San Francisco Giants re-sign Aubrey Huff

In what was almost a foregone conclusion because of their mutual admiration, the Giants brought top home run and RBI man Aubrey Huff back into the fold Tuesday, signing him to a two-year, $22 million deal that includes a $2 million buyout on a third-year club option.

With the team's No. 1 offseason priority quickly secured, now come more difficult challenges, including the potential trickle-down impact of a Huff contract that was a bit more expensive than the Giants were expecting.

What's left for versatile infielder and fellow free agent Juan Uribe?

Uribe is expected to receive multiple offers from other clubs -- his agent met with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday -- and they possibly could be too lucrative to match. General manager Brian Sabean confessed that the club had to increase its offer to retain Huff, who had received a strong offer from an undisclosed team.

What's more, what's left for the eight arbitration-eligible players the Giants must tender by Dec. 2, among them outfielders Cody Ross and Andres Torres, and pitchers Jonathan Sanchez, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez and Santiago Casilla?

Finally, what might be left for Huff's friend and former college teammate Pat Burrell, particularly in light of the fast ascension of prospect Brandon Belt, who could force Huff to the outfield or take over Burrell's spot himself?

Uribe moves to the front burner, but Sabean warned that he doesn't anticipate a resolution as swift as Huff's, which required a mere week of negotiations.

"I think both parties are willing to do something faster, but we're just not talking the same language yet as far as the ballpark figures," Sabean said. "This may take some time to get sorted out."

If Huff was underpaid last year at $3 million, so was Uribe at $3.25 million. What's more, the market for left-side infielders figures to be very competitive because of their relative scarcity. Sabean confessed the Giants have had preliminary trade discussions regarding a shortstop in case they can't re-sign Uribe, but reiterated they will play the waiting game for now.

"You have to be patient because we like the player," Sabean said. "Very much like Huff, we appreciate the versatility, the sacrifice, the presence on and off the field. But you do have to do business at hand, so that's why we're juggling the trade scenarios.

"I can't answer for (Uribe's) side. They're more in the driver's seat than us because they ultimately have to say yes. I really don't know what the outside world is going to bring to him specifically as a shortstop offer-wise."

Later Tuesday, the Giants offered Uribe arbitration, but he almost certainly will decline it.

Sabean said the club likes all eight players eligible for arbitration but didn't know if they'd all be tendered. Ross, Torres, Sanchez and Lopez surely will be, but Ramirez, Casilla, Chris Ray and Mike Fontenot are likely on the bubble.

As for Burrell, Sabean said he told the veteran outfielder the club must complete business in other areas before they address his situation. It may not help Burrell that his buddy Huff, who led the Giants in virtually all production categories this year -- 26 homers, 86 RBIs, 100 runs scored -- commanded such a healthy raise. His salary of $10 million in each of the next two seasons -- plus the guaranteed $2 million -- adds up to an $8 million per year raise over what he got this year. The 2013 option is also for $10 million.

"The market developed that way," Sabean said. "All it takes is one other team, and if you consider (Huff) was seventh in the MVP voting and what he meant and (what we) need going forward, we paid the piper and were glad to do so. You can't look back."

Huff, who turns 34 on Dec. 20, was certainly happy about that. In the last offseason, he did not sign until Jan. 13, with the Giants making the lone $3 million offer, and then only after they'd been spurned by Adam LaRoche on a far more lucrative offer.

Huff wouldn't disclose what team made him the large offer the Giants matched, but said his focus was to return to San Francisco.

"There was a big interest out there, but in the end, it wasn't going to take much to come back here for me," he said. "Some other team would have had to blow me away with a four-year deal or something."

The Giants also disclosed that third baseman Pablo Sandoval is doing his offseason conditioning program in Arizona this winter instead of San Diego, which will enable the club to more closely monitor his progress.

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