Has the timetable for prospects such as Kyle Crick, Adalberto Mejia, et al been accelerated given the lack of starting-pitching depth?
-- Diego A., San Jose, Calif.
Absolutely not. "It's more geared for 2015 for these guys," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said during his season-ending summary, referring to the estimated Major League arrival time for the organization's horde of promising young pitchers. That group includes Crick, Mejia, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton and Martin Agosta, among others. Sabean said that the Giants will adhere to the developmental method of adding 30 to 40 innings per year to each starter's workload, thus enabling them to mature at a comfortable pace. Until then, the Giants can safely rely on free-agent plug-ins to complement Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum -- none of whom, it should be noted, reached San Francisco until Major League-ready.
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Do you think Ryan Vogelsong will take a smaller [salary] with incentives to return?
-- Roberta K., Sunnyvale, Calif.
That remains possible, particularly if performance bonuses bring the hypothetical value of a one-year contract for Vogelsong to or beyond $6.5 million. That was the figure for his 2014 option which the Giants declined. But the Giants are misleading themselves if they think that Vogelsong will maintain unconditional loyalty to them. He has received interest from multiple teams as a free agent, and as much as leaving San Francisco would disappoint him, he's prepared to bolt if or when another club makes him an acceptable offer. Though that might not happen until members of the free-agent tier of starters including Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo and Dan Haren find homes, the Giants should negotiate more seriously with Vogelsong. That is, if they truly want to keep him.
Which players are realistic free-agent or trade options for left field?
-- Diego A., San Jose
Free agent Chris Young stands out as an intriguing possibility. He endured a dismal season with the A's last year, batting .200 with a .280 on-base percentage. But his .837 career OPS against left-handed pitchers makes him a potential fit as a right-handed-batting platoon option. Against right-handed starters, manager Bruce Bochy could use a combination of Young, Gregor Blanco (if he's still around) and Brandon Belt in left, with Buster Posey filling in at first base whenever Belt plays the outfield.
I've always liked Marlon Byrd's overall game. But his age (36) and his 2012 suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance could dampen the Giants' enthusiasm.
Ideally, the Giants would find an everyday left fielder, or a center fielder who would prompt Angel Pagan to move to left. But you know the old story: AT&T Park's pitcher-friendly dimensions discourage even the most robust free-agent hitters from considering San Francisco. This leads the club to overpay for capable offensive performers, whether to attract them (Aaron Rowand ) or keep them (Hunter Pence ). So pursuing Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo would be a waste of the Giants' time. Curtis Granderson might have been worth considering, but the qualifying offer he received from the Yankees will force whoever signs him to forfeit a top choice in the First-Year Player Draft.
How serious would the Giants be about bidding for Masahiro Tanaka from Japan? Too costly?
-- Brett H. Fresno, Calif.
That depends on whether the Giants would be willing to allocate more than $100 million, the likely sum of the posting fee and Tanaka's contract, for the right-hander who finished 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the regular season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Giants never have been major players in the international free-agent market. Now might not be a bad time to start. Revenues from lucrative national television contracts and those 246 consecutive AT&T Park sellouts could help the Giants afford the 25-year-old. Would signing Tanaka be risky? Of course. So was drafting Lincecum, regarded by many talent evaluators as too small, or Bumgarner, who unnerved some scouts by throwing too much across his body. The Giants could use a bold move in their effort to restore their starting rotation to the Major Leagues' elite. Obtaining Takana would be a gamble, but the payoff could be handsome.
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.