Huff stays with Giants for $22M, 2-year deal
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Aubrey Huff flew over San Francisco and was reminded again why he loves it so much.
Huff took a short break to decompress after the World Series, then wasted little time accomplishing his offseason plan: re-signing with the Giants.
Huff is staying put with San Francisco just as he’d hoped, agreeing to a $22 million, two-year contract with the World Series champions Tuesday. He receives $10 million in each of the next two seasons, and the Giants have a $10 million club option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout.
“There was a big interest out there. But in the end, it wasn’t going to take much to come back here for me,” Huff said at AT&T Park. “Some other team would have had to blow me away with like a four-year deal or something and a lot, a lot of dough to stay away from here.”
The Giants matched a similarly structured offer from another club – knowing full well Huff wanted to stay.
“We paid the piper, and you can’t look back,” general manager Brian Sabean said during a conference call. “He was obviously underpaid for what he did for us last year. … He certainly did his part and received a just reward for it.”
Later Tuesday, the Giants offered infielder Juan Uribe salary arbitration. Players offered arbitration have until next Tuesday to accept. Uribe batted .248 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs in his second season with San Francisco.
Huff hit .290 with a team-leading 26 home runs and 86 RBIs while playing in 157 games, then batted .268 with one homer and eight RBIs in the postseason as the Giants won their first title since 1954.
Considering the mutual interest, it was no surprise a deal got done quickly, less than a month after the club beat Texas in five games to capture the city’s first championship since moving West in 1958.
“Obviously with a big contract comes a big responsibility on the field and in the community,” Huff said. “I’ll take pride in that.”
The 33-year-old Huff reached the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year big league career. He hit a two-run homer in a 4-0 Game 4 World Series victory, then laid down his first career sacrifice bunt in the clincher.
“I’ve played nine years of losing baseball for not-so-good teams and this is the most fun I’ve had playing baseball in my life,” Huff said. “To be able to come back and try to have a chance to defend this title which we earned this year, and to do it in this great city and this great organization, it’s actually a big moment for me.”
San Francisco signed Huff – his lucky red rally thong also certain to come back in 2011 – to a $3 million, one-year contract last January to provide a boost in the middle of the batting order. And the Giants got it.
“He’s a loose character but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He takes the game seriously,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was such an important piece of the club. You don’t have very many players who can do what Aubrey can do, play first and the outfield and the left-handed bat.”
The Giants were counting on Huff returning to his 2008 form, when he hit .304 with 32 homers and a career-best 108 RBIs.
He certainly showed plenty of improvement, not to mention versatility playing both first and left field, in bouncing back from a career-worst .241 batting average in 2009 with Baltimore and Detroit.
“Being flexible keeps you around the game longer,” Huff said.
Bringing back Huff was an important first step in keeping the winning roster largely intact to try to make another deep postseason run.
“It was critical for the lineup. The good teams, they really have continuity,” Sabean said. “We want to create that through retention. The more of these guys we can keep together the more strength we have in numbers. It will be interesting to see what we can do to retain our own people to improve the lineup from what we started with at the beginning of the season.”
Now, Sabean turns his attention to bringing back shortstop and third baseman Uribe. Sabean said the club also had discussions Tuesday regarding other available shortstops to fill the void left by departed World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, who might retire.
“So this may take some time to get sorted out,” Sabean said of Uribe. “I think both parties are willing to do something faster, we’re just not talking the same language in ballpark figures. You have to be patient because we like the player … but you do have to do business at hand and that’s why we’re juggling the trade scenario. I really don’t know what the outside world is going to bring to him offer wise.”
San Francisco also has eight arbitration-eligible players. While Sabean has said it would be nice to tender contracts to all, that might not be realistic. Keeping Cody Ross is a priority. The NL championship series MVP, acquired on a waiver claim from Florida on Aug. 22, hit .288 with three homers and seven RBIs in 33 games and emerged as an unlikely postseason star.
“His figure is not going to affect the payroll,” Sabean said. “We’re willing to make that sacrifice to see what we can get done.”
In addition, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, coming off a down year in his second full major league season, has decided to train in Arizona during the offseason instead of splitting time between the team’s spring training facility and San Diego. The Giants want him to lose weight. The free-swinging Sandoval hit .268 in 2010 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs while striking out 81 times.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.