Giants

MLB rumors: Didi Gregorius chose Phillies over Giants due to Joe Girardi

MLB rumors: Didi Gregorius chose Phillies over Giants due to Joe Girardi

The Giants added a veteran shortstop Tuesday when they acquired Zack Cosart and prospect Will Wilson in a trade with the Angels for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Wilson was the prize of the deal, but there remains a possibility that Cozart could play a considerable role in San Francisco's middle infield this coming season.

As it turns out, though, the Giants reportedly went after a different veteran shortstop before pursuing the trade with the Angels. Didi Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the Phillies on Tuesday, and according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, Gregorius reportedly chose them over the Giants in part due to the presence of Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

Gregorius previously played under Girardi with the Yankees, and it would appear they enjoyed their time together. While his offensive numbers might have been inflated somewhat by Yankee Stadium, Gregorius remains a standout defender and he was worth at least four WAR in both 2017 and 2018.

[RELATED: New Giants prospect Wilson already hates rival Dodgers]

The Giants absorbed the entirety of the $12.67 remaining on Cozart's contract, so there isn't much of a price difference between he and Gregorius. That said, the fact that San Francisco was able to acquire the Angels' No. 4 ranked prospect along with Cozart likely made that the more prudent acquisition.

MLB rumors: Pablo Sandoval returns to Giants amid Tommy John recovery

MLB rumors: Pablo Sandoval returns to Giants amid Tommy John recovery

The Giants haven’t given their fans much to cheer about this offseason, but they’re reportedly bringing one of their more popular players back for Gabe Kapler’s first season. 

Pablo Sandoval is returning on a minor league deal that will pay him $2 million with another $750,000 in incentives, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Sandoval is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery but is said to be well ahead of schedule. 

Sandoval had Tommy John surgery the first week of September to repair the UCL in his right elbow and remove loose bodies from the back of his elbow. At the time, the expectation was that Sandoval would miss most of the 2020 season and might need to find an American League club that would let him be a DH while his elbow continued to recover. 

The Giants kept in touch, however, and Kapler met with Sandoval earlier this offseason in Miami. The two hit it off, and the Giants became intrigued by a comeback, knowing that Sandoval fills a need and also should be back far sooner than originally anticipated. 

Sandoval had a .820 OPS for the Giants last season and hit 14 homers. The organization has had a quiet offseason and never did find anyone to replace the left-handed thump Sandoval provided behind Evan Longoria at third. He also can play first base, and the Giants don't have any depth there, either. 

[RELATED: Brandon Belt should handle first base again]

Sandoval has had one of the strangest careers in Giants history. He left for Boston and burned bridges after the 2014 title but returned in 2017 and soon became a clubhouse leader. Sandoval was one of Bruce Bochy's favorite players and consistently brought the energy that Kapler wants to see throughout the clubhouse in his first season. 

The signing caps a big offseason for Sandoval, who was a free agent for the second time. He got married right before the Winter Meetings, and Giants officials took note of how many current players -- including Mike Yastrzemski -- flew to Miami to attend the ceremony. 

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

There aren't many players around the league who get thrown into trade rumors by their own fans more than Brandon Belt does, but as the Giants prepare for their first spring under manager Gabe Kapler, the 31-year-old first baseman is headed for a milestone. 

If Belt is standing at his usual position on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, he'll become just the third Giant to make double-digit Opening Day starts at first base and the first to do it 10 consecutive seasons.

Willie McCovey never made 10 consecutive Opening Day starts at first base for the Giants. Will Clark and J.T. Snow didn't, either. Barring an injury, Brandon Belt, survivor of the #BeltWars, will stand alone with that distinction. 

Yesterday we looked at the catchers who will be in camp for the Giants, led by Buster Posey, who also is poised for his 10th consecutive Opening Day start. On Wednesday, it's the first basemen, and it's not a big group ... 

Brandon Belt

Gabe Kapler had one of the more fascinating introductory press conferences we've ever seen in the Bay Area, but late in that hour, he made a point of mentioning one of his key players. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said in November. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

Kapler isn't alone here. Throughout the organization, the Giants are teaching their young hitters to be more patient and have a better sense of the strike zone. A common thread through just about all of the non-roster additions over the last 14 months has been solid to high on-base percentages.

Belt, who finished 15th in the NL in pitches per plate appearance even in a down year, has plenty of fans in this new regime, and the Giants intend to accentuate his strengths, which is a bit of a change of pace from a staff that was frustrated with Belt's lack of aggression at times. 

That's part of the reason trade whispers have never made any sense. Belt, who was hampered by a knee injury much of last year, is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris would have been selling low, and that's not what those two do.

With a new staff, hopefully some improved health, and ballpark changes that should help Belt more than anyone, the Giants are optimistic. 

But ... they're also ready to be quicker with adjustments, and this new staff is ready to be far more aggressive with platoons and days off when the matchup is a poor one. Belt has a .815 OPS against righties the past three seasons, but it's just .668 against lefties. If that continues, Belt will find himself starting a lot more games in the dugout. 

Darin Ruf

That last sentence is why Ruf, who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee according to The Athletic, might be more interesting than your average 33-year-old returning from the KBO. Ruf was a part-timer for the Phillies for most of his five seasons there (he was not there when Kapler was the manager) but he always hit lefties.

He has a .299/.379/.542 slash line in 271 career at-bats against lefties, with experience at first base and in the outfield. 

The Giants have preached versatility since Zaidi took over, but they also now have a 26th roster spot to play with and can more easily carry a lefty-masher on their bench. 

Ruf spent the past three seasons in the KBO, where he hit 86 homers and compiled a .313/.404/.564 slash line. That league isn't anywhere near the level of competition as the big leagues, but the Giants clearly saw something they liked. 

Zach Green

Green was one of the more interesting non-roster invitees last spring, a 24-year-old who had hit 20 homers the year before as a Phillies minor leaguer. The Sacramento native took full advantage of whatever happened to the PCL last year, crushing 25 homers in 252 Triple-A at-bats. 

Green, who primarily plays third, actually got 16 plate appearances for the Giants right before and after the trade deadline, but he had just two hits and struck out six times. In September, the Giants placed Green on the 60-day injured list with a hip impingement to clear a roster spot for Wandy Peralta.

Green was then outrighted off the 40-man roster in November, but he signed a minor league deal and returns to a good situation. 

The Giants have a much-improved farm system, but they have very little talent at the corner infield spots in the upper levels of the minors. If Green can pick up where he left off, he should be an everyday starter for the River Cats and could be one injury away from significant big league playing time.

[RELATED: Giants spring preview: What Posey's back-up race looks like]

The Wild Card

Amazingly, Belt is the only true first baseman on the 40-man roster, but there are others with experience. Buster Posey made just three starts at first last year and it doesn't sound like the Giants want that to change in 2020. Keep an eye on Austin Slater, though.

He can handle first defensively and the Giants want to find more ways to get his right-handed bat in the lineup.