With the Giants having the best top brass in baseball, how concerned were they about our starting pitching at the beginning of the year, given starters' ages and injury histories? Knowing what we know now, would our offseason pursuit of starting pitchers have been a little more serious? Also, how much do we miss the Panda [Pablo Sandoval]?
-- Bob B., Riverside, Iowa
I think the front office genuinely wanted to upgrade the starting pitching. You'll recall that early in the offseason, they seriously pursued Jon Lester. Later, they supposedly offered James Shields roughly the same amount of money that he eventually took from the Padres. I don't understand why so many free-agent pitchers spurn the Giants and the opportunity to perform at AT&T Park, where they can lower their ERAs by up to a full run. Of course, by joining the Padres, Shields went to another pitchers' park. And, at the risk of contradicting myself, I wonder whether the Giants could have explored the market more intently for second- and even third-tier starters -- the Aaron Harangs of the world, for instance.
As for Sandoval, this may sound like a copout, but we really have to wait another few months before attempting to judge Casey McGehee's value against Sandoval's. McGehee occasionally has looked shaky on defense, but he deserves a chance to settle down and establish consistency, in the field as well as at the plate. Their respective performances last year indicate that McGehee can at least approach, if not exceed, Sandoval's offensive output. Off the field, McGehee appears to be a model teammate. He constantly talks to other Giants as he tries to weave himself into the team's fabric. That compares favorably with Sandoval, who at times seemed intent on alienating himself from his former teammates.
I know you can't win every year, and I'm so grateful for three World Series titles in five years. But I feel that we went into the offseason with three holes -- starting pitching, left field and third base. As of April 20, the Giants' three holes are starting pitching, left field and third base. To repeat or truly contend, we needed to retool. The players we signed or re-signed didn't solve any of those areas, in my humble opinion. Your thoughts?
-- Gary M., Long Island, N.Y.
To expand somewhat on my remarks about the starting pitching in the previous response, I was stunned when the Giants signed Jake Peavy to a two-year contract. I've always respected Peavy's ability and competitiveness. The Giants wouldn't have reached last year's World Series without him.
That said, Peavy did nothing in his last three postseason starts to inspire confidence entering this year. He allowed 11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings. That was good enough to warrant a multiyear contract? Maybe that kind of deal would have been necessary if Peavy had been hotly pursued by numerous teams. But there was no evidence that this was the case. It's legitimate to wonder whether the Giants were bidding against themselves in the Peavy talks. Left field hasn't been an issue; Nori Aoki appears to be a fine addition. Regarding third base, I stick to my belief that McGehee must be given more of a chance to prove himself.
What is the future for Brandon Belt, as he has shown nada thus far?
-- Steve R., Surprise, Ariz.
This is a critical period in Belt's career. With two years of salary-arbitration eligibility remaining, his earning potential might be at its zenith. Numerous free agents are unable to cash in on the open market, for the simple reason that they're just not that good. Arbitration, meanwhile, virtually guarantees significant pay hikes to players proficient enough to be offered the process.
Belt's skills remain tantalizing. He hit .295 in last year's postseason, and his 18th-inning homer in Game 2 of the Division Series at Washington will forever remain one of the most thrilling October moments in Giants history. But tantalizing isn't the same as tangible. For the Giants to feel compelled to keep Belt and absorb his arbitration-induced salary increases, he must produce more consistently.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.