Because the Giants were split into three workout groups and Buster Posey missed three days, the starting catcher had not had a lot of time to spend with top prospects Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey.
The latter two worked out in the mornings, alternating reps as they worked toward a future in the big leagues. That day, when Bart and Bailey split time, is at least two years away, but now the Giants are tasked with deciding how soon they want to jump into the deep end with another young catcher.
A decade after he broke through, Buster Posey is opting out of the season to spend time with his family, which recently adopted twin girls who were born prematurely. The Giants were overwhelmingly supportive, but they also know they have to spend the weekend having tough conversations.
First among them: is it time to turn the starting catching job over to Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft just two years ago. Bart had a strong spring training, but has just 22 games of experience above A-ball.
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Farhan Zaidi's initial lean seemed to be no. He talked of the veterans who are in camp and said the Giants could look outside the organization for immediate help. He mentioned that a guy having a good camp is "just not the same as being able to see those guys perform at other levels."
"This is a tough environment to evaluate young position players that you maybe went into the situation thinking they need more competitive reps at the upper levels -- Double-A, Triple-A," Zaidi said. "We're having these workouts, they're in live BP and a guy takes a good swing and hits a ball 430 feet, that's all well and good, but it's not really a substitute for getting the 100, 200, 300 at-bats that you might be getting in Double-A and Triple-A where you get a much better sense of whether a guy is capable of handling major league pitching on a day in, day out basis."
Before they found out Posey might opt out, the Giants had Bart ticketed for Sacramento as part of the expanded player pool. They had not ruled out the possibility that he would be used at the big league level this year, but he was not in the Opening Day conversation. Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman have been competing to back up Posey, but combined they have just 105 big league starts. Chadwick Tromp has experience at the upper levels of the minors but not in the big leagues.
"Obviously (Heineman) and Rob Brantly have been in the conversation to be backing up Buster and there's going to be more opportunity there," Zaidi said. "Whether we ultimately decide it's a timeshare or there's a starter and a backup, we just have to see. We just added Chadwick Tromp also to the camp and he has taken some nice swings since coming in.
"At least in terms of those three guys who have played in Triple-A and some in the big leagues, you've got a left-handed bat (Brantly), a right-handed bat (Tromp), and a switch-hitter (Heineman), so it could mean different configurations. I think we still certainly are open to looking to someone outside the organization, perhaps with somebody with a little more experience, especially if we think it'll help us early on in the season."
Given that most teams have five or six catchers in camp already, it may be hard for Zaidi to find external options. Russell Martin, the longtime Dodger, is still a free agent and looms as an obvious first call to make. He played 83 games for the Dodgers last year, and while he didn't hit much, he could step in and lead a staff right away. Some Dodgers players have been clamoring publicly for the team to bring him back as a backup for Will Smith. The Giants also could attempt to trade for a veteran who is buried on the depth chart in another summer camp.
Zaidi said the Giants would add a sixth catcher at some point just to help catch bullpens. They are now remarkably thin at the position, with two young prospects and two more players with little or no big league experience among their group. Ricardo Genoves was in camp and has been working out during the break, and he could be a possibility to help out, but that's just to catch bullpens and do work behind the scenes.
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The Giants will need a starting catcher at some point. There's no replacing a Buster Posey, but one day the Giants hoped Bart could try. Perhaps they'll decide in the next 13 days that the best option is to start that experiment now.
"It's just going to open up opportunity for all of the catchers in camp," Zaidi said. "Buster was obviously slated to be our starting catcher. There are more reps, there's more opportunity, and that goes for all the guys in camp."