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Inbox: Is Bumgarner still a No. 1 starter?

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

I may make many of my fellow Giant fans mad with this question, but here goes. Madison Bumgarner is not a legitimate No. 1 starter. He's maybe a No. 2 and, in a worst-case scenario, a No. 3. What are the chances we can either land a No. 1 via free agency or even trade for a No. 1? Also, Jeff Samardzija is not even a No. 3. All I can say for him is that he is an "innings eater" when healthy, but definitely not someone who can be relied on to consistently get batters out. Is there a possibility we trade or even release him without it affecting our purse too much?
-- James J., San Antonio, Texas

You said a mouthful, James. Whether Bumgarner remains an ace-quality pitcher should stir debate. Granted, he's not as dominant as he once was. His 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings was his lowest since 2010 (7.0), his rookie season. But his 3.26 ERA indicated that he remains capable of muting the opposition. I'd still take him over virtually anybody in a postseason game.

I may make many of my fellow Giant fans mad with this question, but here goes. Madison Bumgarner is not a legitimate No. 1 starter. He's maybe a No. 2 and, in a worst-case scenario, a No. 3. What are the chances we can either land a No. 1 via free agency or even trade for a No. 1? Also, Jeff Samardzija is not even a No. 3. All I can say for him is that he is an "innings eater" when healthy, but definitely not someone who can be relied on to consistently get batters out. Is there a possibility we trade or even release him without it affecting our purse too much?
-- James J., San Antonio, Texas

You said a mouthful, James. Whether Bumgarner remains an ace-quality pitcher should stir debate. Granted, he's not as dominant as he once was. His 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings was his lowest since 2010 (7.0), his rookie season. But his 3.26 ERA indicated that he remains capable of muting the opposition. I'd still take him over virtually anybody in a postseason game.

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As you know, the possibility of a trade involving Bumgarner is a hot topic this offseason. He might be able to fetch the Giants some offensive help. But I doubt that the Giants would seek another No. 1 starter if Bumgarner left. They'd probably try to bide their time until Johnny Cueto returns from Tommy John surgery.

Samardzija is virtually untradeable until he proves he has recovered from his season-long shoulder problems.

I would be happier for the Giants to pursue more moderately-priced bats with good potential to breakout in 2019. I have some concern that Bryce Harper's personality doesn't fit very well with the Giants organization. Do you think they will go after Harper?
-- Hugh W., Lovettsville, Va.

Those burgeoning hitters with economical salaries are in short supply in free agency. If they were plentiful, few would be likely to make AT&T Park their destination of choice. The Giants must resort to trading for such players if they hope to obtain one, and it won't become clear until early next month who's available.

Harper is an exception due to his youth (he turns 26 on Oct. 16). As for his personality, let's put it this way: Is he sometimes brash? Sure. So was Brian Wilson. Does he rub others the wrong way on occasion? Yes, but so does Madison Bumgarner. Does he want to win? Anybody who runs the way Harper does -- as if his life depended on reaching the next base -- yearns for a championship ring. Harper has attitude, which the Giants have lacked the last few years. He'll be overpriced, but he'd be great for them to bring aboard.

Why is Buster Posey not considered as a potential third baseman? He played shortstop in college as a freshman. The Giants converted Pablo Sandoval to third from catcher. Why not Buster?
-- William C., Rio Vista, Calif.

There's that little matter of Evan Longoria's contract, which is guaranteed through 2022. There's also the common-sense reality which dictates that if Posey wasn't regarded as a college shortstop, he certainly wouldn't fit as a big league third baseman, though I'm sure that he's athletic enough to make some plays.

No doubt a significant reason for the Giants' success has been their manager. How long do you think before Bruce Bochy retires? His attendance at this year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony gets me thinking of his eventual enshrinement. And do you think it is inevitable?
-- Raymond S., Ashland, Ore.

Given the frequency with which Bochy is spoken of as a future Hall of Famer, his induction certainly seems like a sure thing. The nine other managers who have steered teams to at least three World Series titles all are enshrined at Cooperstown. There's no reason for Bochy to be an exception.

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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