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The Giants entered the Winter Meetings in search of a corner infielder, but apparently Brian Sabean has narrowed that search down to just first basemen, leaving two likely candidates.
Those two candidates are former Nationals first basemen and %OBP extraordinaire, Nick Johnson, as well as former Philly and Brave, Adam LaRoche. I've mentioned both of these guys here in recent days as the top two candidates to play first next year for the Giants, and it looks like that could come to fruition by the end of the meetings Thursday. In  fact, Sabean said Wednesday afternoon that he expects things to pick up by Wednesday night, possibly hinting that we could see some movement before the day's done in Indy. Of the two players, I like LaRoche, because of his power numbers, his consistency and his athleticism. Johnson is overweight and injury prone, and I really think his best days are behind him. It's true that age doesn't necessarily effect OBP, but if Johnson can only play in 90 games in 2010 for the Giants because he pulls a hamstring running out a double then his OBP won't be doing them any good. LaRoche, however, has averaged 145 games and 25 home runs per year since becoming an everyday first basemen in 2005. He also sports a career OPS of .834 and although his OBP and average aren't quite where Johnson's are, every other area of his game surpasses Nick Johnson's. LaRoche has also put his numbers up while playing in ballparks that tend to be more pitcher friendly than hitter friendly (Atlanta's Turner Field and Pittsburgh's PNC Park), so he's used to hitting in spacious yards.
The only thing about LaRoche is that he's notoriously been a second half player and that could detour the Giants from him. LaRoche has also tore it up at AT&T Park over the years, sporting a .395 average with 3 homers, 11 RBI and a  1.227 OPS in 13 games here. Either way though, I think both LaRoche or Johnson would be big upgrades to the Giants offense, no question about it. I would much rather take either of those guys on a 2-year contract as opposed to Adrian Beltre on a 3-4 year deal, and I think Brian Sabean is realizing that as well. I don't even want to mention Mark DeRosa, because the Giants don't need another 35 year-old who just isn't that good and isn't a real power hitter. At least the 36 year-old Jermaine Dye would make some since because he'd probably hit 30 homers for the Giants. All that said, I think Nick Johnson is the one who ends up comeing here, as he also has ties to the Bay Area. I think he is the one the Giants are really targeting, as patience on offense is something they sorely lack, and I think LaRoche is probably seeking a 3+ year deal, somewhere the Giants don't want to go with any free agent this year... Stay tuned as we'll likely have an update later on tonight if something actually does transpire.
Extras: I found it interesting in reading that the Giants have contacted Ben Sheets' agent about possibly signing him to a deal to replace Brad Penny. Sheets missed all of last year after having surgery on his throwing arm, and it's not clear whether he'll be at full strength to start 2010. Not sure if the interest was sincere or not or if the Giants plan to pursue him, just wanted to mention that it's a possibility that has been looked at by Sabean and Co... The Giants are also apparently interested in outfielder Scott Podsednik, who could become their leadoff hitter. I say give Fred Lewis a second chance and add a power bat (Nady?) to right field, but that's just me.