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Brian Sabean held a press conference yesterday to preview his thoughts on the upcoming winter meetings. Everything he said made sense to those of us who want to see the Giants tread carefully in the free-agent market and only trade their young pitching if the right deal presents itself.

But Sabean wasn’t talking to us. Ask any front-office schemer and he (or she) will likely tell you that dealing with other teams is

a) a chess match
b) a game within the game
c) cat-and-mouse
d) a high stakes poker tournament and knitting circle

Yes, these are all hoary cliches, but that’s how baseball officials roll, in a linguistic sense.

So Sabean’s little fireside chat yesterday was almost certainly fine-tuned for consumption among his peers. A telegraph to the other 29 GMs and to various agents, if you will, to let them know what he’s thinking. Or what he’s not thinking. Or what he thinks they think he’ll be thinking.

A few examples:

Regarding the Matt Garza for Delmon Young trade, and why the Giants didn’t get Young:

At the end of the day, we didn't have a match because of their asking price.

Read: If you want one of the Linc-Cain brothers, you’ll have to do better than Delmon Young.

Sabean said he would be “in shock” if Linc-Cain were traded. (Huh? Does that mean he would shock himself?) He also said this:

There’s too much chatter around the industry about these guys.

I read that as a signal to other GMs that his ears are open, but don’t flap your gums if you’re not serious. As to what he wants, he even makes a helpful hint:

It'd be nice to find a younger third baseman out there if we could trade pitching. Right now, that opportunity hasn't presented itself.

So even if they pass on Cabrera, which Sabean said is likely because the Marlins are making unreasonable demands, he wants a young third baseman. Combined with his comment about Pedro Feliz — “Their pie-in-the-sky is a three-year deal, which we'll never get to" — don’t be surprised if this talk of younger players is also a ploy to get Feliz’s agent to come down to a one-year deal.

That’s not my preference, mind you. But in all the happy talk of younger, cheaper, faster, pitchier, remember that Sabean has resigned Omar Vizquel and expressed interest in Troy Percival. Percival chose Tampa Bay for the chance to be a closer, which perhaps means the Giants weren’t willing to make that commitment (or offer two years, which the Rays did, or $8 million guaranteed, which the Rays did). And that’s a good thing. As I said, tread carefully in the free-agent market. A year of Percival for a few million wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

But all this tiptoe through the piles of veteran savvy could still lead to a year of Pedro Feliz. This is Brian Sabean, after all, and if he swings and misses at the Garrett Atkins and Edwin Encarnacions of the world, he just might panic at the thought of starting 2008 with Kevin Frandsen as his regular third baseman.

***

P.M. UPDATE: The Mets have traded Lastings Milledge to the Nats for all-glove no-hit catcher Brian Schneider and pretty good fourth outfielder Ryan Church. At first blush this seems a measly return for a prospect who not long ago was a lock to be a star. Maybe he’s more interested in rapping. Maybe the Mets have lost patience too soon. He’ll turn 23 in April.

SMALL PRINT UPDATE: Pitcher Scott Atchison is off the 40–man roster. He was sent to Fresno but opted for free agency. Which begs the question: Could his next stop be Topeka or Santa Fe? Also, I’ve added MLB Trade Rumors to the blog roll. Great site; I apologize for not doing so sooner.


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