Yangervis Solarte

Giants roster turnover in 2019 was historic, but led to some keepers

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USATSI

Giants roster turnover in 2019 was historic, but led to some keepers

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Giants fans think of 2019, many may remember Connor Joe and Michael Reed as Opening Day starters. 

But will you recall that Tyler Austin got 130 at-bats? Or that Scooter Gennett and Yangervis Solarte combined for 49 appearances? How about Corban Joseph's 17 times up at the plate, or Nick Vincent's day as the opener?

It was a season of experimentation, and that's kind of what was expected when Farhan Zaidi took over last November. He talked right away of trying to find incremental gains from every corner of the roster and giving players the runway to prove they were big leaguers. That all led to some historic roster manipulation, though.

The Giants ended up using 64 different players, which was second in MLB history to only the 2019 Mariners (67). They shattered their previous franchise record of 51 players used by the 1990 team and used 15 more players than the 2017 squad that lost 98 games and was in a constant search for answers. 

The amazing thing about all this is that the Giants were actually tied with the Reds for the fewest injured list days in the National League, so they weren't trying to fill holes for that reason. They were simply looking for contributors and to bolster their big league and Triple-A rosters, which led to some short stints in San Francisco:

--- Only four Giants got more than 500 plate appearances, but 15 different players got at least 100. The tier below is where there were really some random 2019 Giants. Gennett, Joey Rickard, Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra are among the players who got between 50 and 100 plate appearances for this team. 

--- Eight different position players took the field but got fewer than 25 total plate appearances: Cristhian Adames, Chris Shaw, Joseph, Zach Green, Joe, Abiatal Avelino (what a costly run through a stop sign that was), Reed and one more outfielder we'll get to shortly. 

--- The Giants had 33 different players throw a pitch, including Pablo Sandoval, who led the team in ERA (0.00). Familiar faces Ray Black and Ty Blach made two appearances apiece, the same number as Pat Venditte, the first player to sign a big-league deal under Zaidi. 

--- Twelve different pitchers made a start. The 2017 Giants had just seven starters. 

--- The most interesting line of the year, as mentioned above: Outfielder Aaron Altherr was claimed off waivers, struck out in one at-bat, and then got DFA'd again. He ended up batting .129 for the Mets. 

--- There were so many guys to come through the door, but all that churn led to some keepers. Mike Yastrzemski broke through and should be a starter next year. Donovan Solano and Alex Dickerson should have roles, too. None of them were with the Giants on Opening Day.

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There were plenty of new or young pitchers who showed enough to be in the mix next season, including Trevor Gott, Sam Coonrod, Jandel Gustave, Tyler Rogers, Wandy Peralta and Enderson Franco. 

Giving guys an opportunity led to some strange roster moves but paid off in the long run. 

How Farhan Zaidi has transformed the Giants roster since Opening Day

How Farhan Zaidi has transformed the Giants roster since Opening Day

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the final road game of the first half, a group of Giants hitters took the field at Petco Park to chat with some Padres before they began stretching for batting practice. 

With most of the members of the team's longtime core still indoors, the group on the field ended up being one you couldn't have imagined on Opening Day. 

Pablo Sandoval was there, along with Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, Kevin Pillar, Tyler Austin and Austin Slater. Sandoval was the only one in the circle who was on the roster when the Giants kicked off their season at Petco Park on March 28. 

Farhan Zaidi didn't seem all too concerned when the Giants took the field with Connor Joe and Michael Reed in the outfield that day. He was willing to be patient, saying repeatedly that he would find upgrades over time. 

By the end of the first half the Giants had a much different -- and better -- roster, even if it was painful for the clubhouse at times with all the churn. 

"You look at the roster changes and yeah, sometimes you've got to do what you think is the right thing for the club," manager Bruce Bochy said last week. "We've made some changes as we've gone and we like where we're at."

The Giants used 44 players in the first half, Ray Black being the final one to walk through the door. A year ago they used 48 players all season. The upheaval started early, as Zaidi made a series of moves right before Opening Day to add depth to the entire system. That led to this Day 1 lineup:

Duggar CF (recently optioned to Triple-A)
Belt 1B
Longoria 3B
Posey C
Crawford SS
Joe LF (designated for assignment and returned to the Dodgers)
Reed RF (DFA'd and now in Triple-A)
Panik 2B 

Gerardo Parra and Yangervis Solarte pinch-hit for Joe and Reed that day and both have also been DFA'd. 

The Giants finished the first half with a lineup mix that included Pillar and Austin (acquired in April trades), Yastrzemski (acquired at the end of the spring), Slater and Donovan Solano (called up from Triple-A), Dickerson (acquired from the Padres in June) and Stephen Vogt, who started the year in Sacramento but replaced Erik Kratz. The rotation includes Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson, who were called up from Triple-A. 

A lot has changed, but the Giants are a better and deeper team than the one that started the year in San Diego. Bochy is happy with the group, although he admitted communication has been key in his final season. He had to sit down with members of his core and explain what the front office was up to as players shuttled in and out of the clubhouse. 

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There was some grumbling, even publicly, but by the end of the first half the veterans seemed in tune with the new normal. 

"Early on, I felt like that last weekend of spring training and into that first month, month and a half of the season, it felt like a revolving door,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “To Farhan's credit, he has a track record of success and of finding guys who can help in the moment and be positive contributors. That's what it's about, finding that mix of guys.”

Giants make flurry of moves, add Mac Williamson before Rockies series

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USATSI/AP

Giants make flurry of moves, add Mac Williamson before Rockies series

DENVER -- After their starters got destroyed in Cincinnati, placing a heavy load on the bullpen, it was clear the Giants had to add some depth to the pitching staff. But they're shaking up the lineup and bench, too. 

Outfielder Mac Williamson and infielder Donovan Solano had their contracts purchased Tuesday, and left-hander Williams Jerez was called up. The club parted ways with free-agent additions Yangervis Solarte and Pat Venditte and optioned Mike Gerber back to Triple-A after he went 1-for-15 in four games in Cincinnati. 

Gerardo Parra, DFA'd last Friday, also elected to become a free agent on Tuesday, meaning the Giants have already cut bait with a significant portion of what was a modest offseason free-agent class.

Venditte, a switch pitcher, was the first player who signed a big league deal under Farhan Zaidi. Utility man Solarte and outfielder Parra made the team after signing minor league deals in spring training. 

Williamson's addition is the big story, as the 28-year-old is getting what almost certainly will be his final chance to stick with the organization that drafted him in the third round seven years ago. A concussion ruined Williamson's push for an everyday job last year and he was designated for assignment at the end of spring training this season, but he went to Triple-A and hit .378 with nine homers -- including three on Monday -- and an OPS over 1.200. 

The Giants planned to give Williamson a bit more time in Triple-A, but he forced the issue with his play, and he now will get a chance to find his big league groove in the best hitters' park in the majors. 

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Solano, a 31-year-old with more than 1,000 big league plate appearances, primarily plays second base but can move all over the infield. He had a .829 OPS in Triple-A at the time of his promotion and takes over the backup infield spot vacated by Solarte.

Solarte signed a minor league deal in February and the Giants felt they got a steal, adding a switch-hitter with decent pop to their bench. But he hit just .205 with one homer in 28 games and an OPS+ (53) that made him nearly 50 percent worse than the league average. 

Jerez was needed after the bullpen got overworked in Cincinnati. Ironically, he was called up a few hours after the Angels cut Chris Stratton.

Jerez was acquired when the Giants dealt Stratton at the end of the spring.