When he was asked recently about the uncertainty surrounding the designated hitter spot, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi noted that while the decision between MLB and the MLBPA would have some impact on their roster, ultimately the Giants still would have 13 position players one way or another. It's a number that's pretty easy to get to.
When you go by the "locks" to make the opening day roster, the Giants have five infielders (the Brandons, Evan Longoria, Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores) and four outfielders (Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubon and Austin Slater), plus two catchers, Buster Posey and his backup. They have decisions to make this week on arbitration-eligible depth pieces Darin Ruf and Daniel Robertson, but even if they don't commit to those two yet, there's not a lot of space for additions.
Zaidi has said he's looking for complementary pieces for the lineup, and earlier this month the Giants might have found one. They've signed just one position player through a month of free agency, and it was someone Zaidi said he and general manager Scott Harris had asked the San Diego Padres about a couple of times in the past. That makes sense. Before his year with the Padres, infielder Jason Vosler spent five years in the Chicago Cubs organization, where Harris worked in the front office.
"He does fit our roster really well as a left-handed infield bat who can play first, second and third," Zaidi said. "We've got a number of right-handed bats in those second and third base spots. (Vosler) has taken a step forward in these last couple of years offensively. He hits for power, has hit for average in the minor leagues, he's just a guy that has a chance to be a good all-around player. He can be one of those guys that maybe isn't an 'everyday player' but could wind up getting 300 at-bats at the end of the season."
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There's a long way to go this offseason, but it's not hard to see how Vosler potentially could approach that number with the Giants next season. The Giants currently have just two left-handed-hitting infielders on their roster: Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. They need platoon help for Evan Longoria, who has a .239/.289/.402 slash line against righties the last three years, and while Solano hit just about everyone last year, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a lefty option at second against tougher right-handed pitchers. The Giants also could use a little insurance at first given that Belt will be coming off heel surgery.
Throw in pinch-hit at-bats, of which there are many under manager Gabe Kapler, and the left-handed hitter on the bench should see plenty of time. Pablo Sandoval got 82 at-bats in a shortened season despite putting up numbers that ultimately got him DFA'd.
Zaidi said the Vosler addition early on in free agency wouldn't keep him from going out and getting another similar player, or a veteran who hits left-handed. But Vosler has two things working in his favor right now.
First, he brings defensive versatility, which is critical for this regime. While he's not known for his glove, Vosler has played all four infield positions in the minors. He has primarily been a third baseman and talent evaluators who have seen him say he could handle third or first at the big league level, with third being his best position. Second base would be a tougher task for Vosler who only has started 17 times there as a professional. But the Giants have lowered the bar there for others with all of their shifting and the fact that Crawford and Belt provide so much support.
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Then there's the fact that Vosler got a big league contract right away, not the "minor league deal with an invite to spring training" that's so common for similar players. It's a sign of what the Giants think of the 27-year-old, who had a .367 OBP and hit 20 homers in Triple-A in 2019.
"We expected that the market would require a major league deal," Zaidi said. "And we were very comfortable doing that because we think he's got a shot at making our opening day roster and playing a pretty significant role for us."