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Inbox: How much will Pence play in '18?

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Would the Giants consider having Hunter Pence as a fourth outfielder with only one year left on his expensive contract if they can obtain better options through free agency or trade?
-- Mike F., Oakley, Calif.

Pence will remain welcome in a Giants uniform no matter what happens. His diligence and positive attitude have enabled him to build a reserve of good will -- and, perhaps more importantly, respect -- within the organization. This should guarantee him a certain amount of playing time. True, his $18.5 million salary is cumbersome. But the Giants saw fit to use Aaron Rowand in 106 games in 2011 while he earned $13.6 million, so they've been through this before.

Would the Giants consider having Hunter Pence as a fourth outfielder with only one year left on his expensive contract if they can obtain better options through free agency or trade?
-- Mike F., Oakley, Calif.

Pence will remain welcome in a Giants uniform no matter what happens. His diligence and positive attitude have enabled him to build a reserve of good will -- and, perhaps more importantly, respect -- within the organization. This should guarantee him a certain amount of playing time. True, his $18.5 million salary is cumbersome. But the Giants saw fit to use Aaron Rowand in 106 games in 2011 while he earned $13.6 million, so they've been through this before.

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No matter how the Giants might upgrade their outfield, the holdovers out there -- namely, Pence and Denard Span -- will be challenged to earn playing time. The acquisition of a rangy, offensively capable center fielder would push Span to left field, where he'll find Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater ready to compete for some sort of role. Adding a power-hitting corner outfielder would affect Pence's activity either directly, if the new guy's a right fielder, or indirectly, if the new man plays left and Slater, Parker, Williamson, etc. spend more time migrating to right in search of opportunity. And don't forget about Chris Shaw (please see below).

How good defensively is Chris Shaw at first base? If he is as good at first as Brandon Belt, why not play Belt in left field? Belt plays a decent left field.
-- Armando H., Sacramento

Belt also plays a decent first base. He possesses Gold Glove-level defensive skill at that position. Regarding Belt, the Giants' first priority is to determine his susceptibility to concussions. Most written accounts of Shaw's defense suggest that his best position is as a hitter. However, he must be given a chance to prove himself whether it's at first base or left field, which he's currently learning in the Arizona Fall League.

Video: Shaw on getting a chance in the Fall League

Why do most write-ups about the Giants' future ignore Austin Slater? Time to put Hunter Pence out to pasture and insert this young, good-hitting outfielder in right.
-- Alan R., Peoria, Ariz.

I've already weighed in on Pence. Slater indeed deserves a chance to capture a significant role. He might have done so already if it weren't for the groin and abdominal injuries he endured. It's easy to project Slater batting .290 or higher if he can stay off the disabled list.

Do you think that adding a true slugger to the Giants' lineup like J.D. Martinez or possibly Marcell Ozuna would create a threat that improves Belt's and Buster Posey's power potential?
-- Matt C., Orlando, Fla.

Indeed, the potential ripple effect of adding a big bat to the Giants' lineup is as good of a reason as any to obtain a slugger. Anything that "lengthens the lineup" will make Posey, Belt and every other Giant a more effective hitter. Remember, offensive upgrades accompanied each of their World Series triumphs, particularly the in-season improvements in 2010 (Posey, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross) and 2012 (Pence, Marco Scutaro).

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, Hunter Pence