What's the squad's biggest hole going into Spring Training?
-- Matt R., Benicia, Calif.
The bench remains most suspect. Granted, Gregor Blanco's return to the fourth-outfielder's role, prompted by Michael Morse's acquisition, strengthened manager Bruce Bochy's contingent of reserves. But one commodity the Giants lack is a proven veteran who can bolster the offense as a pinch-hitter or late-inning substitute. If you're a Giants opponent, who on their bench scares you? Answer: Nobody. Switch-hitting Hector Sanchez possesses that kind of skill. But he's still maturing. Besides, as backup catcher, he must remain inactive unless Bochy desperately needs him. Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, Juan Perez and Nick Noonan, to name other bench candidates, are handy performers who can contribute as part-time starters. Yet they fail to raise goosebumps by walking to the bat rack or the on-deck circle. Michael Young, who would have been a fabulous pickup for the Giants, is retiring. At least the Dodgers didn't sign him.
I asked general manager Brian Sabean about Peguero during last month's Winter Meetings and received a pointed answer.
"I think any organization works hard to try to find out where somebody's at as far as his future," Sabean said. "We would never has exposed him to the process [of being claimed] if we thought he was a valid choice and was going to make our team."
Sabean explained that since Peguero was out of Minor League options, the Giants would have had to part with him this spring if he didn't make the Opening Day roster.
I see the Yankees have designated Vernon Wells for assignment. Any chance the Giants could snag him? I'm just not excited by a platoon in left field including Blanco. He should be strictly a defensive replacement.
-- Kevin T., Petaluma, Calif.
Avoiding Wells was the consensus I received from a handful of scouts I consulted. They contended that he's too much of a gamble to sign, given the deterioration of his game. When I initially saw him play, I thought he was among the best performers in the Major Leagues. That was about 12 years ago. As for Blanco, I think returning to a part-time role will help his offense.
What are the Giants' long-term plans for second base? Is there somebody in the system, or will they have to look outside?
-- Bill E., Fowler, Calif.
Joe Panik, the Giants' No. 1 selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, looks as if he's being groomed to play second. He moved there from shortstop last season. Noonan will provide competition, but Panik appears to be the choice.
Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are signed for the next few years, leaving Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong as the most likely candidates to be replaced when or if the time comes. Meanwhile, we've got Mike Kickham, Edwin Escobar, Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, Ty Blach and Joan Gregorio waiting in the wings. Clearly, nine candidates for two or even three eventual openings on our starting-pitching staff is excessive. All nine still are works in progress, but with such an embarrassment of riches available, might this be the year when Sabean will begin to trade some of these nine for some much-needed position-player depth?
-- Stu G., Ventura, Calif.
That type of deal is extremely possible. For example, Sabean swapped Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert and Vogelsong, among other highly regarded pitchers, in attempts to obtain upgrades. But please bear in mind that the unwritten, intangible laws of baseball will influence the development of the Giants' pitching prospects. Odds are that not all of them will excel in the Major Leagues. In fact, the Giants can consider themselves fortunate if two or three of these young pitchers become productive starters for them.
How important is Yusmeiro Petit to the Giants' pitching success in 2014?
-- Tom B., Kelso, Scotland
Potentially, he's extremely important. Should Petit win the job as the Giants' long reliever and spot starter, his competence at consuming multiple innings out of the bullpen and filling in capably for an injured or tired starter could determine whether the Giants contend for the National League West title.