Scottsdale Stadium, March 2018. Photo Credit: DrLefty’s iPhone
Well, reporting dates have been a moving target this year, due to COVID and resulting labor negotiations, and poor Crawnik has had to re-jigger his countdown. But here we are: Pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday, Feb. 17, with the rest of the squad due Feb. 22. The first game is Sunday, Feb. 28, vs. the Angels–two weeks from today. It’s happening!
Opening Day is still scheduled for Thursday, April 1, in Seattle. The Giants’ game will start at 7 p.m. PDT–sorry about that for you East Coasters, but I guess I can see why a San Francisco-Seattle game isn’t getting prime time on ESPN. With the news that the Mariners are reuniting with James Paxton, it looks likely that there will be lefty starter on the bump against the Giants, and thus, this:
If lefty Paxton (or Gonzalez/Sheffield) is tabbed as the Opening Day starter, the #SFGiants will likely use a RHH bat in LF, which would be the 14th straight year they've used a different left fielder since Barry Bonds' career ended in 2007. https://t.co/7h2H7KC8vE
— Jeff Young (@BaseballJeff1) February 14, 2021
Last year the Opening Day left fielder was Alex Dickerson (because Clayton Kershaw was scratched and the Dodgers started Dustin May), so it sounds like Austin Slater or Darin Ruf will be the latest addition to the world’s longest trivia question.
Spring Training Roster
All 40-man roster members are automatically invited to major league camp. Here is the non-roster invitee (NRI) list.
Giants invites to major league spring training:
RHP Tristan Beck
RHP Tyler Cyr
RHP Matt Frisbee
RHP Sean Hjelle
RHP Kai-Wei Teng
— Mark W. Sanchez (@MarkWSanchez) February 12, 2021
Interesting list, isn’t it? It’s very reminiscent of who got invited to summer camp and/or the Alternate Site last year–top prospects (like Luciano, Bishop, Bailey, and Wilson) and a handful of people who might help the major league squad this year (like Cyr). It’s unusual even for a first-round pick like Bailey to get a spring training invite the very first spring after he’s drafted, but (a) they always need plenty of catchers for all the bullpens and (b) Bailey spent last summer at the Alternate Site, so he’s not your typical first-round pick. No one else from the 2020 draft was invited.
It’s also interesting that there is not a single left-handed pitcher on the NRI list, not even top pitching prospects Seth Corry, Kyle Harrison, or Patrick Swiney. The Giants are very deep from the left side as to relievers but less so for starters, with Alex Wood really the only lefty option for the rotation at this point. (Paxton could have been a nice add, but oh, well.) But none of those top lefty prospects, who are also starters, are anywhere near the majors. Corry finished 2019 in Low-A Augusta, and neither Harrison nor Swiney has yet thrown a pitch in professional ball. So I guess there’s no rush to bring any of them to camp, though I might not be surprised to see at least Corry appear in an early spring training game. It also could be fun to get a look at Tristan Beck and Kai-Wei Teng, both of whom were added at the 2019 trade deadline (Beck for Mark Melancon and Teng for Sam Dyson), and are top-30 prospects.
The other thing you can see from this list is that there are very few roster battles in this year’s camp. There are a couple of bullpen decisions to be made, and perhaps a fifth outfielder from the 40-man roster could be added. But unless Zaidi/Harris signs an additional starting pitcher, the rotation is set (Gausman, Cueto, DeSclafani, Wood, Webb), and so is the everyday lineup. It sounds like they’re optimistic that Belt will be ready for the Opening Day roster (though maybe not the Opening Day lineup, if it’s a lefty starter for Seattle).
That said, there may be surprises. No one predicted the addition of Jake McGee early this week (more on him below)–it seemed like the bullpen was in pretty good shape, especially from the left side, yet there he was, signing with the Giants. So there still could be another starter, another outfielder, a backup shortstop–who knows?
As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, Zaidi’s been way more active this offseason than in previous years. Counting the return of Gausman, the Giants have added ten players to the major league roster this winter. LaMonte Wade, Jr. was added via a trade for Shaun Anderson, and Dedniel Núñez came via the Rule 5 draft, but the other eight were signed as free agents. Those eight cost a grand total of $33.35 mil for 2021 ($18.9 of which is for Gausman) and $53.6 total for future years (most of which is La Stella’s backloaded money). That is some pretty efficient shopping. As of this moment, the Giants’ projected 2021 payroll is a bit under $155 mil, and that includes everything (benefits, etc.). (NOTE: The Cot’s Contracts spreadsheet seems to be missing Jason Vosler, who is still listed on the Giants’ 40-man roster. I assume he’s making major league minimum at this point. McGee is not on the 40-man roster yet because his signing is still pending a physical.)
Welcome, Jake McGee
More on McGee, how he fits the Giants and what it means for the team's bullpen. https://t.co/mDjZAX455N
— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) February 9, 2021
As noted above, the Giants somewhat surprisingly announced the signing of McGee, a lefty reliever most recently with the Dodgers, to a two-year/$7 mil deal. McGee is 34 years old and a Bay Area native who’s had a nice career. Following a couple of bad years with the Rockies, he had a great 2020 with the Dodgers, earning a World Series *ring and putting up a ridiculous K/BB ratio of 33/3 in 20.1 innings. Over his career, he has an ERA+ of 120, more strikeouts than innings, and 45 major league saves (most of those coming in 2014-16 with Tampa Bay and Colorado).
To put this deal into perspective, McGee will be earning more this year than Wilmer Flores, Alex Wood, Alex Dickerson, or Tommy La Stella (with the caveat that La Stella’s three-year contract is heavily backloaded). Clearly Zaidi et al. have serious plans for him. I could envision a three-headed closer model that includes McGee, Wisler, and Moronta. It’s good to have options.
As HaakAway announced in his guest post this week, we’ll be kicking off our annual contest to guess the Opening Day roster. While most of it seems obvious this time, we have learned over the years that you never know: Someone could get injured/traded/DFA’d, etc. Stay tuned for more details and the contest entry deadline. To enter, you can either reply to a HaakAway comment or email him at MySFGiantGuy@gmail.com. We will also welcome the return of the minor leagues with our MyGuy21™ contest, in which we pick prospects from each level whom we think will have breakout seasons. We’ll have to figure out a new scoring system this year since in the past we’ve used year-over-year improvement, and there were no minor leagues in 2020. So stay tuned for more information about that, too.
Happy Valentine’s Day
For those of you who celebrate this, have a great one. For those of you planning to spend it face-first in a bottle of something or a pint of ice cream, hang in there–it’s Welcome Back Baseball week!
I think I’ve shared here before that while MrLefty and I are generally not big on Hallmark holidays, we do make a fuss over Valentine’s Day because it’s a big date in our family. I received my job offer from UC Davis on Valentine’s Day in 2008. My sister and her now-husband got engaged on this date in 2007. Our beloved Winnie the Pooch was born on Valentine’s Day, 2005. And all the way back in 1982, two adorable college seniors went on their first date on Valentine’s Day, to a crepe restaurant in downtown Davis. We rode our bikes!
Anyway, shout-out to the late, great Winnie the Pooch on the 16th anniversary of her birth. Lefty out.