The name of the game this season for the Giants was "versatility." It was the buzzword heard 'round San Francisco, and really felt like the goal ever since Farhan Zaidi took over as the president of baseball operations ahead of the 2019 season.
Perhaps not anymore.
The Giants finished fifth in the majors in hits and eighth in runs. They also had the sixth-most errors per game this season at 0.70. Zaidi believes that might have to do with players jumping between different positions. He also used Donovan Solano as a prime example.
"I look at Donovan Solano, who has been a very solid defender his entire career, and I would have pinpointed where I think things went backwards a little was when we put him over at third base," Zaidi said Friday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show.
Over his seven-year big league career, Solano has a .986 career fielding percentage. This season, however, that dropped to a lowly .932. He had a .951 fielding percentage at second base and committed seven errors in 343 2/3 innings. Solano was much worse at third base. At the hot corner, he committed four errors in just 42 innings and had a .692 fielding percentage.
With injuries to Evan Longoria early in the season, both Solano and Wilmer Flores had to play third base. Flores had two errors and a .778 fielding percentage in three games there. He didn't commit a single error while playing 112 innings at second base.
"I think getting a better sense of our guys, where they're comfortable and where they can keep their defensive rhythm -- I think as the season went along we knew it wasn't viable to put those guys over there and mess up their rhythm," Zaidi said. "You saw Wilmer Flores play a really good second base later in the season, whereas with Solano, I do think going over there (third base) affected him.
"I think having more defined roles and maybe not exposing guys to areas where they're left comfortable with, that is going to be important for us."
Flores' power wasn't the only reason he received the first multi-year contract since Zaidi joined the Giants. His ability to play multiple positions certainly helped his case. So, does Zaidi want less defensive versatility going forward?
It might not be that simple.
Mauricio Dubon, a natural middle infielder, played the majority of his games in center field this season. He proved he's an adequate defender in center as well as second base and shortstop. Mike Yastrzemski played all three outfield positions, didn't commit a single error and was worth 0.2 dWAR. But not everyone is comfortable moving around.
There's no doubt Zaidi still will be intrigued by players who are viable options at multiple positions. That only gives manager Gabe Kapler more options with his lineup. A roster full of stars, though, could bring more defined roles and everyday players. Younger players like Dubon also might be more adept at moving around.
So while Zaidi isn't going to ignore versatility now, he understands the importance of knowing your players first and foremost. It would a bad idea to expect drastic changes to how he looks at players and goes about fielding a roster going forward.