Giants Mailbag: What is Joey Bart's ETA; Could Kevin Pillar return?

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While the Bay Area focuses on Jimmy Garoppolo, the Giants quietly are sneaking up on Gabe Kapler's first season. They're a month out from FanFest, and pitchers and catchers will report Feb. 11 with position players coming in five days later. 

Before you know it, we'll have video of Buster Posey playing catch with Joey Bart, or Brandon Crawford and Mauricio Dubon taking turns fielding grounders from new bench coach Kai Correa. We'll have a lot of answers to our questions, too, but for now, there still are mostly just question marks. I took a few from Instagram followers and tried to provide some direction in the latest installment of our Giants Mailbag.

"What are the possibilities the Giants will re-sign Kevin Pillar?" -- pollycharmsjewelry (and a few others)

That ship has sailed. The Giants are going to give their unproven outfielders a chance to break through, which could mean a lot of time for Mike Yastrzemski in center field as a Jaylin Davis or Chris Shaw or Austin Slater gets consistent time in the lineup. They've also told Mauricio Dubon to get ready for some outfield work. 

Pillar is still out there, though. It seems likely he'll come in well below the $9.7 million he was projected to earn in arbitration. 

"What big contract do you think would benefit the Giants to trade away?" -- rioscristian15

This isn't a knock on the player at all, because Evan Longoria was one of the more valuable Giants last year and figures to be so again this year. But his contract runs through 2022 and he turned 34 in October, so that's a deal Farhan Zaidi probably wouldn't mind getting out from under. 

"Is it likely the Giants will get Castellanos or Ozuna this offseason? Or a big name player?" -- bennybaldy 

Quite a few asked about Nicholas Castellanos, and there's been nothing new there for a couple of weeks. Ozuna reportedly is choosing between the Cardinals and Rangers, and if he returns to St. Louis there's probably a good chance that the Rangers -- who need a right-handed bat -- pivot to Castellanos. 

The only real significant player remaining is Josh Donaldson and the Giants aren't in on him. At this point, it's hard to bet on them adding a "big name." 

"Will Aramis Garcia get the backup catcher spot?" -- haileyllanez 

He probably enters camp as the favorite, although the Giants are intrigued by Tyler Heineman, who was added this week as a non-roster invitee. Right now, one of those guys is probably your backup catcher, with the caveat that the Giants are likely to add one more person to the competition before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 11. 

[RELATED: What you need to know about Giants' non-roster invitees]

"What are the bullpen roles up for grabs in Spring Training?" -- jacksonirwin_

Just about all of them, really. Tony Watson will be in the bullpen and Trevor Gott will be if healthy, but the Giants dealt Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Drew Pomeranz at the deadline and lost Will Smith in free agency, so they have a lot of relief innings to fill. 

Shaun Anderson might be the closer, but would it really shock you to see the Giants start him back in Triple-A? I don't think any young pitcher can feel like he's guaranteed a spot right now. Sam Coonrod and Tyler Rogers pitched well last year, but if you have options, that'll work against you. I actually think Andrew Suarez is in a pretty good spot as a lefty with the weapons to get past the three-batter minimum, but he also has options remaining. 

The Giants will throw a couple dozen relief pitchers out there in spring training and see what shakes out. It really is a pretty open competition. 

"Who do you think will be the opening day starter?" -- _kevinstone

I don't think Jeff Samardzija got the credit he deserved for his bounce-back year, and he's certainly a candidate, but my guess is Johnny Cueto. If he's back to 100 percent, he's the closest thing the Giants have to an ace, and it would serve them well to re-establish him as one. Might as well try to rebuild his trade value from Day 1. (That's one we haven't talked about much. There were some teams sniffing around even as Cueto rehabbed, so if he's back to his old form, there will be plenty of interest in July.) 

Plus, the Giants open at Dodger Stadium. Cueto is their best bet for going in there and beating Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler and getting the season off to a nice start. 

"How long until Bart gets the shot at starting catcher?" -- chids316

That's up to Buster Posey as much as it's up to Bart. The Giants are cautiously optimistic that Posey's numbers will rebound as he gets further from hip surgery, and if that's the case he's still an All-Star catcher. In a perfect world, Posey will bounce back and Bart will tear up Triple-A, and the Giants can figure out how to play them both together. I don't think you'll see much of Posey at first, but they've talked about Bart getting experience at another position at some point, and it really shouldn't be too hard to figure out a timeshare at catcher.  

In a general sense, I think fans should put less of an emphasis on "the starter" under Kapler. He wants versatility and wants to exploit every matchup, so you'll probably see some of the everyday players give way to pinch-hitters a bit more. 

"What coach on the Giants is a native Spanish speaker?" -- hellokittysf22

Nick Ortiz, hired earlier this week as Quality Assurance Coach, is the native Spanish speaker on staff. That was something that Kapler made a priority as he filled out the final two spots, and they were really excited to add Ortiz. 

The perception has been that a lot of these guys are inexperienced, but some of them just have different types of experience. Ortiz, for instance, has just four years as a coach, but he played 15 seasons of minor league ball and 16 years in Winter Ball. That's a lot of baseball. 

"Do you know why Ramos isn't a spring training invitee or part of the rookie program?" -- nuch0lasmarquez

I was a little surprised that Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop weren't on the non-roster invitee list, but ultimately I don't think it will matter for either in 2020. Most prospects are sent out to minor league camp within the first couple rounds of cuts, but guys go back and forth once the games start. Ramos got into three Cactus League games last year and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him come over for 15-20 scattered at-bats. 

"Does the renovation to the minor league facility include a taco bar?" -- erniepomin

This is important and I will volunteer myself to do the research. If you missed it yesterday, here's my story on the facility that the Giants are spending more than $50 million on. Quite frankly, their current facility is embarrassing compared to what teams like the Cubs, Rockies and Diamondbacks are working with, so this is going to be a huge deal.

"Could a package of a prospect and Samardzija for Kris Bryant and a bad Cubs contract work?" -- dukejr9413

Nah, not close, and the Giants aren't dealing any of their prospects, anyway. Even someone like Bryant is a free agent after 2021 (assuming he loses his grievance) and the Giants aren't going to give away their top prospects for someone who won't be around long-term. 

They really shouldn't do that, either. The plan is to build from within, and perhaps in 20 months we'll look up and see a lineup with Bart and Ramos and Dubon and Bishop and Luciano, and the Giants can then go out and use their money -- which they still have a ton of -- on someone like Bryant to accelerate the rebuild. Or maybe this season will include enough encouraging signs that Mookie Betts is handed the money that was supposed to go to Bryce Harper? Those options might sound unrealistic, but they're more likely than trading from an improved system. 

I do like the last part of that question, though. The Giants took advantage of the desperate Angels to get Will Wilson and Zaidi indicated at the time that another such move might be coming. It's been remarkably quiet since that deal, but the Cubs and Red Sox are still eager to shed salary. You can bet Zaidi and Scott Harris are still keeping a close eye on those two organizations. 

"Will this be the year you try a Dodger Dog?" -- willhan92


Giants Mailbag: What is Joey Bart's ETA; Could Kevin Pillar return? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area