After all of these weeks and months, I finally get to write a baseball post based on current events. 2020 Training Camp 2.0 opens this week at Oracle Park in San Francisco. No more messing around with sim games, Chalk Talks, and podcasts. Actual baseball news. I can barely get my mind around it.
Before we get to any of this, let’s get the caveats out of the way. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent weeks, particularly in areas where the Giants would play (Arizona and Texas). California isn’t in great shape, either, though San Francisco itself isn’t doing all that badly. But we have to acknowledge that MLB may not be able to start the season at all or may have to pull the plug on it at some point. As of today, though, it’s moving forward, so we might as well talk about things.
Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi had some choice words for the Scottsdale city councilman who said “I can’t breathe” twice before ripping off his mask at a rally, and where do you even start with this guy? Well, here’s where Zaidi started, in an interview with Andrew Baggarly.
I mean, fuck that guy,” Zaidi said Thursday. “You can quote me on that. Fuck that guy.”
Beyond the outrageous racial insensitivity of mockingly quoting the last words of George Floyd as he was being murdered in cold blood by a Minneapolis police officer last month, there’s the fact that an elected official in one of the hottest hotspots (Arizona) in the U.S. is encouraging the community to engage in dangerous behavior by participating in an anti-mask rally. And, as Baggarly’s article goes on to explain, the Giants not only have a vested interest in the city of Scottsdale but also have a great deal of influence there. Giants players were working out in Scottsdale as recently as two weeks ago, and some live there (e.g., Brandon Crawford and his family).
I must say, I have never seen Giants Twitter so united around Zaidi as when that quote came out the other night. I have no doubt that the Giants could sell “F*** that guy” shirts and hats in the Dugout stores with no problem.
Anyway, on to baseball and the 60-man roster(?)/list(?).
Yesterday morning, the MLB-wide roster freeze ended. During that freeze, no roster changes could be made, and no free agents could be signed.
Oooops. Where did he come from? We’ll get to him a bit later.
I heard another interesting tidbit about the roster freeze on a Baggs and Brisbee podcast a couple of days ago. You might recall that Darin Ruf, who was making a lot of noise in camp and looking like a good sleeper pick to make the team as a non-roster invitee, played in Korea for the past three years, making lots of money and hitting lots of bombs. Well, when the KBO started up a month or two ago, they wanted Ruf back. With MLB on hiatus and Ruf’s situation with the Giants still in limbo, he wanted to go, and the Giants were willing to let him go–but they couldn’t. The MLB roster freeze meant they couldn’t cut him, nor could they trade/lend him back to the Korean team. With that in mind, bet on Ruf to make the 60-man list and probably the 30-man Opening Day roster. The Giants kind of owe him now.
So tomorrow by 1 p.m. Pacific time, the Giants have to submit their initial 60-man list. This includes their 40-man roster plus up to another 20 players to be on a “taxi squad,” which in concept is to provide reinforcements to the major league team in case of injuries or illness but in practice will also include a path to get top prospects some development time. The 40-man roster rules apply as normal–to remove someone, they have to be waived/traded/released–and for a taxi squad member to play on the active roster, they’ll have to be first added to the 40-man roster.
This is a bit confusing, so let’s break this down:
- Active roster: On Opening Day, teams will be allowed to have 30 players on the active roster, later to be cut to 28 players, and then down to the originally planned 26 (a 27th can be brought in for a doubleheader). Anyone on the active roster must also be on the 40-man roster.
- 40-man roster: In addition to the active roster, in a normal season this would also include reinforcements (prospects, waiver claims, veterans signed to minor league deals) playing mostly at AAA. But with no minor league season, we’re likely to see more major league veteran types on the 40-man than prospects who haven’t played in the majors. (Sometimes a team will add a prospect to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, even if he’s not quite major-league-ready, but you might recall that the Giants did not add any of their own prospects to the 40-man roster last fall.)
- 60-man roster/list(?): This includes whomever is on the 40-man roster plus up to another 20 players, as already described. Andrew Baggarly, in his latest article in the Athletic, added these details.
The pool is capped at 60 players per team, but it’s expected that the Giants will submit a list in the 55- to 58-player range. That’s because removing players from the pool (only permissible via trade, outright, release or placement on the COVID-19 list) is much more onerous than adding players. So there’s a strategic advantage to preserving some wiggle room in case the Giants want to sign a free agent or put in a waiver claim.
The Giants had 47 players in Scottsdale when camps shut down on March 12, but they already released three non-roster invitees yesterday–Tyson Ross, Nick Vincent, and Jamie Westbrook. Ross and Vincent were actually two names Baggs and Brisbee had thrown out as strong maybes to make the team, but–I guess not. Westbrook was someone whom I’d identified as one of MySleeperGuys™ in a February TWG post, but as Alex Pavlovic pointed out yesterday, the outfield picture is crowded at the moment. The Giants have eight outfielders on the 40-man roster, and that number doesn’t include Mauricio Dubon or non-roster-invitees Billy Hamilton and Darin Ruf. Doesn’t seem like there’s much room for…well, we’ll get to that, I promise.
So who will be on the 60-man list? Let’s see if we can peg this.
- Initial 40-man roster changes: Greek Giant listed the 40-man in his most recent post. We can subtract Tyler Beede, Aramis Garcia, and Reyes Moronta for now, as none will be ready for Opening Day, and Beede won’t pitch at all in 2020. Subtract 3.
- Needed/possible additions: The only catchers on the 40-man are Buster Posey and Garcia, and the Giants seem quite set on not starting the year with Joey Bart. So pencil in both Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman for now. Add 2.
- Outfielders: Go ahead and cut Jose Siri because of the crowded outfield picture. Not sure what to think about Joe McCarthy, either, and I’m not entirely sure that Austin Slater and Steven Duggar are both safe. It seems like Hamilton and Ruf will get added. Add 2 and subtract Siri and___?
- Infielders: Possibly on the bubble is Chris Shaw, who looks like a AAAA guy if I ever saw one and got cut early in camp this year. The Brandons, Longoria, Dubon, and Wilmer Flores are sure things. The others on the 40-man are Donovan Solano, Abiatal Avelino and Kean Wong. Possible/likely additions include Pablo Sandoval and Yolmer Sanchez. Add 2 and subtract Shaw plus one of Solano, Avelino, or Wong.
- Pitchers: All teams will need a lot of pitchers to spread out the workload. Other than subtracting Beede and Moronta for now, I’m not clear who they might think is disposable, but Baggs and Brisbee rather surprisingly brought up the name of Dereck Rodriguez as a candidate to be cut because his metrics don’t fit well with what the Zaidi regime values. Let’s assume that the two Andersons (Shaun and Tyler), Cueto, Gausman, Gott, Rogers, Samardzija, Smyly, Watson, and Webb are sure things. The others are Adon, Coonrod, Franco, J. Garcia, Gustave, Jimenez, Menez, Peralta, Rodriguez, Selman, and Suarez. With Ross and Vincent out of the picture, the most likely non-roster addition would seem to be Trevor Cahill. Add Cahill and subtract 1 from the list of “maybes.”
- Taxi squad: Now that we’ve (somewhat) settled the 40-man roster, let’s think about the rest of the list. This can be broken into three subcategories;
- Top prospects: These are players who, for the most part, will not play for the Giants in 2020 but who will be added to the 60-man list so that they can practice with major leaguers and get some coaching and development in the absence of a minor league season. It’s already been stated that top prospects Bart, Marco Luciano, Heliot Ramos, and Hunter Bishop will be on the list. It’s even possible that a recent draftee like Patrick Bailey could be added to the list; Bailey hasn’t been signed yet, but that would be a reason to not fill the 60-man list entirely. Other top prospects worthy of consideration include Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry, Alex Canario, and Luis Matos (who according to another Pavlovic article is highly regarded by farm director Kyle Haines). Of those, Bart, Hjelle, and possibly Ramos would be the only players likely to see major league playing time this season.
- The “spares”: This could include anyone cut from the 40-man roster (see above) or non-roster invitees who don’t make the 40-man roster (names such as Zach Green, Cristhian Adames, Tyler Cyr, Rico Garcia, Joey Rickard, Chadwick Tromp, or Carlos Navas).
- Roster additions: The most obvious addition would be free agent Yasiel Puig, and indeed the rumors surrounding him and the Giants started right back up again this week. I was open to the idea back in February when it first surfaced, but now I don’t really see the point. To me the primary reason to sign Puig for this year was to add entertainment value to what otherwise looked to be a dull season. Now, there are no tickets to sell and there will be no butts in the seats at Oracle Park (and no, I’m not counting cardboard cutouts of fans as “butts”). It might make more sense to simply add Billy Hamilton and see what Jaylin Davis can do with an opportunity.
#Giants expecting to be players for outfielder Yasiel Puig as soon as freeze is lifted according to sources close to the #Giants front office.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) June 24, 2020
Beyond Puig, you never know what other waiver moves Zaidi and crew might make. If things were normal, we’d expect a lot of them. But Zaidi also acknowledged that ethically, it’s hard to add too many players when it means putting them at risk with commercial travel to join the team and then entering the Giants’ bubble. So what the Giants had in camp or in the organization is, in all likelihood, mostly what they will run with.
We’ll know more about these decisions very soon. Even with all the uncertainties, it’s fun to have actual baseball moves to talk about again, isn’t it? Lefty out.