SAN FRANCISCO (AP) If he had to do it all over again, Brian Sabean insists he would sign Barry Zito to that highly scrutinized $126 million, seven-year contract.
"As crazy as this sounds, it might to you folks, if I had to do it over again, I would have done what we did to sign Barry Zito," Sabean said Friday. "I think we learned a lot from his time here, and our pitching staff has. And, quite frankly when we needed him the most, he helped us win the World Series. I find great solace and satisfaction in that."
Sabean all but finalized Zito's long-expected departure following seven tough years, while saying two of his top priorities moving forward from a disappointing 2013 season are re-signing Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence.
Yes, Lincecum might stay put in the comforts of the Bay Area where "The Freak" has spent his entire seven-year big league career. The pitcher said Thursday he feeds off familiarity and would like to remain with the Giants, and Sabean acknowledged he will try to lock up a deal for Lincecum before he hits free agency.
"Absolutely, that's why we'd be talking to him. Nothing's changed since the deadline when we didn't trade him, and that's the mindset," Sabean said. "That will be our next course of action. As you know we're talking to Hunter's folks now and Timmy will follow suit."
Lincecum is wrapping up a $40.5 million, two-year contract. He made a quick jump to the majors in May 2007, less than a year after being drafted 10th overall out of Washington.
The 29-year-old right-hander won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and `09 and is a four-time All-Star. He pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010 as the Giants captured the franchise's first championship since moving West in 1958, then delivered as a reliable reliever out of the bullpen during the 2012 title run.
Padres manager Bud Black joked before Friday's series opener at AT&T Park that if the Giants don't bring back Lincecum, San Diego will "get in line." Not that Black expects him to go anywhere - he figures Lincecum will get a new deal.
"I think that's going to happen," Black said. "It would surprise me if they didn't."
The Giants are in discussions with the representatives for Pence, concluding a $13.8 million, one-year deal. He received the team's 2013 "Willie Mac Award" on Friday for the most inspirational Giants player named for Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
"And that's what he is," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't know another player that I've ever had that's played every game, and not just played, but the way he plays, the intensity he plays with when he shows up every day."
Friday marked Pence's 169th straight start, longest in the National League and second-longest in the majors behind the 504 of Detroit's Prince Fielder.
Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland, overcame his struggles to win Game 5 of last year's NL championship series at St. Louis while facing elimination, then Game 1 of the World Series against Detroit in San Francisco's stunning sweep of the Tigers. That after he was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds in 2010.
Zito's $18 million option for 2014 won't be picked up, so he will receive a $7 million buyout.
He got one final home outing in a spot start Wednesday night, beating the Dodgers.
"Barry, it was good to see him get that start, kind of a twist of fate with (Madison) Bumgarner not being able to go," Sabean said.
Zito said when he signed his big-money contract before the 2007 season, "Sabean told me tattoo that number on my forehead."
"I didn't know quite what that meant," Zito said. "I found out. It adds years to your life, that's for sure."
Zito hadn't been told anything formally about a decision as of after his start Thursday night, yet he and everybody else realize this is probably it after 14 years pitching on both sides of San Francisco Bay - the first seven for the Athletics.
He still hopes to pitch in 2014.
"He's a great person, he was a great professional in a Giant uniform, and he's going to be missed for a lot of reasons," Sabean said.
The GM, longest-tenured in baseball with the same club, figured the 2011 team that missed the postseason was best equipped to win another World Series - not last year's club.
"I might have been the most surprised person in the world or in the organization that we won last year, maybe more so in the fashion that we won. And that team was re-tooled or redefined from the 2010 team," Sabean said. "I didn't go into this year blindly, because what we were trying to do was get one more year of the group at hand in the window we were in and it just didn't work for a lot of reasons.
"It's safe to say that window with that group at hand is closed. Now we've got to create a new window immediately, and that's the task at hand."
Re-signing lefty reliever Javier Lopez is another priority high on Sabean's to-do list. With the Giants missing the playoffs, the front office has more time to assemble next year's roster than in a shortened offseason like after 2010 and '12.
"We have another starter on the wish list, per se, with or without Timmy," Sabean said. "We're looking in any way and every way to not only get our people back we think are important going forward that have done such good work for us, or great work, and more so get a fresh look with us. If that means somebody from the outside, we're certainly prepared to do that within the budget."