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What's next for Giants on free-agent front?

Cueto, Samardzija likely to be targets for club's rotation

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants know the drill. They've been here before. Their job is to act fast.

The Giants' fruitless effort to sign free agent Zack Greinke, who's bound for the Arizona Diamondbacks, shouldn't immobilize them. Rather, it should strengthen their resolve to secure one or even two starters from the next tier of available free agents.

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The Giants are allowed to take a moment or two to curse their role in the Greinke negotiations -- which, a cynic might say, was to be used as a vehicle to increase the right-hander's asking price. The club endured this last year, when it sustained a maximum effort to recruit free-agent left-hander Jon Lester before he signed with the Cubs. In fairness, given Greinke's stature and accomplishments, he didn't need to create a bidding war to coax the salary he sought.

Once the Giants' frustration passes, which shouldn't take long, expect them to charge hard after right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Either would fit nicely as a No. 2 starter alongside ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Cueto went 11-13 combined with the Reds and Royals this year, his worst regular-season mark since going 9-14 with Cincinnati in 2008. His 3.44 ERA was his highest since logging a 3.64 ERA in 2010. But Cueto sold himself nicely in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, pitching a two-hitter in Kansas City's 7-1 victory. The Giants already developed a positive impression of Cueto, who's 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in six career starts against San Francisco. He's also 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three outings at AT&T Park.

Cueto reportedly spurned a six-year, $120 offer from Arizona last week. Even if his asking price exceeds the $20 million average annual value of that offer, which it doubtlessly does, that would represent a welcome comedown from the rarefied atmosphere of the talks with Greinke, for whom $30 million a year was not enough.

The same goes for Samardzija, who's said to have commanded nine-figure multiyear offers already. With an average of 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, his stuff is beyond question. Though Samardzija's career record of 47-61 and his 4.09 ERA seem less than impressive, the former All-America wide receiver at Notre Dame has performed mostly for mediocre clubs.

Insiders say that right-hander Doug Fister also has intrigued the Giants. Forearm issues nagged Fister this year, as he went 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA for the Nationals. But he finished a combined 30-15 with a 3.12 ERA for Detroit and Washington in 2013-14. San Francisco witnessed Fister's toughness when he remained in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series despite getting struck by a Gregor Blanco line drive.

The Giants clearly stated long ago that they want to bring back right-hander Mike Leake, their prized acquisition from this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Given his unusually young age (28) for a free agent and a career free from arm trouble, Leake has drawn heavy interest. Signing him could be as challenging as signing Greinke -- who has already faded into the past for San Francisco.

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.
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