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Inbox: Who should the Giants build around?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

With so many holes to fill, where do the Giants start? Who do they keep and build on?
-- Ed B., San Francisco

Giants management must face these questions daily throughout the foreseeable future -- possibly until the 2018 season is well underway, since by that time they'll begin to see the fruits of their upcoming labor.

With so many holes to fill, where do the Giants start? Who do they keep and build on?
-- Ed B., San Francisco

Giants management must face these questions daily throughout the foreseeable future -- possibly until the 2018 season is well underway, since by that time they'll begin to see the fruits of their upcoming labor.

The Giants already have launched the rebuilding process. Summoning Triple-A prospects such as Christian Arroyo, Austin Slater, Ryder Jones, Orlando Calixte, Jae-Gyun Hwang and Kyle Crick has given the organization a chance to see how they stack up against Major League competition. No conclusions have yet been reached, but the Giants will continue to evaluate them and others who might arrive (Tyler Beede) or return (Arroyo) in an attempt to determine who can contribute long-term.

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Deciding which existing players are part of the problem or part of the solution is another step. Expect Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Madison Bumgarner and Ty Blach to stick around. Though the bullpen needs upgrading, the incumbent relievers possess talent and will receive opportunities to prove themselves.

Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore ideally would be integral to a winning effort. But the Giants probably would listen to trade offers for either pitcher from teams hungry for starters. First baseman Brandon Belt (see below) probably belongs in this category also.

Determining what to do with Johnny Cueto is paramount. Should the Giants trade him before he gets a chance to opt out of his contract? Keep him for the rest of the season and react to whatever he does? The front office realizes that allowing him to walk and receiving nothing in return would be a waste.

Rebuilding the roster will be a constant process. For instance, the Giants absolutely must draft well. They won multiple World Series by, to a large degree, succeeding wildly with three consecutive No. 1 picks -- Tim Lincecum (2006), Bumgarner ('07) and Posey (2008). San Francisco must develop another impact player or two to lead the club toward the next generation.

In short, the Giants must travel step-by-step along several paths at once.

Will Will Smith pitch in 2018?
-- Steven E., Redding, Calif.

That's the plan. Smith has diligently followed each step of his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery. Ideally, he'll be rejuvenated next year. As a reliever who was equally effective against right-handed as well as left-handed batters, he could provide a significant boost for the bullpen.

Video: NYM@SF: Belt launches a solo homer to left-center

This year, Belt has entered his midseason slump about four months early. With his uppercutting swing, it is home run or nothing. It seems as though he is unwilling to hit to left field on a consistent basis so as to defeat the defensive shift. He is an exceptional defensive player, but how long can the Giants afford to put up with his offensive shortcomings?
-- Bob M., Simsbury, Conn.

On the surface, the Giants and Belt might have to co-exist for quite some time. He's due to earn $16 million per year from 2018-21. After this season, he can block trades to as many as 10 clubs annually.

From a purely economic standpoint, finding a team to take on his contract will be challenging. However, in the right deal the Giants almost certainly would be willing to assume some of Belt's salary.

That is if the team enters serious trade talks involving him at all. A significant number of Giants insiders value Belt's offensive prowess due to his penchant for drawing walks, which creates a high on-base percentage.

During Spring Training, Vince Coleman was an advisor to the team on baserunning, leading to speculation that the Giants would be more adventurous on the bases. Have you seen any signs of that happening?
-- Wally H., Vista, Calif.

I detect incremental improvement. Just don't equate baserunning skill with basestealing. The Giants entered Thursday with 42 steals, tied for seventh in the National League. But they seem to be more efficient in subtle ways -- taking better "secondary" leads (moving a step or two farther off base as a pitcher delivers to the plate), making better decisions and at least thinking about going from first to third, even if they don't always do it. The results of Coleman's tutelage might be more dramatic if the Giants possessed better team speed.

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.

San Francisco Giants