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Inbox: Cueto to be used as Deadline chip?

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

What big changes do you see for the Giants at the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
-- Mike L., Tucson, Ariz.

Johnny Cueto will be the subject of much trade speculation, largely due to the opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise after this season. The Giants probably won't want to risk receiving nothing in return but a compensatory pick in next year's Draft if Cueto chooses free agency and signs with another team. However, that opt-out clause presents a two-fold problem for the Giants: It forces them to explore trading him in the first place, though he can continue to bolster the starting rotation; and it also reduces his trade value, since it essentially makes him a "rental." The Giants must hope that a bidding war will develop among contending clubs needing pitching help. If that happens, San Francisco might be able to obtain a decent Minor League prospect for Cueto.

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What big changes do you see for the Giants at the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
-- Mike L., Tucson, Ariz.

Johnny Cueto will be the subject of much trade speculation, largely due to the opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise after this season. The Giants probably won't want to risk receiving nothing in return but a compensatory pick in next year's Draft if Cueto chooses free agency and signs with another team. However, that opt-out clause presents a two-fold problem for the Giants: It forces them to explore trading him in the first place, though he can continue to bolster the starting rotation; and it also reduces his trade value, since it essentially makes him a "rental." The Giants must hope that a bidding war will develop among contending clubs needing pitching help. If that happens, San Francisco might be able to obtain a decent Minor League prospect for Cueto.

View Full Game Coverage

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Also, consider this: Cueto hasn't created a fruitful market for himself by compiling a 5-7 record and a 4.42 ERA. Before he opts out, he must determine whether returning to free agency can enable him to top the $21 million that he's guaranteed annually from 2018-21.

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija also could attract attention from pitching-hungry teams. He's set to earn $18 million per year through 2020, so the Giants might have to pay a portion of his salary. Samardzija's contract also offers him some protection, since he can select eight clubs to which he would permit a trade.

I realize the Giants have brought up some terrific players the past few years. But it seems to me that organizations such as the Dodgers and Red Sox are doing a better job, especially internationally. The Giants used to develop the best Latin players but not now. Your thoughts?
-- Neil H., East Windsor, N.J.

If anything, the Giants are more conscious than ever about player development. They won those three World Series with significant contributions from homegrown players, so they understand the need to keep the pipeline going. They recently haven't fared so well in this endeavor. The average age of the players on their Opening Day roster -- 29.8 years, third oldest in the Majors -- reflects their struggles to replenish the team with fresh talent. But 2014 draftee Austin Slater is receiving his opportunity to fill the left-field void. And plenty of hope remains for prospects such as infielder Christian Arroyo, infielder/outfielder Ryder Jones and right-hander Tyler Beede.

Regarding the international market, the era of Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and the Alou brothers has long passed. Signing prospective sluggers such as Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez within the past decade didn't work. The Giants hope that their state-of-the-art baseball academy which opened last year in the Dominican Republic can help them accelerate their efforts to recruit top Latin American ballplayers.

Any chance the Giants work out a contract extension with Hunter Pence or re-sign him? I know his health has been an issue, but he is better than average. And the entire outfield will be in question soon.
-- Chris K., Hesperia, Calif.

Pence indeed has commanded enduring respect with his skills and leadership. But his WAR has dwindled dramatically over the last few years. So has his health. That ominous combination doesn't lend itself to a possible deal between the Giants and Pence beyond next year, when he's still owed $18.5 million in the final year of his contract. You may have noticed that, entering Tuesday, the Giants were on pace to lose a franchise-record 103 games. They'll want to head in a new direction, and I doubt that will include keeping Pence longer than necessary.

During general manager Bobby Evans' tenure, he has done nothing to fill major gaps such as left field, third base and middle relief. How long does Brian Sabean ride this ineffiency?
-- Anthony Z., New York

Evans must not be labeled as a scapegoat for the Giants' collapse. Most major roster decisions, such as the basic course of action to follow in the areas you mentioned, involve the entire hierarchy -- including Sabean, the head of baseball operations, and Larry Baer, the club's president and CEO. And I would think that the players have some role in creating this mess.

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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