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Inbox: Does Giants' rotation still need help?

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

I understand budget concerns, but do the Giants really expect to compete with their current rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and two rookies? It seems we are still a No. 4 starter short of the second National League Wild Card right now.
-- Michael C., Mesa, Ariz.

You settled your own argument to a considerable extent by citing those budget concerns. They're very real, and if the Giants want to be players in next year's talent-laden free-agent market, they must avoid paying the Competitive Balance Tax.

I understand budget concerns, but do the Giants really expect to compete with their current rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and two rookies? It seems we are still a No. 4 starter short of the second National League Wild Card right now.
-- Michael C., Mesa, Ariz.

You settled your own argument to a considerable extent by citing those budget concerns. They're very real, and if the Giants want to be players in next year's talent-laden free-agent market, they must avoid paying the Competitive Balance Tax.

Moreover, every organization must give its players opportunities to succeed. Minor Leaguers must be motivated by the sense that upward mobility is possible. Pitchers in Class A and Double-A are better off for noticing that Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are receiving chances to advance to, or establish themselves in, the Majors.

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You should know by now how the Giants operate. If management decides that the team needs a veteran starter to remain in contention, the necessary deal will be made before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Looking at the non-roster invitees, other than Steven Duggar and maybe Trevor Brown, I'm kind of shrugging my shoulders. Just curious, which ones do you think have the best chance to make the 25-man roster?
-- Robert W., Redding, Calif.

Keep an eye on utility men Chase d'Arnaud and Josh Rutledge. And outfielder Gregor Blanco is officially a non-roster player, too.

Video: LAD@SF: Duggar jacks a solo shot to right

Are the Giants a legitimate contender if Duggar posts 20 steals and a .350 on-base percentage, and becomes the rangy center fielder/leadoff hitter we're all hoping for?
-- Derrick F., Livermore, Calif.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Duggar can indeed make a considerable difference. The ease with which he homered off the Dodgers' Kenta Maeda on Sunday was breathtaking. If the Giants' lineup is truly deep, however, Duggar might be suited for batting eighth. It could be best to avoid burdening him with the responsibility of leading off.

If Tim Lincecum finds success with the Rangers, and goes on to pitch 10 full career seasons, what does he need to accomplish to be a serious Hall of Fame candidate?
-- Joshua S., Eugene, Ore.

First of all, I believe that the smattering of Major League service time that Lincecum had with the Angels in 2016 will constitute enough of a 10th season to enable him to go on the Hall of Fame ballot five years after his retirement.

As you're probably and safely assuming, Lincecum hasn't done enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration. If he's a reliever through the remainder of his career, he'd have to put together three or four extremely strong seasons just to get the voters' attention.

Consider John Smoltz, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2015. After injuries derailed Smoltz's career as a starter, he amassed 144 saves for Atlanta from 2002-04. Then, Smoltz returned to starting -- which, I believe, is what Lincecum wants to do -- and delivered three excellent seasons from 2005-07 (44-24, 3.22 ERA). If those numbers sound familiar, they should. They're comparable to Lincecum's 2008-10 peak with the Giants (49-22, 2.83 ERA).

That was one heck of a peak, too. According to baseball-reference.com's similarity scores, through his age-29 season, Lincecum's closest career parallel was Bob Gibson. Then came the decline. Through his age-32 season, when he last pitched, Lincecum's closest comp was A.J. Burnett.

Right now, Lincecum's career (110-89, 3.74 ERA, two NL Cy Young Awards) is reminiscent of Bret Saberhagen's (167-117, 3.34 ERA, two American League Cy Young Awards). Saberhagen received 1.3 percent of the vote from the Hall of Fame electorate and dropped off the ballot in 2007, his first year of eligibility.

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.

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