One way to upgrade the offense without making any personnel moves is to get Hector Sanchez in more games. That puts Buster Posey at first base and Brandon Belt in left field. Do you think manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean will consider this? Or maybe switching Sanchez and Posey regularly between catcher and first?
-- Keith O., Littleton, Colo.
Bochy and Sabean will consider just about anything if it means bolstering the offense painlessly -- that is, without trading a helpful player. Installing Sanchez in the lineup more frequently would definitely help the Giants. The switch-hitter batted a solid .280 last year in 74 games. His slugging percentage was only .382, but that should improve as he plays more. Of course, Bochy won't use Sanchez if it means benching Posey, unless the National League's reigning Most Valuable Player needs a full rest. And occasions will arise when Bochy prefers to employ a defensive-oriented lineup, which will prompt him to use Gregor Blanco or Andres Torres in left and keep Belt at first. So this could prove to be something of a balancing act for Bochy, particularly if Belt hits more consistently and proves that he deserves more than the 106 starts he received last year. Are the Giants done with big moves this offseason or will they try to acquire someone like Giancarlo Stanton or Alfonso Soriano?
-- Eric C., San Francisco
All indications are that the Giants won't consider any significant player moves at this time, though they might add depth in various areas. Expect Sabean to evaluate the Giants throughout Spring Training and the Cactus League season, and then toward the middle or end of March, he'll try to fill whatever perceived needs the club might have. Blockbuster deals shortly before camp opens aren't unprecedented. I covered the Cincinnati Reds when they obtained Greg Vaughn and Ken Griffey Jr. in back-to-back years (1999-2000) on Feb. 2 and Feb. 10, respectively. But those Reds weren't coming off two World Series triumphs in three years.
I know the Giants signed Scott Proctor to a Minor League contract. But barring any future signings, such as Brian Wilson, do you see Proctor as a shoo-in to make this relief staff?
-- Bradley E., Boca Raton, Fla.
Proctor has a decent chance of making the Opening Day roster, particularly if he regains the form he displayed while making 83 appearances in consecutive seasons (2006-07) with the Yankees and Dodgers. The Giants need another right-handed setup reliever, since Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla likely will be occupied with sharing the closer's role. But Proctor will face plenty of competition from non-roster invitees and rookies such as Brett Bochy, Fabio Castillo, Jake Dunning, Heath Hembree, Jean Machi, Dan Otero and Sandy Rosario, among others. Is there anyone from the farm who you suspect might surprise in Spring Training? Do you think Hembree, Gary Brown or Chris Heston have any chance to make the big league squad out of camp?
-- Matt R., Benicia, Calif.
Hembree has a shot, though he must pitch better than he did last spring. Infielder Nick Noonan probably won't make the Opening Day roster, but he can position himself for an in-season promotion with a solid effort. The Giants have been advancing Brown one classification each year since selecting him in the first round (24th overall) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, so he'll probably open the season at Triple-A Fresno. The same goes for Heston, who excelled last year at Double-A Richmond. Keep an eye on left-handers Eric Surkamp and Dan Runzler, who will try to prove that they're physically whole or at least close to it. The moral judges out there don't want any players tied to performance-enhancing drugs inducted into the Hall of Fame. Fine, I get that. But to see that you voted for Jeff Bagwell and not Barry Bonds is simply mind-boggling.
-- Bill S., Petaluma, Calif.
Having covered the Houston Astros during Bagwell's first three Major League seasons, I saw what I considered to be a burgeoning power hitter. I watched him drive a pinch-hit home run into the upper deck at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium when he was a rookie. He compiled his most outlandish statistics in 1994, long before he was linked to performance-enhancing drug use.
Naturally, I heard PED-related rumors about Bagwell. They troubled me then and continue to do so. I ultimately deemed them circumstantial. Time may prove me wrong, just as time may lead me to change my mind and vote for Bonds. He's bound to remain on the ballot for the maximum stretch of 15 years, during which perceptions, including mine, may shift.
For instance, I cast my first vote for Edgar Martinez. I loathe the existence of designated hitters, but I typically vote for who I consider to be the best relievers. I reasoned that if I open the door for pitching specialists, I should do the same for hitting specialists.
I agonized over this ballot, changing my mind on multiple occasions. After soliciting opinions from several former Major Leaguers, I settled on decisions I could live with. Bonds punched his ticket into Cooperstown without PED use. He didn't need to cut to the head of the line.