Giants

Bruce Bochy's early Giants rest days lead to surprising lineup vs. Padres

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AP

Bruce Bochy's early Giants rest days lead to surprising lineup vs. Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants backup catcher Erik Kratz has plenty of experience as a Position Player Pitching, but Bruce Bochy said Friday that Pablo Sandoval is still his first choice for the role. 

So some things haven't changed. But the lineup certainly did Friday, and it came as a bit of a shock. Here's the group for the second game of the season:

Michael Reed RF (picked up a week ago)
Buster Posey 1B (not catching after just one day)
Yangervis Solarte 2B (no Panik after just one day)
Evan Longoria 3B (this is normal)
Brandon Crawford SS (ditto)
Connor Joe LF (picked up eight days ago)
Duggar CF (nothing strange here)
Kratz C (picked up last weekend)
Holland LHP (nothing strange, except some of the t-shirts)

Bochy said we'll probably see a bit more experimenting this year.

"You'll see us mix it up pretty good," he said. "We have some versatility with some guys."

The most jarring part of the lineup was not the newcomers, but the fact that Brandon Belt -- probably this team's best hitter -- sat on Night 2, and Joe Panik -- the hottest hitter all spring -- did as well. Bochy said the plan was to give all of his regulars a day off during this four-game series. The Giants have seven straight to start the year. 

[RELATED: Giants prospect Shaw gets surprise assignment in minors]

So, it should be more normal Saturday and Sunday, although Kratz will get another start. Posey will catch Saturday and then get a day off Sunday. That's the one area really worth watching, as the Giants are going to be pretty cautious with their catcher early on.

That will mean more starts at first, but it doesn't sound like Belt-to-left is likely in April. He didn't play out there in the spring. 

"Usually we check that box off," Bochy said. "We could do that this year and I would be okay with it. He'll tell you what a great athlete he is. I would have no problem putting him out there."

If the Giants get shut down again, perhaps that's one option they'll reevaluate. 

Farhan Zaidi explains Giants' mindset going into 2019 MLB free agency

Farhan Zaidi explains Giants' mindset going into 2019 MLB free agency

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a history when it comes to MLB free agency: He isn't one for giant contracts. 

Go back to his time as the Dodgers' general manager and Zaidi wasn't even sniffing a $100 million contract. Entering his second season running the Giants front office, and with a general manager in place, what is his mindset this go around in free agency? 

"We certainly have financial flexibility," Zaidi told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on the "TK Show." "We've made some moves to ensure that. There's different ways to spend that money. We can take on contracts from other teams with some young talent attached to it, which I think probably fits the mold of where we are. We can be active in the free agent market to the extent that there are matches that make sense to us." 

Those comments don't place a ton of confidence in the Giants pursuing a top free agent like pitcher Gerrit Cole or third baseman Anthony Rendon. San Francisco's top needs this offseason are shoring up the bullpen, adding a powerful outfielder and finding platoon bats around the infield. It sounds like those will come in short-term contracts. 

Having financial flexibility certainly doesn't mean open pockets that extend to the floor. Zaidi noted that the Giants have flexibility going into the 2020 season, but he has to look much further down the line. 

Prior to Zaidi's arrival in San Francisco, the Giants locked up declining players like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt to long-term contracts. That certainly is beginning to backfire. 

"We need to be careful given our recent history about creating too many long-term commitments that can get us back in the jam that we very recently put ourselves in," Zaidi explained. 

[RELATED: Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in new closer chase]

Then again, these quotes are from the same guy who offered Bryce Harper a 12-year, $310 million contract last offseason. Was that a one-time thing?

Maybe, maybe not.

"I think that demonstrates if things line up and make sense from a baseball standpoint and an organizational standpoint, that we'll have organizational support to do it," Zaidi said. 

It's clear Zaidi knows the Giants still are in a rebuilding phase with a farm system on the rise. They found talent last year and will continue to do so this year, just don't expect them to break the bank.

Farhan Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in pursuit of new closer

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AP

Farhan Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in pursuit of new closer

The Giants lost an All-Star early in free agency when closer Will Smith signed with his hometown Atlanta Braves last week.

Smith's departure left a clear void in San Francisco's bullpen, as he tied for fifth in MLB with a career-high 31 saves in 2019. Replacing Smith is a clear priority for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, but he told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Tuesday that he is in no rush to name a new closer.

"We've got some time to figure that out," Zaidi said on "The TK Show" podcast. "I don't think we need to decide that before Thanksgiving here, but one of the benefits for us of having made some of the trades we made at the deadline is it gave us the opportunity to see some of the younger relievers in our organization. Guys like Tyler Rogers, Jandel Gustave and Sam Coonrod. [These are guys] that could work their way into the picture and work their way into late-inning [situations] in 2020."

Rogers, Gustave and Coonrod were bright spots as rookies last season. None of the trio pitched more than 30 innings, but each showed potential pitching out of the bullpen in August and September. Rogers pitched the fewest innings of the three (17 2/3), but was worth nearly a win above replacement in his appearances, according to Baseball Reference's metrics.

[RELATED: Former Giants hitting coach Powell takes job in Japan]

No matter which of the three emerges, the Giants are going to have a different look in the late innings next season. That could include a free-agent acquisition as well, according to Zaidi.

"Our closer may be in the organization right now," Zaidi continued. "We're going to continue to shop around and see what options are out there, but we at least like the depth that we have in our group of relievers."