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OF tops SF's needs heading into Meetings

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The offseason's rhythm always speeds up at the Winter Meetings, which begin Sunday night in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Giants, however, already have set a fast tempo in the race for player acquisition.

Club needs

SAN FRANCISCO -- The offseason's rhythm always speeds up at the Winter Meetings, which begin Sunday night in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Giants, however, already have set a fast tempo in the race for player acquisition.

Club needs

Outfield: To the Giants' decision-makers, the outfield symbolized the team's woes overall in 2017. For instance, the club's Major League-low total of 128 home runs was rooted in the outfield, which totaled 38 homers. That figure was dwarfed by division rivals Los Angeles (85), Arizona (76), Colorado (65) and San Diego (62). Moreover, the Giants compiled the Majors' third-worst defensive efficiency rating last season, a factoid that club management laid at the feet -- and the gloves -- of the outfielders. With prospect Steven Duggar likely to inherit center field in 2019, the Giants need a one-year stand-in for that spot and a legitimate run producer in one of the corners.

Third base: Pablo Sandoval did enough to warrant sticking with the club, but fell short of winning the starting job outright following his August return. This prompted baseball czar Brian Sabean to declare that the Giants need a third baseman who's more "run-production oriented" than Sandoval. This could get San Francisco interested in free agents such as Todd Frazier or Mike Moustakas.

Video: MLB Tonight on the best destinations for Moustakas

Bullpen: Everybody was competent, but nobody was dominant. Expect the Giants to seek a steady veteran for a setup role and perhaps a left-hander, though Will Smith can adequately fill both roles if he can make his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Who they can trade, if necessary

2B Joe Panik: Rumored for weeks to be included in the proposed deal for Stanton, Panik ideally would be preparing to receive a multiyear contract such as the ones earned by fellow infielders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. But Crawford's untouchable status and Belt's need to prove himself after recovering from a concussion keeps them off the trading block and increases the marketability of Panik, a 2015 All-Star and a 2016 Gold Glove Award winner.

Video: SD@SF: Panik racks up four hits vs. Padres

RHP Hunter Strickland: The reliever drew interest from multiple teams as the Trade Deadline approached, so he could prompt offers again. On the surface, mentioning Strickland as a possible commodity in a trade defies common sense, since the Giants are looking for bullpen help. But though he struck out 58 in 61 1/3 innings, his velocity dipped slightly as he allowed 12 of 27 inherited runners to score, while left-handed batters hit .333 off him.

Top prospects

According to MLBPipeline.com, the Giants' top 10 prospects list currently consists of, in order, infielder Christian Arroyo, first baseman-outfielder Chris Shaw, right-hander Tyler Beede, outfielder Heliot Ramos, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, outfielder Austin Slater, Duggar, catcher Aramis Garcia, outfielder Sandro Fabian and outfielder Heath Quinn.

Arroyo and Slater had some bright moments with the big club in 2017, but they couldn't stay healthy. Shaw and Beede might have experienced an unsettling offseason, since they were mentioned prominently in the Stanton trade rumors. Ramos, last year's top Draft selection, is one of the most legitimate five-tool talents that the Giants have had in a while.

Rule 5 Draft

The Giants never have viewed the Rule 5 Draft as a primary vehicle for player acquisition. This year will be no exception.

Big contracts they might unload

RHP Jeff Samardzija: The Giants would prefer to retain Samardzija, who struck out 205 batters in a National League-high 207 2/3 innings and is the only pitcher besides Washington's Max Scherzer to record five consecutive 200-inning seasons. However, with a salary of $19.8 million in each of the next three years, Samardzija probably would be among the first Giants shopped if the club decided to trim payroll.

Payroll summary

Having paid into the Competitive Balance Tax in each of the previous three years, the Giants proved that they were ready to do so again with their spirited pursuit of Stanton. The line between the haves and have-nots on the roster is clearly drawn, with nine players slated to earn $9 million or more this season.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. 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.

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