Farhan Zaidi's Giants roster will emphasize positional versatility

Farhan Zaidi's Giants roster will emphasize positional versatility

SAN FRANCISCO — The ritual is the same every spring. 

Position players love to show off their new gloves, and once or twice a week at Scottsdale Stadium you’ll see them actually take those dreams of versatility onto the field. Brandon Belt will shag fly balls during batting practice. Corner outfielders will see what the view is like from center field. Austin Slater does drills at second base, his former position. Pablo Sandoval moves all over. Anyone who catches or plays third base does work with Ron Wotus at first. Back when Hector Sanchez was a Giant, he would regularly take grounders — just in case.

These are fun stories in the spring. Distractions from the tedious daily work. But in the Farhan Zaidi Era, you can no longer shelve those spare gloves on Opening Day. 

Zaidi’s Dodgers were famous for their versatility. On Wednesday, on the Giants Insider Podcast, he said that will be part of a new Giants roster. 

“There are certainly going to be chances to add guys,” he said, “and positional versatility will certainly be something we look at as a positive."

[RELATED: How Giants lured Farhan Zaidi from Dodgers as new president of baseball ops]

The Dodgers moved players around more effectively than anyone. Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor are Swiss army knives, capable of playing all over the outfield and middle infield, and playing those spots well. Cody Bellinger moves back and forth from first base to center field. Max Muncy made double-digit starts at first, second and third and also played a few innings in left. Backup catcher Austin Barnes made six starts at second base. Kyle Farmer, another backup catcher, made 14 starts at third base. 

It went on and on for the Dodgers. Zaidi said he viewed versatility as a strength for a couple of reasons. 

“One is, it just insulates you from injuries better,” he said. “When you have a bunch of guys that serve as interchangeable pieces for the manager, when you have an injury, a lot of times you don't have to go get another second baseman. There are two other guys on the team that can occupy that position.

“Secondly, when you start looking at off days and making sure that everybody on your roster is getting adequate rest, the ability of guys to play multiple positions gives you more opportunities to do that.”

[RATTO: Farhan Zaidi has been given a massive task: Make the Giants cool again]

There’s another reason Zaidi likes moving guys around. He believes there’s an off-field effect. 

“I do think it has a cultural impact on a roster when players move around and they don't identify as 'I'm the shortstop and I'm the third baseman.' You're just a baseball player and you're part of the team and you do whatever the team asks or needs of you, and that creates a different kind of culture that I think is really conducive to a winning environment,” he said. 

To pull this off, Zaidi will need to overhaul the roster a bit. There are guys — Belt, Buster Posey, Sandoval, etc. — who have moved around during games in the past, and utility types like Slater, Alen Hanson and Abiatal Avelino will have increased value. But for the most part, Bruce Bochy’s in-game lineup decisions haven’t been complicated.

“When you look at the [Giants] infield you've got established players that are kind of single-position guys,” Zaidi said. “Look, Corey Seager is a shortstop and he played shortstop for the Dodgers before he was hurt and there wasn't much of an inclination to move him around. When you have everyday players of that caliber, the versatility is maybe less relevant, but on the same token I think this is a roster that can use some multi-position guys on the infield to keep those guys fresh and maybe play matchups a little bit more and give some of the lefties days off against tough left-handed pitching and vice versa.”

The easiest moves to make right away will be in the outfield. Bochy has always been willing to experiment in left, and Zaidi sounds eager to give his manager a few more bat-first options who can handle the field’s easiest position. 

“I think there are opportunities to bring in some guys into that mix who have a chance to really impact the team offensively,” he said. “Corner outfield is really the lowest hanging fruit in terms of when you're trying to add offensive impact to the lineup.”

[RELATED: Giants' Farhan Zaidi goes for fourth fantasy football title with Dodgers]

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

One team reportedly might be making their final push to sign Bryce Harper, and it's not the Giants. 

Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton's private jet was in Las Vegas -- hometown of the free-agent outfielder -- on Friday, a "person in that city" told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. 

This does not, however, mean the Phillies and Harper are quite ready to complete a deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Hours earlier, the Washington Nationals ruled themselves out of signing Harper. The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010, and he has played all 927 games of his major league career in a Nats uniform to this point.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Friday night that the Nationals want Harper to sign anywhere but with their NL East rivals. 

Although the Giants are one of the last remaining teams in the mix, NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Friday that San Francisco doesn't "intend to do dollar-to-dollar" with Philadelphia. 

[RELATED: When Giants' spring training competitions will start]

Yet, that doesn't mean this all comes as a surprise to the Giants. They already saw the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper. 

If Middleton's presence in Las Vegas leads to something larger, the Giants might not have to wait for Harper's official decision all that much longer. 

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Real baseball gets closer by the day, and on Friday morning, we finally got a 2019 Giants lineup. 

Well, kind of. 

The group that will take the field Saturday against the Angels includes potentially just one starter, depending on who you think will win the jobs in left and right. But there still will be plenty to watch. 

Cameron Maybin and Yangervis Solarte will make their Giants debuts, hitting first and third, respectively. Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and Henry Ramos, all fighting for outfield jobs, will start. Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is starting in center. Aramis Garcia, who hopes to win a backup job, will catch Chris Stratton. 

Stratton may be in the toughest spot. He is out of options and seventh on the starting depth chart. 

"He's a guy we look at as a starter and a long man," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guys that are out of options, we've got to make a call there for sure."

Stratton has had some dominant stretches at the big league level but hasn't shown consistency. Ditto for Ty Blach, who will be stretched out this spring but profiles as a reliever moving forward. Although you never know ...

"You saw what happened last year," Bochy said, smiling. "He ended up being our Opening Day starter."

Bochy plans to have Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik in the lineup Sunday for the home Cactus League opener. He had previously said that Buster Posey, coming off hip surgery, will not play until March 1. On Friday, Bochy said Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery) and Ryder Jones (knee surgery) will also be held out until March 1. 

Duggar still should have plenty of time to try to win the job in center. 

"This was the plan," Bochy said. "But he's doing well. He's doing just about everything. We just don't want him diving for a ball."

--- The main story today is on Mac Williamson, who battled a concussion last season. He opened up about how difficult the summer was. 

--- Nick Vincent passed his physical last night and is officially a Giant. 

"A good arm, a good pitcher," Bochy said. "He increases our depth on the bullpen side."

[RELATED: Is Bryce Harper bidding now two-team race between Giants, Phillies?]

The Giants will have some pretty good arms headed for Sacramento no matter how this all plays out. On a related note, the River Cats announced that they're lowering some of their ticket prices. Even before this, that was a place I have always recommended to Giants fans. It's a really fun place to watch a game.