Last week, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that the club wanted to improve behind the plate but were unlikely to give out a major league deal to address that position. It appears that viewpoint extends to other areas of the roster as well, with Zaidi again speaking with reporters, including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.
“It would be nice to have somebody who can play the middle infield spots off the bench, ideally a plus defender,” Zaidi said. “But that bumps somebody off the roster and right now, the way it looks, everybody has kind of got a clear role.” And how about the outfield? “It would be a challenge bringing in any additional outfielders and having to move guys around,” he says. “We sort of have most, if not all, of our at-bats accounted for at those [outfield] spots right now.”
It seems the Giants are pretty happy with all of the players in the mix at the moment and will stick to non-roster moves for the time being. The club added a couple of outfielders already this winter, signing Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger to take over the corner spots. That leaves Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater handling center field while Joc Pederson is likely takes the bulk of at-bats in the designated hitter slot. They also have Luis González and Heliot Ramos as optionable depth players.
On the infield, it will be more of a hodgepodge of holdovers from last year’s roster. Brandon Crawford seemed like he was going to get bumped off shortstop when Carlos Correa was set to take over that job for the next 13 years. That deal then fell through and Correa is returning to the Twins, allowing Crawford to hang on to the spot. Thairo Estrada took over the second base job last year and should be back there in 2023. In 541 plate appearances in 2022, he hit 14 home runs and slashed .260/.322/.400 for a wRC+ of 106, indicating he was 6% better than the league average hitter. He also added 21 stolen bases but the reviews on his defense were mixed. Outs Above Average and Ultimate Zone Rating pegged him as being just a shade below league average but Defensive Runs Saved gave him a grade of -12. Perhaps a bit more exposure to the position would help, as he’d only ever had part-time duty at the keystone prior to last year. Zaidi mentioned the club would like to add another middle infielder, though it seems they will stick to minor league deals.
LaMonte Wade Jr. has been squeezed out of the outfield picture but seems likely to get plenty of opportunity to take over first base with Brandon Belt now out of the picture. Third baseman Evan Longoria also has a new team this year, leaving third base primarily in the hands of Wilmer Flores, while J.D. Davis and David Villar are each on hand to help out at the corners on occasion.
In terms of depth, Isan Díaz and Brett Wisely are each on the 40-man roster and can be optioned. That’s something that seems to be valued, given Zaidi’s comments about not wanting to bump anyone off their current roster position. Wisely has yet to make his major league debut, having just been acquired from the Rays and added to the roster prior to the Rule 5 deadline. He hit .274/.371/.460 in Double-A last year for a 121 wRC+ while playing each infield position and left field. As for Díaz, he was outrighted by the Marlins but then acquired by the Giants for non-roster depth. He responded by hitting .275/.377/.574 for Triple-A Sacramento and getting a roster spot again.
Like all clubs, the Giants would surely love to add some extra depth to this group but it seems they like all of these players enough that they don’t want to sacrifice any of them in the name of additions. “I wouldn’t rule out bringing in somebody who could be a multi-position utility type who is maybe a speed-and-defense specialist, but it would bump somebody that right now we’re planning [on being] on the roster, so that would come at some cost,” Zaidi said.
If that viewpoint continues to hold for the next few weeks, the Giants will seemingly keep themselves to minor league deals. One roster spot seems likely to open up soon, however, as it’s been reported that Luke Jackson could open the season on the 60-day injured list while continuing to rehab from Tommy John surgery. There’s no injured list during the offseason but players can be placed there once pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. If the club finds another player they’d like to add to their roster, they could try waiting a few weeks to close the deal, though the player could also pursue more firm commitments elsewhere in the interim. They would also have to be quite confident in Jackson’s timeline, since the 60-day clock doesn’t begin until Opening Day, meaning he wouldn’t be eligible for activation until late May.