Perhaps the biggest surprise this spring is that the roster-churning Giants still have one of their allotted 75 roster spots open, and have the entire time. Part of that is because the latest two additions didn't add to the number.
The Giants signed left-hander Jose Alvarez to a one-year deal last weekend and also added slugging first baseman Justin Bour on a minor league deal. Because Alvarez was added to the 40-man roster, the Giants had again to designate Jordan Humphreys for assignment, who ended up with the Padres. Bour did not get a non-roster invite to Scottsdale Stadium and will be in minor league camp starting April 1.
The Alvarez move was a bit of a surprise -- not because of his talent, but because of the roster fit. Alvarez, 31, has a 3.59 ERA as a big league reliever and has pitched at least 64 times the last five years MLB has held a full season, including for Gabe Kapler's Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. At the same time, the Giants already have lefties Jake McGee, Jarlin Garcia, Caleb Baragar, Sam Selman and Wandy Peralta on their 40-man roster.
"We certainly have a lot of left-handed options, don't we?" Kapler joked recently. "I have some familiarity with Jose from my time with Philly. He's very dependable, a durable reliever who is ready to take the ball in any situation. Throws strikes, misses some bats, he's pretty good against left and right. It's a nice addition to our pen."
The Giants didn't have a huge need for another lefty reliever, but they also just further upgraded a previous strength, which isn't a bad thing. In Alvarez and Garcia, they should start the year with two reliable lefties in front of McGee, who could be the closer.
Alvarez will get $1.15 million this year and the Giants hold a club option for 2021 at $1.50 million, with a $100,000 buyout. Alvarez made it clear the Giants had the best offer out there in large part because it came with a 40-man spot, which tells you a lot about where the market is right now for veterans who are reliable but not stars.
The other addition, Bour, likely is more familiar to Giants fans, if only because he's been a quiet Giant-killer.
Bour has spent most of his career with the Marlins and has a .996 OPS against the Giants with four homers and 14 RBI in 61 at-bats.
Bour briefly played for the Phillies in 2018 and then the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. He spent last summer in Japan, hitting 17 homers in 99 games for the Hanshin Tigers.
"It's a proven left-handed bat against right-handed pitching," Kapler said. "He'll give you a great at-bat, he's a great teammate, he's going to go to the minor leagues and prepare to be ready at some point if we need him."
Kapler said the Bour addition has nothing to do with the long absence of Brandon Belt, who missed most of the start of camp with a non-COVID-19 illness and still is not close to playing in games. Belt is also recovering from heel surgery, but Kapler said the Bour conversations go back a couple of months.
Belt took on-field batting practice for the first time Saturday.