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Zaidi breaks down roster holes Giants still need to fill

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For all of the talk over the last month about a new shortstop, the Giants will find themselves in a surprising place when they report to Scottsdale Stadium in a month. 

They currently have nine infielders on their roster, and eight were in the organization last year. The only newcomer this offseason ended up being 23-year-old Brett Wisely, who came over from the Tampa Bay Rays earlier in the winter and has just five games of experience above the Double-A level. 

The Giants are poised to run it back with their infield, albeit in a different way. LaMonte Wade Jr. should get the lion's share of the playing time at first base, and David Villar has a clear path to the starting job at third, with Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria having moved on. They'll be supported on the corners by Wilmer Flores and J.D. Davis, with Brandon Crawford and Thairo Estrada starting up the middle, but the Giants know they need more help.

As has been the case for most of the last decade, there's not a comfortable plan behind Crawford, and Farhan Zaidi said last Thursday that the Giants still are looking to add a middle infielder.

"It would be nice to have somebody who can play the middle infield spots off the bench, ideally a plus defender," Zaidi said. 

 

There's just one complication ...

"But that bumps somebody off the roster and right now, the way it looks, everybody has kind of got a clear role," Zaidi continued. 

With the six players mentioned above, the Giants already have a full infield. They also like Wisely and Isan Diaz, a second baseman who hit 23 homers in 83 games for Triple-A Sacramento last season and was added to the 40-man roster earlier in the winter. Diaz would have gotten in the mix last year if not for an injury.

The Giants still need infield depth, but at this point, they're unlikely to add someone on a big league deal. They like the group of six they currently have, although it certainly is short on depth up the middle. 

"I wouldn't rule out bringing in somebody who could be a multi-position utility type who is maybe a speed-and-defense specialist, but it would bump somebody that right now we're planning [on being] on the roster, so that would come at some cost," Zaidi said. 

In going through position groups on a call with beat writers, Zaidi seemed to feel pretty set with the roster, which is natural this late in the offseason. 

The outfield is locked in, with Mitch Haniger in right, Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater in center, and Michael Conforto in left. The roster also includes Luis Gonzalez, along with Wade and Joc Pederson, both of whom might occasionally still get outfield reps even though they're ticketed for first base and designated hitter, respectively. They also are hopeful that Heliot Ramos, headed back to Triple-A, breaks through. 

"It would be a challenge bringing in any additional outfielders and having to move guys around," Zaidi said. "We sort of have most, if not all, of our at-bats accounted for at those [outfield] spots right now."

Zaidi said he doesn't anticipate adding another outfielder and the rotation already has six options, with young depth in Triple-A and Jakob Junis in the bullpen. The bullpen is close to set after recent additions, although there's a strong possibility that Luke Jackson starts the year on the 60-day IL as he continues to recover from last April's Tommy John surgery. That would allow the right-hander to use May as a Triple-A rehab assignment and join the big league bullpen at the beginning of June.

The Giants will bring in relievers on non-roster deals, but Zaidi said any openings could go to young options. He pointed to Cole Waites and R.J. Dabovich as guys who could get a look early on. 

The most glaring hole on the roster is at catcher, as the 40-man currently consists of just Joey Bart and Blake Sabol, a Rule 5 pick who hasn't reached the big leagues yet and has just 93 minor league starts behind the plate.

 

"[He] has been working really hard and has connected with a lot of our pitchers and really impressed us with his preparation for the season so far," Zaidi said. "But he has no major league experience, he's a rookie, and again, it's a little like what we discussed with Villar and Wade, we're going to have to give some of these guys opportunities."

The Giants are high on Sabol, but it would be a stretch to go into the season without a proven backup for Bart, who himself is a young catcher. Austin Wynns was taken off the roster because of all the recent additions, but he cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, so he'll be in camp with a chance to again win the job as Bart's backup. 

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The Giants have been rumored to be after veteran Gary Sanchez, and Zaidi said they'll look to add a veteran to what they already have, but that person won't get a big league deal this late in the offseason. 

"I think it's really unlikely that it's a major league free agent," Zaidi said. "We're looking to bring somebody in on a non-roster basis and have them compete, because we want to keep the path for Bart and Sabol and Wynns to compete for two of those spots."

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