Giants

2019 Giants Position Preview: Question marks behind Buster Posey

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2019 Giants Position Preview: Question marks behind Buster Posey

SAN FRANCISCO — In two weeks, the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium will be humming again. 

Pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on Feb. 13, and soon after that they’ll be joined by position players. Three years ago, all eyes were on Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as they threw their first bullpen sessions, with the laid-back Cueto stunning observers by essentially playing a game of catch. A year after that, Mark Melancon was the headliner. Last spring, the cameras gathered to see what Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria looked like in orange and black. 

This time around? Well, it should be a bit quieter. 

The Giants have had a slow offseason — joining much of the league — but there’s a season to be played, and nothing brings optimism like that first full-squad workout. 

Before the players take the field, let’s take a look at how they stack up, position-by-position. We’ll start with the catchers, of course, because this is still Buster Posey’s team … 

Returning: Buster Posey, Aramis Garcia.

Posey is coming off serious season-ending hip surgery, but he has been on track throughout the rehab process and the Giants have no reason to believe he won’t be there on Opening Day. They’ll take it easy on him early in camp, and Posey will not see much action down in Scottsdale, but that won’t matter; he got just 34 at-bats last spring and 26 the year before. The Giants expect Posey in the squat 110-120 times, and some of his power should return now that his legs are back under him. 

Garcia is the wild card here — unless the Giants sign another veteran. The 26-year-old had a .800 OPS in a September cameo, hit four homers, and held his own when moved to first base. He also struck out in nearly half his at-bats, and the big league production doesn’t match some of his minor league track record. Zaidi likes versatility and has pushed young players in the past, so it’s possible Garcia gets a shot from the start this time around. 

The departed: Nick Hundley.

Posey’s backup for two years, Hundley is still looking for a job. He hit lefties at a .280/.320/.508 rate last season, so in theory he should be a nice fit for Zaidi’s platoon preferences. But that’s a bit harder to do when your starter is Posey, and Hundley has never played another position, which hurts his cause. Still, he’s an excellent clubhouse presence who could still return. 

I should mention here that Hector Sanchez, a longtime member of the spring catching group, recently signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. I will miss watching Sanchez take grounders at second base on a random March morning. 

Free agent additions

The Giants have added catchers to the system, but none were immediately put on the 40-man roster. 

Non-roster invitees: Joey Bart, Hamlet Marte, Cameron Rupp.

Bart, last year’s first-rounder, is the big name here, but Rupp may be the most interesting this season. He was signed to provide depth for an organization that doesn’t have any at the upper levels of the minors, but he also has more than 1,100 big league plate appearances and currently stands as Garcia’s biggest competition for the backup job. Rupp didn’t play in the big leagues in 2018 but hit 30 combined homers the previous two seasons in Philadelphia. He has a .879 OPS against lefties in his career. 

Marte, 24, spent last season in the Dodgers’ system, like many new Giants. He has a .275/.341/.443 slash line in eight minor league seasons. For now, he’s viewed as a depth piece for the upper levels of the minors, where the Giants have lost several catchers, including Sanchez and Trevor Brown. 

Bart may be the story of camp, although he is destined to begin his season with High-A San Jose. The second overall pick in last year’s draft, Bart is considered the best catching prospect in the minors and could — with a huge season — earn a September call-up. For now, he’s in camp to spend every second he can learning from Posey and catch a few bullpens with Madison Bumgarner and other big-name vets. Bumgarner always lines up with the young catchers at least once, and you can bet that’ll be one of the highlights of the first week of camp. 

This will be a learning experience for Bart, but also a showcase. With Posey sidelined and not much else in the way of depth, he could get some at-bats against big league pitching before being sent to the minors.

Outlook

The Giants have had all sorts of different looks when their catchers gather in early February. For years, Posey was surrounded by intriguing prospects. In 2017 and 2018, it was clear that the tandem of Posey and Hundley was set from the moment the Giants started playing catch at Scottsdale Stadium. Barring a late addition, it looks like there will be a real competition for the backup spot, but that’s not the story here. 

Posey’s health is, and every move me makes will be scrutinized. The Giants don’t look like a contender, but they hope they may surprise some people. That all goes out the window if Posey has a setback of any kind.

Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

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Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

The outrage continues in Tinseltown.

As the fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal continues, many have called into question the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, a thrilling seven-game series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With the championship appearing to be tainted by Houston’s systematic tracking of pitching signals, the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a resolution last week urging Major League Baseball to rescind the victory from the Astros and award it to the runner-up Dodgers. The resolution also included the 2018 World Series, which the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in five games. Boston remains under investigation for similar allegations.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pushed back on the idea, pointing to the MLB’s history with not altering the past.

“Whatever the impact of the sign stealing was, it could have changed who was in the World Series,” Manfred said earlier this week on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria." “It’s absolutely unclear that the Dodgers would have been the World Series champion. I think there's a long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened. I think the answer from our perspective is to be transparent about what the investigation showed and let our fans make their own decision about what happened.”

Followers of the Giants’ archrival definitely made up their own minds, as they flocked to Dodgers FanFest on Saturday.

Pantone 294, one of the Dodgers’ fan groups, also has organized an outing to the Los Angeles Angels’ home opener against the Astros. The group’s website wants LA fans to flock to Anaheim and “support the team that's playing the game we all know and love the right way!”

Even if by Manfred pulled a complete 180 and decided to not only take away championships from both Houston and Boston, but award them to the Dodgers, they’d still have fewer rings than the Giants have won over the past 30 years.

Nothing got the fans in LA more fired up than watching the Giants bring home three World Series titles over a five-year stretch, firmly cementing them as the NL West's team of the decade.

We all know this isn’t emblematic of every Dodgers fan, as many have voiced their opinion that being awarded two championships doesn't mean anything after the fact, especially when everyone watched them get obliterated by the Red Sox in five games and only score one run in Game 7 against the Astros in 2017.

No matter how many signs might have been stolen, only scoring one run in a World Series game isn't going to get you a win in almost every situation.

Some players, including third baseman Justin Turner, made it clear they aren't interested in receiving a ring that doesn't feel earned.

Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling, however, is cheering on fans choosing to waste their time and money heckling Houston.

“I like it,” Stripling said (h/t Los Angeles Times). “The Dodger fans are fired up. If they want to do their part, and they think that is what it is, then kudos to them. Go do it.

“I know that they’re passionate, and they wanted a championship as much as we did. Obviously, they have still got some fire in their belly to go fight for us.”

[RELATED: Mailbag: Will Beede, Webb be with Giants come Opening Day?]

While the official punishments likely are over for the Astros, it appears they still will be living rent-free in many Dodger fans’ heads all season long.

Meanwhile, Giants fans can sit back and enjoy three, controversy-free World Series trophies residing inside Oracle Park.

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

A little over a year after he was fired, former Giants general manager Bobby Evans could land on his feet.

Evans interviewed for the open Houston Astros general manager position, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday, citing sources.

Evans spent four seasons as the general manager of the Giants before being reassigned within the organization at the end of the 2018 season. Including the 2019 season, Evans has spent the last 26 seasons in San Francisco.

The Astros are in need of a new GM and manager after Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired in the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball in recent weeks.

Houston is tainted at the moment, but Evans would be inheriting a roster that still possesses the talent to compete for a World Series, with or without trash cans.

While serving as assistant general manager for the Giants, Evans helped lead to the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But his tenure as GM wasn't as successful. A lot of the moves Evans made, including the signings of Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, didn't lead to the desired results.

[RELATED: Evans' dismissal hard on Giants players]

With Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris at the helm of the Giants, it makes sense for Evans to consider outside opportunities, even if the Astros are the black eye of baseball.

Both Evans and the Astros need second chances, so this could be the perfect marriage if the two sides can come to an agreement.