Giants

MLB free agency: Giants might look to upgrade in these three areas

MLB free agency: Giants might look to upgrade in these three areas

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first time in 13 years, the Giants spent the beginning of their offseason hiring a new manager, but that wasn't the only heavy lifting president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the front office had to do.

A new general manager, Scott Harris, also was hired, and since Harris and manager Gabe Kapler came on, the organization has spent weeks putting together a young coaching staff

Now comes an even more tedious job. The Giants need to seriously upgrade their roster. Zaidi, Harris and Kapler sat down with the media on Monday afternoon and had their first opportunity to lay out some of that vision, and during the half-hour session, they hit on three spots that stand out as obvious holes.  

Infield Depth

At least on paper, the Giants are set here. Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria will start on the left side, Mauricio Dubon should enter camp as the second baseman, and Donovan Solano was signed to a one-year deal in November. But three of those four hitters are right-handed. 

"We're still looking at options to add infield depth," Zaidi said. "We've talked a little bit about (how) a left-handed bat might make more sense ... but we're not limiting ourselves to that. When you get to the middle infield it's always nice to have depth and those guys can always obviously move around to the corners."

Adding another middle infielder could allow the Giants to push Dubon to center field, something they discussed before non-tendering Kevin Pillar and continue to assess, Zaidi said. At the very least, the Giants figure to add a left-handed bat who can play third.

Pablo Sandoval is a free agent and out for most of 2020 (although he did get married over the weekend with plenty of former teammates -- including Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Mike Yastrzemski and Bruce Bochy -- in attendance).

A Bat In The Outfield

While the Giants are right-handed on the infield, they're awfully left-handed when you get to the outfield. Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Steven Duggar might be the three Giants currently locked in for the most playing time out there, although Austin Slater and Jaylin Davis are both right-handed. 

Enter Nicholas Castallanos? Maybe. The Giants are interested in the right-handed slugger, and he could be the jewel of their offseason. Either way, a right-handed bat is high on the wish list. 

"With the extra roster spot next year, there's always a possibility to do a little bit more matching up, so you want to have balance on all parts of your roster," Zaidi said. 

Yastrzemski actually crushed lefties last year but Dickerson was just 4-for-21, so the Giants will certainly try to add another platoon option for one of the corner spots. 

Veteran Catcher

A year after they let Nick Hundley move on, the Giants watched Stephen Vogt sign with the Diamondbacks. It's a move that stings, because Vogt was a clubhouse leader and a left-handed hitter who had almost formed a platoon with Buster Posey by the end of the season. 

You would think the Giants would want another veteran in the mix, especially because they went so far -- remember Erik Kratz? -- to keep Aramis Garcia off the opening day roster last year. But Zaidi said that's not necessarily the case. 

[RELATED: Report: Seven teams outside of Giants interested in MadBum]

"We'd like to see him get an opportunity," Zaidi said of Garcia. "He's putting in a lot of work this offseason and he's a guy we would like to see get an opportunity as well. I guess we're not closed off to (adding) but we have some good young catching depth and at some point we want to create opportunities for these guys."

Garcia, who turns 27 in January, is more than capable of backing up Posey and he's playing Winter Ball this year to prepare himself. The Giants also have top prospect Joey Bart on the fast track, so this is one area where perhaps there's no need to put another veteran in the room with Posey. 

Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

wotusbeltusa.jpg
USATSI

Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

When the Giants take the field next month at Scottsdale Stadium, Ron Wotus will begin his 23rd consecutive season on the big league coaching staff, a feat that is impressive for much more than simple longevity. 

Wotus was the only member of Bruce Bochy's staff to be brought back by Gabe Kapler. Before that he jumped from Felipe Alou to Bochy, and Dusty Baker to Alou. He is working with his fourth Giants manager because of a commitment to hard work, preparation, communication and competitiveness, traits that Wotus first started to hone as a star at Bacon Academy in Colchester, Conn.

Wotus has spent most of his life in professional baseball, but the skillset that he still leans on today first became a part of his life on a different patch of grass. He carries with him the lessons taught by John McKiernan, his high school soccer coach. 

"I have such great memories of playing soccer. It was by far my favorite sport, and it's because of John," Wotus said. "If he wasn't my coach, there's no way it would have been my favorite sport. He's special. He knows how to connect, he knows how to relate, he's got a great sense of humor, he's super-competitive, but he's got that great balance that all the good ones have. And he cares."

Wotus has spent his professional life helping to develop players like Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt, and on Thursday night he'll get a chance to honor the man who taught him so much of what he still passes on. Wotus will honor McKiernan at the sixth annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards, which will air Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

When Wotus was called and asked to honor an instrumental coach in his life, he immediately turned to his wife, Laurie. He knew what he wanted to do.

"I got emotional and she immediately said, 'You have to honor John,'" Wotus said. "This is over 45 years ago that we met. All these years that have passed, you really realize how important he was to your life."

Wotus met McKiernan in middle school, and the latter immediately knew that there was something different about the young boy who would go on to play four years of varsity baseball, soccer and basketball at Bacon Academy, a small school with a graduating class of about 100 students. 

"You could see (in fifth grade) that he was very gifted," McKiernan said. "He lit up the room when he was in it ... He was always so happy to be on the field or the court or the diamond. He just loved athletics and he loved competing and he was always prepared and ready to go. Whatever we were doing he seemed to enjoy, except maybe he didn't like all the running we did in soccer. I think he could have done without that."

All that running still sticks with Wotus four-plus decades later. He remembers McKiernan's soccer team doing heavy conditioning work. It was necessary for the small-school team. 

"What he said to us was that we may not have the most skill on the field, but we'll be the best conditioned and we'll make up for any lack of skill that we have," Wotus said. "That stuck with me. Don't be out-conditioned, don't be outworked, don't be out-prepared. I think that's the foundation of my approach as a coach. You have to give it your all and you're going to prepare. It's the preparation that's important, and then you go out and compete."

The competing part was easy for Wotus, a three-sport star. McKiernan coached the junior varsity basketball team but never had Wotus there because he was put on varsity right away, eventually earning all-state honors. The Pirates selected Wotus in the 16th round of the 1979 draft and he ended up playing 32 games in the big leagues. It was on the soccer field, however, that Wotus made his biggest prep impact. He was an All-New England center forward for Bacon, scoring 89 career goals, which stood as a state record for more than two decades. 

McKiernan remembers Wotus for much more than the prolific numbers. He said Wotus constantly pushed to make sure his teammates were recognized and brought intensity no matter the score.

"He never thought that we were out of a game," McKiernan said.

Wotus matched his production with dependability. 

In four years, he never missed a practice in any of his three sports, and he sat out just one game in his high school career, the result of a sprained ankle. With a tournament coming up, McKiernan held his star out of the final game of the season so he could get back to 100 percent. 

"He tried to sneak into the game a few times," McKiernan said. "I had to pull him back."

The relationship that was built during soccer practices and hundreds of games of horse on the basketball court has lasted to this day. McKiernan has been out to San Francisco a couple of times to visit Wotus, who was the bench coach for all three title teams. Occasionally he'll plan a cross-country road trip that allows him to visit Wotus in a visiting city. 

Wotus is getting ready for his 33rd year in the Giants organization. Before he gets back to baseball, he'll take a moment to honor the man who made such an impact during his soccer career. It was an easy choice to give the award to McKiernan.

"John, he was the guy. The way I coach now, I think of him often," Wotus said. "I try to emulate him in a lot of ways."

You can donate to the "Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards," here

“Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards” presented by Levi’s airs Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

When Baseball America released its latest list of top 100 prospects, the Giants saw three of their young players mentioned within the first 63 names. 

Leading the Giants at No. 19 overall, though, is shortstop Marco Luciano. The young infielder full of power is only 18 years old, but he likely won't make his MLB debut until at least 2020 when he would be 20. 

Behind Luciano is 23-year-old catcher Joey Bart and 20-year-old outfielder Heliot Ramos. Both players are expected to begin the 2020 season in Triple-A Sacramento. It's also reasonable to expect Bart and Ramos to make their way to San Francisco this year. 

"I don't think it's out of the question, and that's one thing that we tried to do this past year," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recently said on KNBR. "We had a lot of guys make their debut. We moved guys aggressively through the system.

"I think that not only creates excitement through the fans and people at the major league level, but for the players themselves."

Zaidi also included 6-foot-11 pitcher Sean Hjelle in the conversation with Bart and Ramos. The Giants promoted all three prospects from San Jose to Double-A Richmond last season.

Bart and Hjelle both are non-roster invitees for Giants' big league camp in spring training. 

Zaidi wasn't just referring to top prospects, though. Reliever Tyler Rogers finally was given a chance in the bigs at 28 years old last season and posted a 1.02 ERA in 17 games for the Giants. 

[RELATED: Marco Luciano gives Giants a bright future at shortstop]

"Promoting guys aggressively and rewarding performance, rewarding guys addressing areas of weakness that have been pointed out to them as things that they need to address, that's a real positive," Zaidi said. "I expect us to continue on that path in 2020." 

The Giants are going through a rebuild with hopes of competing as contenders again in the near future. Zaidi is ready for a youth movement in San Francisco, and you should be, too.