up a draft pick. Plus, Lansford would have better range than Renteria at short, so the Giants would come out ahead.

What’s that, you say? Lansford is old, and he isn’t the same athlete that compiled the .290 career average? That’s kind of the point. Renteria will be 33, and his defense has already declined. Giving him anything more than a two-year deal is madness.

If Renteria is a bad idea, then Cabrera would be…uh…a much, much worse idea. Just awful. If your cousin "Stoobie" comes to you asking for a cash investment in his newest get-rich-quick scheme – a new, super-powered household cleaner he calls Bleachmonia – it would be a better idea for you to buy $10,000 worth of shares than it would be for the Giants to sign Orlando Cabrera. At least Renteria is only one season removed from a really good season. Cabrera is 34, coming off a season where he posted a .334 on-base percentage, and surely looking for a long-term deal. He would cost the Giants tens of millions of dollars, a draft pick, and their mortal soul.

This is it. The real trial of fire for Brian Sabean. No more, "Oh, but he was forced to build veteran teams around one superstar, so you can’t judge him on his past actions." No more, "Oh, but he was handcuffed by a meddling owner, and now he doesn’t have to deal with that." Sabean has made a concerted effort to build through the farm system, and it’s been an encouraging thing to watch. The Giants haven’t gone cheap with their first-round picks; the team is more active in the international amateur market than they ever have been. Draft pick compensation was an admitted concern for Sabean as he pored over the free-agent market for relievers. The unanimously heralded Jeremy Affeldt signing was the product of Sabean’s farm friendly plan. With a little patience, we just might see what a true Sabean roster will look like in a couple of seasons.

But I’m terrified that the true Sabean roster isn’t a mystery, that it’s something we’ve seen over and over and over. Old Sabean would say:

Orlando Cabrera? You know, he hits .270, and he doesn’t give up outs. He’s a hard guy to strike out, and he handles the bat well. He has speed, which fits a roster that will need to manufacture runs. He’s a veteran presence up the middle, which will help our young pitching staff.

If New Sabean exists, he would say:

You know, even if Cabrera maintains his decent production next season, he’ll surely decline in the seasons to come. If he were the missing piece – our roster’s sole deficiency – I might sign him for the short-term benefits and deal with the long-term hassles later. But he isn’t a game changer. Not in the slightest.

Add in the fact that we’d have to give up a second-round pick, which is a chance at one of the 50-best draft-eligible amateurs in the country, and it’s an easy decision just to see what Emmanuel Burriss can do in 2009. If we need to revisit the free-agent market next year, we’ll be prepared to do so.

In order to maintain my sanity, I’m still going to believe in New Sabean. I’ll leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk, and I’m going to pull the covers up to my eyes and wait for him. Surely, a man who pursued Gary Matthews, Jr. and Juan Pierre has to have some sort of awareness by now – ten years after he started – of the folly of free-agent mediocrity. He isn’t interested in Orlando Cabrera or, to a less horrifying extent, Edgar Renteria. This is all just bobbing and weaving in related Rafael Furcal negotiations.