Wilmer Flores

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Giants veterans checked into camp last week, a couple of them referred to the 25-man roster in interviews. Like writing a new year on your checks, it'll take a while for players to adjust to having a 26th man.

But on the second floor of the new facility at Scottsdale Stadium, there already have been plenty of conversations about it. 

The front office has an extra roster spot to work with, and few executives will dig that more than Farhan Zaidi, who spent 2019 in an endless roster shuffle as he added depth and talent to the 40-man roster. Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler have talked this spring of all the different ways they can go. 

As the Giants go through their spring rotation for the first time, it's far too early to project a full roster, especially in a camp where so many jobs are up for grabs. But we can take a look at how that roster will be impacted by the extra spot. The Giants will have 13 pitchers, that much we know. But what will they do with that 13th position player?

Pablo Sandoval

Just about seven months removed from Tommy John surgery, Sandoval already is taking part in nearly every drill, with some restrictions on his throwing. But he's a month ahead of schedule in that department, and he hasn't ruled out Opening Day. 

The staff is looking more at a May return, but they'll leave the door open for Sandoval. There's some thought that given his age (33) and the fact that he's on the back end of his career, it might be easier to push Sandoval than a younger player. He's not a 24-year-old looking for that life-changing contract; he's someone who above all simply wants to play baseball. 

Sandoval feels he's ready to pinch-hit now and he has looked sharp in early BP sessions. If, say, his throwing arm will be fully healed by mid-April, could the Giants put him on the Opening Day roster purely as a pinch-hitter and let him rehab his elbow before games? They've talked about it. 

Speed/defense

This is the Billy Hamilton section. Hamilton no longer is the 50-stolen base threat he was in Cincinnati, but he still is one of the fastest players in the game and an elite defensive center fielder. He hasn't hit enough in recent years to be a regular starter, but the Giants still could find creative ways for him to impact a game. 

Let's say Mike Yastrzemski starts in center and Hunter Pence in left and Pence leads off the sixth with a single. If you know he won't hit again until late in the game and your preference is to replace him defensively anyway, you can bring Hamilton in to pinch-run and play center, with Yastrzemski sliding to left. The Giants also have discussed making this type of move much earlier in a game to gain a slight edge. 

They don't have a true center fielder and there's not much speed on the locked-in part of the roster. The 26th spot makes it a lot easier to carry a Hamilton or Steven Duggar. 

A full infield

You start adding them up: Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria ... that's five infielders before you even get to Sandoval, Donovan Solano (who had a very solid 2019) or Yolmer Sanchez (who won a Gold Glove last year and chose San Francisco over other offers, indicating he was told he has a really good shot at making the roster). 

The Giants could go with four in the outfield and use Dubon as their fifth, while keeping Solano and Sanchez on the Opening Day roster. This team may simply have to carry seven infielders at times, because that's where most of their core guys are. 

Third catcher

The Giants don't have the depth to do this but you can bet some other clubs will. Long term, though, this will be an appealing option. Zaidi has talked a lot over the past year about versatile catchers and it would be a nice boost if they could find a lefty to pair with Buster Posey and Joey Bart next year, ideally someone with options. That would allow Kapler to freely use both Posey and Bart in every game. 

Stephen Vogt, who played some left field, is in Arizona now, but someone like that would make sense in future years. The best bet would be developing a lefty-swinging catcher who could be optioned back and forth as a third guy. 

[RELATED: Watch Bart, Dubon homer in Giants' spring training opener]

Inventory

This isn't about any particular player, but adding a 26th player makes it a bit easier at the end of the spring to stash a veteran who is out of options. There are a lot of waiver claims during that final week before Opening Day rosters are set, but teams generally slow down once the season officially starts. No executive likes to lose a player who is out of options.

The Giants could stash someone on Opening Day, and then DFA him later and try to sneak him through waivers and onto the Triple-A roster. 

Why Gabe Kapler was so excited Giants signed his nemesis Wilmer Flores

Why Gabe Kapler was so excited Giants signed his nemesis Wilmer Flores

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In Drew Smyly, Rob Brantly and Nick Vincent, the Giants have turned to players who impressed Gabe Kapler last season while playing in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. But with perhaps their biggest offensive addition of the offseason, they added a player Kapler knows in a much more painful way.

Wilmer Flores spent the first six seasons of his career with the New York Mets, where he served as a dependable infielder who made headlines for his walk-up song and a raw emotional on-field reaction to a reported trade that fell through in 2015. But as he talked of his new infielder Thursday, Kapler focused on a memory from the first game of a doubleheader in 2018, when Kapler was in his first year with the Phillies and Flores was in his final one with the Mets. 

"I have some experience with him, being in the other dugout," Kapler said. "A couple years ago, in 2018, he hit a walk-off home run in game one of a doubleheader off Victor Arano at Citi Field that broke our hearts. We've seen him do damage in big situations."

Flores has a long history of coming up clutch in big spots, and Kapler is counting on that in the late innings. But the Giants gave Flores the first multi-year deal of the Farhan Zaidi Era -- two years and $6.25 million guaranteed -- because they believe Flores has much more to offer. He will primarily play on the right side of the infield, and while team officials won't say it, it sure seems like the right-handed-hitting Flores is set to steal a few starts away from Brandon Belt at first base. 

"Independent of Brandon, he gives us a really good option at first base and at second base, as well," Kapler said. "We'll explore every possibility and every way to get him in the lineup."

On his first day in camp, Flores said he's willing to play anywhere. The Giants were appealing to him because of their history, but also because they came with a multi-year deal at a time when he had other big league offers. Flores played last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks after signing a one-year deal in late January. 

"Last year I went through free agency and it was a little tough," Flores said. "It was a relief to get a multi-year deal. Next year I'll know where I'm going, so it'll be better."

[RELATED: Giants hope for better luck for Bart]

Flores can settle in, meet new teammates and spend time with old friends -- Pablo Sandoval was an offseason workout partner -- because he should have more staying power than most on this roster. The Giants plan to play Flores, who slugged .615 against lefties last season, often, which means his clever walk-up song will become a staple at Oracle Park. Flores confirmed that he will still use the theme song from "Friends."

"I love that show," Flores said, smiling. "I have all the DVDs ... I still watch it before I go to bed."

Giants sign veteran infielder Wilmer Flores to two-year contract

Giants sign veteran infielder Wilmer Flores to two-year contract

The Giants found an easy way to make sure they're slightly better in 2020. They'll no longer have to face Wilmer Flores. 

The infielder has signed a two-year contract with the Giants with a club option for 2022, the team announced Wednesday. ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported an agreement was in place on Feb. 4.

Flores will make $3 million this year and $3 million in 2021. The option year is for $3.5 million, with a $250,000 buyout.

This is the first multi-year deal given out by Farhan Zaidi since he took over as president of baseball operations in November of 2018.

Flores, 28, is a good fit for the roster, and the Giants know all about what he's capable of at the plate. With the Diamondbacks last season, Flores went 14-for-24 against the Giants with three homers and three doubles. Overall, he hit .317/.361/.487 in 265 at-bats. 

While Flores came up as a shortstop with the Mets, he primarily played second base for the Diamondbacks last season. He joins a crowd in the middle of the infield, with Mauricio Dubon, Donovan Solano and Yolmer Sanchez also already in-house as options at second base.

[RELATED: Where 2019 #ForeverGiant players landed this offseason]

Flores also can back up Evan Longoria at third, although his biggest impact may come across the diamond. The Giants have been looking for ways to limit Brandon Belt's exposure to tough lefties, and the right-handed-hitting Flores has over 1,000 big league innings at first base. Flores has a .813 career OPS against left-handed pitchers.