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What are the Giants going to do about left field?

Trades, free agents, or nothing at all?

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Cueto is on the Giants. This is gonna take some getting used to. He wiggles and shimmies. He takes pictures of himself on horses. He's been excellent throughout his career except for his last 12 starts or so. And he's going to make a lot of money, most of which could have gone to a power-hitting left fielder.

If that option is gone, if the Giants just can't squeeze another $100 million contract into their budget, we have to figure out what they're going to do. There are options. Here are the categories:

Dodgers North

As in, this is the category where the Giants pretend they're the Dodgers, lighting their payroll on fire so they can snort the ashes. Justin Upton? Hey, sure. Alex Gordon? Well, if you're going all in, you might as well go all in.

Assume these guys will get something like a $22 million annual contract. Now check in with the Giants and the luxury tax, which uses the average annual value of a contract, plus the bonuses and benefits, for calculating purposes. The Giants' luxury tax salary calculation is right about $175 million, not including benefits. The cap is $189 million, which means the Giants are mighty, mighty close. Every time they bring up a player like Trevor Brown, that will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the total, and those transactions add up.

Long accounting short: The Giants are probably going over. Which means they'll have to pay a 30-percent penalty on any future contracts they hand out this offseason. Justin Upton isn't a $22 million player now; he's almost a $29 million player.

The Giants might have some money left in theory, but in practice, there's almost no way they'll get one of the premium left fielders. Doesn't seem like their style.

On the other hand, it's sure not my money.

The mid-tier free agent

This tier includes players like Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, and Gerardo Parra, all of whom should be available at a slightly unreasonable salary instead of an absurd one. Except if the Giants are likely to creep over the tax threshold already, all of the above applies to these three as well. Fowler isn't a $12 million outfielder -- he's almost a $16 million outfielder, at least for this year.

It's easier to envision than a whopper of a deal to someone like Cespedes, certainly. Still, it all depends on what the market dictates for that middle tier. The Giants know that the end of a contract for, say, Fowler will probably overpay him. That's how all free agent contracts work, but with the luxury tax, now you're indirectly overpaying him up front, too.

Another multi-year deal when the Giants are already close to the tax just doesn't seem likely, especially since it would increase the penalty for going over next season, too. They would have to really love the player, or his price would have to be a panicky January bargain.

On the other hand, it's sure not my money.

The in-house veteran

That is, Gregor Blanco. You might think that he's Angel Pagan insurance, and you're probably right. Don't forget, though, that Pagan had 551 plate appearances last year, and for most of the season he was leading the team. He might be indestructible, except for the destructible parts.

Bobby Evans mentioned Blanco by name on CSN Bay Area, also bringing up the idea that he might use some help. Really, the worst problem with Blanco is that we're too familiar with him. He had a .368 OBP last year, and he hit for more extra-base power than he ever had in his career, setting a career high in doubles despite getting the fewest plate appearances in any season since becoming a Giant.

Get someone like Marlon Byrd if needed, but Blanco isn't exactly Plan Z. He's been helping the Giants win in a quasi-full-time role for four seasons now.

On the other hand, it's sure not my money.

A trade

While the Giants shouldn't be wild about busting the luxury tax for an imperfect fit like Span or Parra, they wouldn't be so offended if they had to pay extra money for Carlos Gonzalez. That's a scenario in which it would make sense to bust the budget, especially since it doesn't come with an onerous long-term deal.

A smaller trade would be possible, too. Are the Brewers really using Khris Davis? Can we just have him? While the Giants would have to empty their prospect satchel to get Gonzalez, it shouldn't be too hard to replicate the Marlon Byrd deal from last year.

The kids

Mac Williamson sure looks like a starting outfielder. Not only does he have 20-homer potential, but he just might be a defensive asset, too. Remember how the Giants missed out on Pablo Sandoval, then realized that Matt Duffy was much better, much cheaper, and much younger? There's at least a slight chance that we'll be chuckling the same way next year about Alex Gordon and Williamson.

Remember when we wanted the Giants to pay millions and millions and millions for a Gold Glove corner outfielder when they already had one in the system. What was that about?

That's some premature wishful thinking, though. Williamson hit .249/.370/.439 in Triple-A his first season back from Tommy John, which isn't much better than a league-average hitter. He demolished the Arizona Fall League, so there were positives, but it's not like the Giants are going to hand him the job and nap for the rest of the offseason.

The Legend of Jarrett Parker was glorious to watch last year, but when he wasn't hitting dingers, he was striking out 40 percent of the time. And he's probably not going to have a .755 slugging percentage with regular time, just a hunch. As a part-time starter and power bench bat, he'll probably be on the roster. As a full-time solution, even in a platoon, I'm more optimistic about Williamson. I know the game is changing, but the only reason Parker can't threaten 200 strikeouts in the PCL is because they don't play 162 games. Guys who strike out that much while still being successful in the majors are the exception, not the rule.

My guess: It will be Blanco and a platoon-mate, possibly Williamson. While I'm secretly harboring greedy thoughts about Dexter Fowler, trusting in Blanco seems like the pragmatic move for an organization that just took an unpragmatic risk with their payroll. As a strategy, it would be annoying if it came with an Ian Kennedy or Yovani Gallardo signing. Considering the upside of Cueto -- the risky, risky upside -- the Giants' lineup is already good enough to win.

(Still thinking about Fowler or Gonzalez, though, don't mind me.)