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Inbox: Is Gorkys the Giants' 4th outfielder?

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

Who is the backup in center field when Denard Span needs a day off? It seems to me that not only is left field a question mark but so is the fourth outfield spot. I hope that the current guys on the roster are up to the task, but other than Gorkys Hernandez, none of them have center field experience. What do you see as the solution?
-- Chris K., Darmstadt, Germany

I believe you answered your own question. Right now, Hernandez appears to be the leading candidate to claim not only the backup center fielder's role but also the fourth outfielder's spot (they're kind of one and the same, right?). Hernandez, 29, has made 51 career appearances in center, starting 42, for the Pirates, Marlins and Giants while dividing his time between Triple-A and the Majors since 2012. He has not been charged with an error in 84 big league games.

Who is the backup in center field when Denard Span needs a day off? It seems to me that not only is left field a question mark but so is the fourth outfield spot. I hope that the current guys on the roster are up to the task, but other than Gorkys Hernandez, none of them have center field experience. What do you see as the solution?
-- Chris K., Darmstadt, Germany

I believe you answered your own question. Right now, Hernandez appears to be the leading candidate to claim not only the backup center fielder's role but also the fourth outfielder's spot (they're kind of one and the same, right?). Hernandez, 29, has made 51 career appearances in center, starting 42, for the Pirates, Marlins and Giants while dividing his time between Triple-A and the Majors since 2012. He has not been charged with an error in 84 big league games.

Hernandez looked competent during his 22-game stint with the Giants last year. I still wouldn't be completely surprised if the Giants were to re-sign Gregor Blanco, who's a free agent after effectively filling the fourth outfielder's role during the previous five seasons. Chances are, though, that he won't be back.

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I don't understand why we can't rent Chris Carter and his horrible batting average -- and 40 home runs -- for a year, maybe two, for $8 million to $10 million average annual value. Move Brandon Belt to left field. Yes, I know Belt is really, really good at first base, and, yes, we need to find out what Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker can do. But, please, that's 35 to 40 homers for $8 million! Discuss.
-- Aayush G., London

Your idea is a creative one. However, it's well-known that the Giants place utmost importance on defense, due largely to the necessities of playing home games at AT&T Park. Your proposed sequence of moves would weaken the lineup at two positions. And that salary you mentioned, albeit reasonable, would be exorbitant for the Giants, who are projected to exceed the $195 million competitive balance tax limit.

Conceivably, Carter's presence would "lengthen" the batting order, and he has improved defensively in recent seasons, according to some modern metrics. But he's also averaging .219 and 188 strikeouts annually from 2013-16. He'd have to do more than hit 33 home runs -- his average for the aforementioned span -- to pay off for the Giants.

I was curious, as I'm sure many Giants fans are, about Mark Melancon's contract and how it affects the 2017 payroll. Why are the Giants bordering the payroll limit of $195 million by signing one player with such an unusual contract, regarding how his signing bonus is spread out as well as his yearly pay?
-- Kevin M., Riverside, Calif.

Giants management didn't explicitly say so, but they'll be thrilled if Melancon merely approaches the statistics he compiled in the previous few seasons. Consider once again how poorly San Francisco's relievers performed last year. They blew a franchise-record 30 saves, lost nine games in which they led entering the ninth inning and dropped six games after leading by four or more runs. Given all that, the Giants were happy to sign Melancon to his four-year, $62 million deal. Yes, it strains the payroll, but the Giants were willing to spend top dollar to obtain a legitimate closer.

Video: Melancon on Vogelsong's recruiting efforts

Is there a possibility of Kelby Tomlinson starting in left field at all? He seems to have a good enough arm and was a great bat for the Giants.
-- Freddy W., San Francisco

You may recall that the Giants considered trying Tomlinson in the outfield following the 2015 season. Though he's athletic enough to play any position, the Giants deemed him too valuable as a spare infielder to try him elsewhere.

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.

San Francisco Giants, Gorkys Hernandez