SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy sat in a room with Bryce Harper earlier this week, but when the Giants manager settles into his office at Scottsdale Stadium next week, that won’t matter.
There could be a stunner over the next few days, but the odds are good that Harper’s decision will drag on, meaning Bochy’s Giants might take the field for the first time with an inexperienced but talented group of outfielders. Until told otherwise, Bochy said his plan is to get that group ready for the season and assume he has to pick three younger outfielders as starters.
“You have to assume this is the club until things change,” Bochy said. “That’s how you have to approach it. You can’t assume anything is going to happen. Sure, there’s a pretty good possibility, but hey, this is the team I have and this is a team that we’ll get ready for the season.”
Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president of baseball operations, still hopes to provide help, though. That could come in the form of Harper, and that pursuit certainly is serious. But other free-agent outfielders remain, and the trade market still is buzzing.
Zaidi has said all offseason that he hopes to add two experienced outfielders to this roster. He didn’t back off of that Friday.
“I would still say that we’re looking for multiple additions,” he said.
That’s not to say he’s unhappy with his current crop. The Giants have five outfielders on their 40-man roster: Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Austin Slater, Mac Williamson and Drew Ferguson, their Rule 5 Draft selection.
“A guy like Drew Ferguson, we feel good about him, and we want to make sure he has an opportunity to make the team and has an opportunity to get some playing time,” Zaidi said. “With Mac Williamson being out of options, it’s important for us that he has a path to making the Opening Day roster with some of what he showed last year before he got hurt.”
Ferguson and Williamson get singled out because the Giants don’t have much leeway with them. Both have to make the Opening Day roster for the Giants to guarantee that they’ll keep their rights, and the path seems particularly wide open for Williamson, who had a huge spring and April last year and was the big league lineup’s biggest threat for a week before a concussion destroyed his season.
Williamson continued his work with instructor Doug Latta in the offseason, and he’s excited about the opportunity. But he’s just as excited about the collective opportunity sitting there for the four homegrown outfielders.
"Look, I’ve played with Slater and Duggar and Shaw the last few years. It’s easy to write people off, but I think it’s one of those situations where, you know, some good players were nobody until they were somebody," Williamson said. "Chris Shaw wasn’t drafted in the first round for no reason. Slater hasn’t been around the big leagues the last couple of years for no reason. Duggar is one of the best outfielders I've played with.
"All four of us have a lot to bring to the table. A lot more than a lot of people think. At the end of the day, we’re not about trying to impress people, we’re about trying to help the team win. Whether they get more people or not, we’re going to be prepared."
It’s possible that the Opening Day left or right fielder won’t walk into the clubhouse until the dust has settled in March. There certainly were no signs of impending moves Friday as the team gathered for the first time in 2019.
A few days from now, Williamson, Duggar, Slater, Shaw and Ferguson will be together in Phoenix, competing and trying to make the most of an opportunity that is still there after one of the quietest offseasons in MLB history.
“I do strongly believe that all of us can heavily contribute to the team," Williamson said, "And be a lot more than role players.”