Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi hasn’t been all that aggressive since he grabbed the team’s reins in November 2018. Zaidi has instead taken a more reserved approach with his rebuilding club, seldom making a notable splash via free agency or on the trade market. That said, second base has been an area of consistent change since the Zaidi era began, and the Giants have a quite a few choices for the position as the new season draws closer.
The Giants tried several different options at the keystone last year, but they had a hard time finding a solution at the spot. Joe Panik garnered more starts at second than any other Giant, though he had such a poor season that the club released him during the first week of August. Trade deadline acquisition Scooter Gennett lasted less than a month in San Francisco after bombing in its uniform. Similarly, fellow veteran Yangervis Solarte – who began the season on the Giants’ roster – wasn’t long for their roster.
On the other hand, the Giants did receive decent numbers from Mauricio Dubon, whom they picked up from the Brewers in another deadline deal, as well as Donovan Solano. It was rather surprising that Solano logged a .330/.360/.456 line with 1.3 fWAR in 228 plate appearances, as he hadn’t been especially productive with the Marlins and Yankees from 2012-16, didn’t appear in the majors from 2017-18 and joined the Giants on a minor league deal. The 32-year-old’s a candidate to see time at second yet again this season, but at least some skepticism is warranted in regards to his 2019 output. It was buoyed by an impossible-to-sustain .409 batting average on balls in play, after all, and Solano’s BB/K ratio (0.20) was only about halfway to the league average (0.37).
Dubon had similar struggles in the BB/K department (0.25), but it was just his first season in the bigs. The 25-year-old hit .274/.306/.434 in 111 PA between Milwaukee and San Francisco. He has also been a nicely regarded prospect for a while, so it stands to reason the Giants are hopeful he’ll emerge as a useful piece somewhere on their roster. That could mean making him their everyday second baseman or a utility player who moves all over the diamond.
Aside from the holdovers, the Giants have a few new faces vying for reps at second. That includes Wilmer Flores, whom they signed to a two-year, $6MM guarantee a couple weeks back. The former Met and Diamondback is another jack-of-all-trades type, having lined up at various infield positions since his career began in 2013. Offensively, the righty-swinging Flores is known for holding his own against lefties, but he hasn’t been a slouch versus same-handed hurlers. In fact, Flores has shown himself to be a viable option against all pitchers; between that and the value of his contract, he’ll get a lot of playing time for the Giants, though that doesn’t mean he’ll be their main pick at second.
Flores wasn’t San Francisco’s only second base-capable pickup in the offseason. The team claimed Kean Wong, brother of the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, in November, and signed ex-White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez to a minor league contract a month ago.
Wong’s still just 24 and coming off a couple of respectable Triple-A seasons, but he has almost no major league track record to speak of, and with three options remaining, the Giants could send him down without consequence. They don’t have the same luxury with Sanchez, a rare reigning Gold Glove winner who had to settle for a non-roster invitation in the ensuing offseason. Problem is that the switch-hitting 27-year-old hasn’t enjoyed much success at the plate, where he owns a .244/.299/.357 in 2,438 career attempts. As a result, he’s facing an uphill climb to open 2020 in the majors.
Sanchez’s goal is to win a second straight Gold Glove, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote Tuesday, but he’ll have to make the team first. As someone who’s not on the Giants’ 40-man roster, he’ll have his work cut out for him over the next few weeks.