How Giants' Opening Day roster might look after odd offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
After the weirdest offseason in franchise history, the Giants are almost at the point where they can fully turn the page.
When the calendar flips on Wednesday, the Giants will be two weeks from the start of camp and at the beginning of a stretch of nine straight months with at least one game. The focus soon can shift to live bullpen sessions, spring training standouts and "best shape of his life" stories, but as the Giants prepare for camp, they're in a bit of a different spot than past springs.
The front office known for roster churn ended up adding so many veterans over the winter -- even while missing out on superstars Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa -- that the roster looks pretty close to set as the first spring workout approaches. There will be the usual talk of keeping things competitive, but barring injuries or some big surprises, the Giants won't have many decisions to make.
With camp approaching, here's a breakdown of how the Opening Day roster might currently look:
The choices: Joey Bart, Roberto Perez, Blake Sabol
The Giants haven't announced the Perez deal yet, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi previously had said he didn't expect any additional catchers on big league contracts, which would put the 34-year-old in the same boat as Austin Wynns as a glove-first non-roster invitee. One of those two will be Bart's backup, and while Wynns did a nice job in 2022, Perez is a two-time Gold Glove winner. He would seem to enter camp with the edge.
Sabol is one of the more interesting players in camp as a left-handed-hitting utility man who can catch, but hasn't even reached 100 games behind the plate at the minor league level. That inexperience would make him a tough fit for a team that hopes to get off to a fast start and win fans back, but the Giants kept him on the 40-man all winter even as they started to run out of room.
Manager Gabe Kapler has talked in the past of how valuable it would be to have a third catcher, and also to have a left-handed catcher. Sabol potentially is both, but as a Rule 5 pick, the Giants will have to keep him on their roster to keep his rights. If he doesn't look overwhelmed in Scottsdale -- remember Drew Ferguson? -- they could sneak him onto the roster instead of an extra reliever or outfielder and see if he can stick.
What might change: While Perez has more experience, Wynns won over the pitching staff last season and has the trust of the coaches. There's also always the possibility the Giants add another catcher as rosters are cut down elsewhere late in March, something they've done a few times under Zaidi.
The choices: Brandon Crawford, Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada, J.D. Davis, David Villar, LaMonte Wade Jr.
Crawford is the last man standing, with Evan Longoria in Arizona and Brandon Belt in Toronto. He should have a more consistent double-play partner this season in Estrada, who is poised to truly have an everyday role.
The Giants want to give Villar a chance to run with the third base job and plan to start Wade at first base, giving them a left-handed replacement for Belt. Flores and Davis represent a nice duo on the bench, rounding out a group that's set heading into the spring.
What might change: Just about everyone who looks at that group comes away with the same impression. It's heavy on right-handed hitting corner infielders and very light on middle infield depth, especially in a world without shifts. The Giants had hoped to add one more infielder before camp, but so far their options are Isan Diaz and Brett Lively, both of whom are on the 40-man.
Diaz is the player to watch here after a big 2022 in Triple-A. Only an injury prevented a late-season audition, and his left-handed bat could be a big help. The infield might be locked in at the moment, but there's not enough balance, and it doesn't look like a very good defensive group on paper.
The choices: Joc Pederson, Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto
Pederson will still play some outfield, but he's set to be the primary DH. That leaves Conforto (left), Yastrzemski (center) and Haniger (right) as the Opening Day starters, with Slater -- who sneakily is the second-longest-tenured Giant -- as the center fielder against left-handed pitchers.
What might change: Luis Gonzalez had some really nice moments as a rookie, but he enters camp as a reminder of a rule that's tough on young players. If you have minor league options remaining, it's a lot more difficult to win camp competitions.
Gonzalez has one left and the Giants are pretty deep in potential outfielders. In addition to the five listed here, Wade still can slide to the outfield and Estrada can do so in a pinch. If Sabol has a good spring, there's another left-handed hitter who can play left field.
Heliot Ramos has hit some loud homers in the Cactus League in the past, but the Giants want to see consistency in Triple-A before they give him another shot at the big leagues.
The choices: Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Anthony DeSclafani/Alex Wood
The Giants haven't said much about who the odd man out will be, and while they could go with a six-man rotation at times, it won't be often. The reports on DeSclafani's rehab have been positive, although the staff could opt to slow-play him if the rest of the starters are healthy in late March.
What might change: The rotation falls into the old "these things tend to settle themselves" bucket. But if all six starters are healthy, the staff will have to deliver some tough news to a veteran.
One decision that won't be difficult: Webb is a lock to be named the starter for a marquee Opening Day matchup against Judge, Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees.
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The choices: Camilo Doval, a Rogers brother, another Rogers brother, John Brebbia, Scott Alexander, Jakob Junis, Wood/DeSclafani
Eventually Luke Jackson will join this mix, but there's a good chance he starts the season on the 60-day IL as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. There will be plenty of non-roster relievers in camp, but all of the relievers listed here should feel very comfortable at the moment.
What might change: The biggest decision the Giants might have to make with their initial roster is how to handle the first road trip. Their preference is to have eight relievers, but above all, teams protect inventory at the end of camp, and the schedule might allow for early maneuvering.
The Giants open on a Thursday at Yankee Stadium and then have the next day off. After their fourth game of the season, they have another day off. MLB is preparing for bad weather on the East Coast, but for the front office, that means the pitching staff might only have to cover 36 innings over the first six days of the season.
If all six starters are healthy and Junis is in the bullpen as a true long reliever, the Giants could easily go short on relievers and add a bat to the bench for those first two series. If they like what they see from Sabol in camp, this would be an easy way to keep him early on.
If they do go with a full 'pen, rookie Cole Waites could be the next man up, with Sean Hjelle, Sam Long and Thomas Szapucki in camp as familiar options. Zaidi also has mentioned prospect R.J. Dabovich as a player who could get an early shot if he has a good camp.
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