With Jeremy Affeldt's retirement, can the Giants pick up another reliever of his caliber and impact? I sense a hole in the 'pen.
-- Robert P., Omaha, Neb.
Affeldt's departure spurred the Giants' interest in free-agent right-hander Joakim Soria early in the offseason. The two-time All-Star has limited left- and right-handed hitters to batting averages of .215 and .210, respectively, during his nine-year Major League career. But Kansas City signed Soria. Nevertheless, the Giants may have another Affeldt in left-hander Josh Osich, who finished 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 35 appearances as a rookie last season. Righties hit only .213 off Osich. Left-handers posted a .222 batting average off him. Assuming Osich stays healthy and makes the necessary adjustments against hitters who have devoured his scouting reports and scrutinized him on videos, he could strengthen San Francisco's bullpen for a long time.
Do you think that because of the West Coast's so-called "thick air" sluggers avoid playing here? And would California taxes play into that?
-- Vince M., San Francisco
While covering Major League Baseball off and on, mostly on, since 1991, I have never heard anything about "heavy" or "light" air influencing a hitter's choice of destinations in free agency. That said, whether a ballpark has a hitter-friendly reputation definitely can prompt a ballplayer's decision. No way, for instance, did left-handed slugger Adam LaRoche consider signing with the Giants when he was a free agent several years ago. And on the occasions when the Giants do attract a star free-agent hitter, they typically must overpay him. Many considered Aaron Rowand's five-year, $60 million deal to be an example of this. We'll summarize taxes succinctly: They indeed can be a consideration.
Will the Giants bring Jarrett Parker up from the Minor Leagues soon? Late last season, he looked like he had home run power that the team desperately needs.
-- Ken T., Wheatland, Calif.
Parker is on the 40-man roster and will receive an opportunity to claim a reserve outfielder's spot behind projected regulars Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Hunter Pence. Parker indeed looked impressive last September while hitting six home runs in a stretch of 17 plate appearances. However, please bear in mind that such late-season efforts, with callups performing against each other in the absence of postseason-race pressure, often are illusory. I'm not dismissing Parker's pop. I'm merely emphasizing that I'd like to see how he handles himself when the lights are brighter and the stage is higher, so to speak.
The Giants need to have a special day this summer -- a "Willie Day" -- at AT&T Park. Re-retire Willie Mays' and Willie McCovey's numbers, only this time color their respective numbers, 24 and 44, in gold. Place one number apiece on the left- and right-field foul poles. Mays and McCovey are each a treasure for the Giants and the rest of the baseball world.
-- Dan S., Moline, Ill.
Wow. That's extremely stirring. I'm guessing that Giants management might be reluctant to separate Mays and McCovey, as great as they are, from the franchise's other Hall of Famers. I do know that club president Larry Baer and the rest of the Giants hierarchy share this kind of high regard for Mays and McCovey, who truly are living legends. You can't honor men like them enough. I doubt that this kind of tribute will occur in the near future, but I certainly wouldn't oppose it.
Since there are a lot of good shortstops in the organization, have the Giants thought of moving Lucius Fox (ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's list of the franchise's prospects) to center field?
-- Les L., Livermore, Calif.
To the best of my knowledge, no. But it would be neither unprecedented nor surprising if it eventually happens.
When do pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training?
-- Wendy N., San Jose, Calif.
Reporting date for Giants pitchers and catchers at the club's Scottsdale, Ariz., complex is Feb. 17, followed the next day by their first workout after physical examinations. Position players are due to arrive Feb. 22, one day before the initial full-squad workout.