Busy Giants have two key open spots remaining

Trading prospects an option for SF, which seeks left fielder, reliever after signing Samardzija, Cueto

Busy Giants have two key open spots remaining

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants haven't earned their winter hibernation quite yet.

Their aggressive acquisitions of free-agent right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto haven't changed the fact that San Francisco still needs a left fielder and a veteran reliever to provide stability alongside the growing number of youngsters in the bullpen.

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The reliever will be relatively affordable; the outfielder won't be, particularly if the Giants again resort to free agency to fill this need. And with a projected $160 million already committed to 13 players for 2016, San Francisco must begin economizing to avoid exceeding last year's Opening Day payroll of approximately $173 million.

Haft on Cueto to the Giants

That's why it was significant when general manager Bobby Evans said last week that he was beginning to glean interest from clubs about "prospect-driven" trades. Obtaining an outfielder by parting with a package of Minor League prospects is entirely within the realm of possibility for the Giants. Since Evans didn't rule out trading within the division, speculation of a deal with National League West rival Colorado involving left fielder Carlos Gonzalez -- who's said to be available in trade -- could remain at a low hum until Spring Training.

The list of free-agent possibilities should look familiar by now. Though some players seem more unattainable than others, each passing day makes unsigned free agents feel more vulnerable -- and thus easier to obtain.

Here's a sampling of who remains available:

Justin Upton, one of the most offensively talented players in the bunch, is a .271 career hitter who has averaged 26 homers and 84 RBIs per 162 games in nine seasons. Upton, who never has been seriously linked to San Francisco, happens to own a .233 lifetime average at AT&T Park with three homers in 238 plate appearances.

Yoenis Cespedes remains another intriguing possibility, though his ardor for playing on the West Coast, where he began his Major League career with the A's, is said to be iffy.

Alex Gordon, who was briefly linked to the Giants in a Winter Meetings rumor, has won four consecutive American League Gold Glove Awards (2011-14) and made three consecutive All-Star teams (2013-15) while spending his entire nine-year career with Kansas City. With 134 career home runs, Gordon is not an overwhelming power hitter, though he reached or exceeded 20 homers twice in the past five seasons.

• Switch-hitting Dexter Fowler will join what likely will be his fourth team in as many years. He was the Rockies' regular center fielder before they dealt him to Houston before the 2014 season. Another trade late last offseason sent Fowler to the Cubs. He scored a team-high 102 runs to help Chicago capture the NL Central title. Though Fowler's .250 batting average was his lowest for a full season, he compensated by drawing a personal-best 84 walks. He stole 20 bases for just the second time in his career. And Fowler appeared in a career-high 156 games after never exceeding 143 in any of his previous six seasons.

Relievers tend to find jobs late in the offseason, so don't expect this vacancy to be filled quickly -- unless, as was the case with Joakim Soria last week at the Winter Meetings, the Giants latch onto somebody they deeply want who's being pursued by other teams. San Francisco could use an experienced performer to help veterans Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla complement rookies and near-rookies such as Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.