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Inbox: Do Giants consider Cueto a trade chip?

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

Can the Giants get anything of value for Johnny Cueto? I think he's a fabulous pitcher, but at this point, the team might be better off including him in a trade to bring more young and talented players into the organization.
-- Rick H., San Francisco

Two factors limit Cueto's trade value. One is his contract, which is not only expensive but also risky. It's not just that Cueto's scheduled to earn $21 million a year through 2021. That opt-out clause, which allows Cueto to declare free agency after this season, creates the risk that any team acquiring him will be stuck with a "rental" who's good only through October. But here's something else to consider: If Cueto's record and ERA remain under .500 and over 4.00, respectively, can he really expect to command more than $21 million a year, even on the crazy open market? Staying with the Giants might be his best career move.

Can the Giants get anything of value for Johnny Cueto? I think he's a fabulous pitcher, but at this point, the team might be better off including him in a trade to bring more young and talented players into the organization.
-- Rick H., San Francisco

Two factors limit Cueto's trade value. One is his contract, which is not only expensive but also risky. It's not just that Cueto's scheduled to earn $21 million a year through 2021. That opt-out clause, which allows Cueto to declare free agency after this season, creates the risk that any team acquiring him will be stuck with a "rental" who's good only through October. But here's something else to consider: If Cueto's record and ERA remain under .500 and over 4.00, respectively, can he really expect to command more than $21 million a year, even on the crazy open market? Staying with the Giants might be his best career move.

The other factor which could work against Cueto is his health -- specifically, the blisters and tenderness in his fingers which have muted his effectiveness this season. If he were duplicating last year's dominance, the Giants probably would receive attractive offers for him -- blisters, contract and all.

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Finally, what constitutes an acceptable offer? As an example, the Cubs sent four Minor Leaguers, including two leading prospects, to the White Sox for their ace, Jose Quintana. The Cubs obviously believed in Quintana's ability; given the package they sent across town, Quintana's record at the time of the trade (4-8, 4.49 ERA in 18 starts) wasn't much of a factor. More importantly, Quintana has a club-friendly contract that will allow the Cubs to keep him through 2020 if they exercise the pair of one-year options at the end of the deal. Compared to Quintana's contract, Cueto's is much more of a hindrance. Therefore, the Giants probably would be fortunate to get one remotely Major League-ready performer for Cueto, along with one or two lower-level prospects if the other team feels generous.

Video: PIT@SF: Belt gives Giants the lead with an RBI double

Why does everyone jump on Brandon Belt so fast? When he is doing great things, his critics never open their mouths. He has helped the Giants win games, National League championships and World Series. Haters say he can't hit a fastball. He would not be where he is if he could not hit a fastball.
-- Steve B., Groveton, Tex.

Belt might be as polarizing as Dave Kingman, who broke into the Majors with San Francisco and compiled a slash line of .224/.304/.469 with 422 strikeouts in 1,403 plate appearances from 1971-74. Many expected Kingman to be a star, and they couldn't understand his inconsistency.

Enough front-office officials saw enough potential in Belt to guarantee him $72.8 million through 2021 in the contract extension he received last year. Belt's detractors, however, are frustrated by his perceived struggles in the clutch (career slash line with runners in scoring position: .265/.372/.449, which isn't so bad).

Against fastballs, according to Statcast™ research, Belt has underperformed by some standards. But not all. When facing four-seam fastballs, his annual batting average and slugging percentage have been recorded, respectively, at .222/.407 (2011), .303/.492 ('12), .302/.541 ('13), .246/.435 ('14), .269/.456 ('15), .238/.417 ('16) and .235/.485 ('17).

Belt's corresponding figures against all fastballs, not just four-seamers: .235/.426 (2011), .306/.446 ('12), .317/.540 ('13), .248/.434 ('14), .314/.512 ('15), .305/.526 ('16) and .248/.482 ('17).

Draw your own conclusions.

Video: SF@PIT: Slater lays out, makes great backhanded snag

As someone who remembers all the great outfielders to wear the Giants uniform, starting with Willie Mays, it pains me to see the lack of production that now seems to be the norm. Are there three outfielders in the farm system who can move up in the near future and reverse this terrible trend?
-- Gerald L., Columbus, Ind.

The Giants lack "can't-miss" outfield prospects, with the possible exception of Heliot Ramos, this year's No. 1 Draft choice who's currently thriving in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Ramos already ranks No. 4 on the organization's list of prospects compiled by MLBPipeline.com. However, Ramos is only 17, so he'll probably need at least three more years of Minor League seasoning before he's ready to advance to AT&T Park.

Hope also exists elsewhere. Austin Slater (No. 6) showed ample promise, batting .290 in 29 games with the Giants before he sustained the groin injury that could sideline him for the rest of this season. He'll probably compete for an everyday job next spring.

Switch-hitter Bryan Reynolds (No. 5) has been hitting over .300 at Class A Advanced San Jose, and he should soon be ready for greater challenges. Steven Duggar (No. 7) has plenty of room for development, but he nevertheless impressed observers during his first visit to big league camp last spring. Giants talent evaluators are still trying to decide whether Chris Shaw (No. 2), the organization's top power-hitting prospect, belongs at first base or left field.

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