Giants

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Giants veterans checked into camp last week, a couple of them referred to the 25-man roster in interviews. Like writing a new year on your checks, it'll take a while for players to adjust to having a 26th man.

But on the second floor of the new facility at Scottsdale Stadium, there already have been plenty of conversations about it. 

The front office has an extra roster spot to work with, and few executives will dig that more than Farhan Zaidi, who spent 2019 in an endless roster shuffle as he added depth and talent to the 40-man roster. Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler have talked this spring of all the different ways they can go. 

As the Giants go through their spring rotation for the first time, it's far too early to project a full roster, especially in a camp where so many jobs are up for grabs. But we can take a look at how that roster will be impacted by the extra spot. The Giants will have 13 pitchers, that much we know. But what will they do with that 13th position player?

Pablo Sandoval

Just about seven months removed from Tommy John surgery, Sandoval already is taking part in nearly every drill, with some restrictions on his throwing. But he's a month ahead of schedule in that department, and he hasn't ruled out Opening Day. 

The staff is looking more at a May return, but they'll leave the door open for Sandoval. There's some thought that given his age (33) and the fact that he's on the back end of his career, it might be easier to push Sandoval than a younger player. He's not a 24-year-old looking for that life-changing contract; he's someone who above all simply wants to play baseball. 

Sandoval feels he's ready to pinch-hit now and he has looked sharp in early BP sessions. If, say, his throwing arm will be fully healed by mid-April, could the Giants put him on the Opening Day roster purely as a pinch-hitter and let him rehab his elbow before games? They've talked about it. 

Speed/defense

This is the Billy Hamilton section. Hamilton no longer is the 50-stolen base threat he was in Cincinnati, but he still is one of the fastest players in the game and an elite defensive center fielder. He hasn't hit enough in recent years to be a regular starter, but the Giants still could find creative ways for him to impact a game. 

Let's say Mike Yastrzemski starts in center and Hunter Pence in left and Pence leads off the sixth with a single. If you know he won't hit again until late in the game and your preference is to replace him defensively anyway, you can bring Hamilton in to pinch-run and play center, with Yastrzemski sliding to left. The Giants also have discussed making this type of move much earlier in a game to gain a slight edge. 

They don't have a true center fielder and there's not much speed on the locked-in part of the roster. The 26th spot makes it a lot easier to carry a Hamilton or Steven Duggar. 

A full infield

You start adding them up: Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria ... that's five infielders before you even get to Sandoval, Donovan Solano (who had a very solid 2019) or Yolmer Sanchez (who won a Gold Glove last year and chose San Francisco over other offers, indicating he was told he has a really good shot at making the roster). 

The Giants could go with four in the outfield and use Dubon as their fifth, while keeping Solano and Sanchez on the Opening Day roster. This team may simply have to carry seven infielders at times, because that's where most of their core guys are. 

Third catcher

The Giants don't have the depth to do this but you can bet some other clubs will. Long term, though, this will be an appealing option. Zaidi has talked a lot over the past year about versatile catchers and it would be a nice boost if they could find a lefty to pair with Buster Posey and Joey Bart next year, ideally someone with options. That would allow Kapler to freely use both Posey and Bart in every game. 

Stephen Vogt, who played some left field, is in Arizona now, but someone like that would make sense in future years. The best bet would be developing a lefty-swinging catcher who could be optioned back and forth as a third guy. 

[RELATED: Watch Bart, Dubon homer in Giants' spring training opener]

Inventory

This isn't about any particular player, but adding a 26th player makes it a bit easier at the end of the spring to stash a veteran who is out of options. There are a lot of waiver claims during that final week before Opening Day rosters are set, but teams generally slow down once the season officially starts. No executive likes to lose a player who is out of options.

The Giants could stash someone on Opening Day, and then DFA him later and try to sneak him through waivers and onto the Triple-A roster. 

What 2019 Giants would have looked like over shortened MLB schedule

What 2019 Giants would have looked like over shortened MLB schedule

It wasn't hard to predict that the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association would get nasty, but over the last few days, the twists have gotten a bit silly.

The owners have been pushing for an 82-game season, and on Sunday the players finally made their counter. Their return-to-play proposal included a season of 114 games. A day later, the owners leaked to ESPN's Jeff Passan that they might counter with a season of about 50 games. 

Guess what happens to be the midpoint between the two latest proposals? That's right, exactly 82 games.

The simple explanation here is that the owners believe they'll lose money for every game that's played without fans, and if the players aren't going to renegotiation their per-game salaries, the owners will make sure the entire pie is much smaller. The players, naturally, are pushing for as many games as possible, knowing that every extra week is that much more money. 

On and on they'll go, but sources on both sides still believe there will ultimately be a resolution. It just will take longer than first expected. 

As the sides continue volleying back and forth, let's bring it back to the Giants. We know how last season ended up over 162 games -- 77-85 -- but what would the 2019 Giants have looked like over a shortened season? 

50 Games

MLB is not going to play a 50-game season. That's an absurd notion, one that will force players and teams to spend a month scrambling to get health protocols in place only to rush through a season in less than two months. 

A season anywhere near this short would turn the playoff race upside down, eliminating teams like the 2019 Nationals, eventual champions who lost 31 of their first 50 before getting hot. The Giants weren't much better last year. They were 21-29 and somehow already 11 1/2 games out in the NL West. 

In the 50th game last season, Drew Pomeranz started and saw his ERA rise to 6.45. Joe Panik was the leadoff hitter that day, Tyler Austin batted third and Mac Williamson played left field. Mike Yastrzemski had not yet been called up. 

Over an actual 50-game season, you would expect some wild swings in stats -- perhaps someone batting .400 or posting a 1.30 ERA -- but there were no Giants last year who would have clearly benefited. Pablo Sandoval led the 50-game Giants with a .304 average and was tied with Brandon Belt with seven homers. Jeff Samardzija led the starting staff with a 3.27 ERA. 

There were no crazy outliers. The 50-game Giants were pretty boring in 2019.

82 Games

In theory, an 82-game season should put the Giants on the fringes of the playoff race. They don't have the talent to stick with the Dodgers or even the Diamondbacks for 162 games, but cut that season in half and some crazy stuff might happen. You remember that spirited run last summer, right? 

Well, in an 82-game season the Giants would need to get into gear a bit earlier than they did last year. That July stretch got them briefly thinking about the Wild Card race and altered their deadline strategy, but it also started a few days after the midpoint of the season. At 82 games, the Giants were 35-47 and had the second-worst record in the National League. 

At the halfway (plus one) point, Sandoval led the Giants in WAR and was tied with Belt and Kevin Pillar at 10 homers. Alex Dickerson, just called up, was batting .367. Shaun Anderson (3.86 ERA) looked like he might be locking down a future rotation spot. Again, there aren't really wild swings here, though. 

114 Games

Now we're talking. The Giants got going last July, briefly thrusting themselves back into the playoff race. On August 6 they were 56-58, just 3 1/2 games behind the Phillies for the second Wild Card spot. The Giants got off to a rough start last year and ultimately finished well out of the race, but for a brief moment there -- one that included the proposed 114-game mark -- they were frisky. 

From a player standpoint, not much sticks out. Yastrzemski was the main benefactor of the season going past 114 games, as he had 10 homers at this point and would double that total. We had not yet been introduced to Mauricio Dubon or Tyler Rogers. 

[RELATED: Gabe Kapler encouraged by players speaking up]

To give you a true idea of what a 114- game season looks like, consider that the Giants released Panik on this day last year. A season of this length is plenty long, but there's also a good stretch left to play, and that's shown in the playoff races. 

If the 2019 season had ended after 114 games, the Phillies and Cubs would have snuck into the picture. Gabe Kapler likely would have kept his job. Instead, he's with the Giants, trying to figure out what his team might look like over 50 games, 82, or perhaps even 114. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow declares 'it is our duty to protest'

Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow declares 'it is our duty to protest'

Mike Krukow knows how to get people's attention. Ever since he went from the field to the broadcast booth for the Giants, Krukow's unique voice has carried weight. 

Krukow made his voice loud and clear Monday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show when he spoke on the protests across the world stemming from the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in police custody in Minneapolis. An impassioned Krukow stated his disgust for police brutality as someone whose family has a long history in law enforcement.

“My dad was a cop, my grandfather was a cop. All my uncles were cops. My sister was a cop,” Krukow said. “What we have seen in the death of George Floyd sickens me to the core. I’m just completely rocked about this. It is our duty to protest. It is not our duty to loot, that is as disgusting as the crime itself. But it is our duty to stand and you gotta say, ‘This is wrong.’ You have to do it. We’re being asked to tone down the rhetoric in our press, and that is B.S. Now more than ever the outrage has to be written. And it has to be written by us. By you and me, we have to write our letters to our congressmen and our congresswomen and our senators and the president, you gotta let everybody know you’re not happy. This cannot go on. This is disgusting.

“This is 2020 and we are watching this, this senseless murder of a man who could not defend himself and was saying as he laid down on the ground, ‘I can’t breathe.’ It’s appalling.

“You have to tell your children and you have to tell your grandchildren, ‘This is not right.’ Let them see how mad you are. Let them see how disgusted you are. That’s the only thing we can do. We can protest this, we have to. This is not right. I’m not well with this and I don’t know anyone who is. It’s disgusting.

“All of my friends, it’s all we’re talking about. This has just gone on too far. We can’t be silent now. We cannot. You’ve gotta protest. You’ve gotta say everything that you mean and mean it. And put it on paper and send it out and let your children and grandchildren see how upset you are.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

After calling for more protesting and disavowing looting, Krukow, 68, spoke on the side of police officers and law enforcement as well. He clearly is sickened by Floyd's death, and also is against any violence towards police as well. 

“I fear for the safety of our police,” Krukow said. “It’s not easy. It’s harder now than it ever has been. When you have a badge, you’ve gotta wear it responsibly. You cannot use it to be a bully or be a murderer. You can’t.

“It sickens the people who do police work for a living. They watch this as we watch this. They know how hard it is out there and perhaps they’ve seen things that none of us have ever even dreamt of. What we watched in the death of George Floyd, it’s absurd -- it’s how does this happen? How do we let this happen in our society? It’s so upsetting. It’s upsetting to everybody. It does not justify looting. It doesn’t. It should encourage protest. I totally believe that is what we have to do.

“The looting is not right. That’s just criminal. Now our police are more at risk than ever. Our society right now -- think about 2020, this year sucks. It absolutely sucks.

"We’re watching something now and going through an experience together as we have done so well together in dealing with COVID, and now we need to come together and we need to resolve what’s going on across this country.”

[RELATED: Kapler encouraged by MLB players speaking against racism]

With protests happening throughout the Bay Area, the Giants boarded up windows at Oracle Park on Monday. 

San Francisco implemented a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. PT on Monday, which lasted until 5 a.m. Tuesday.