Once the ball has dropped and the New Year has been rung in, it’s close enough to spring training to start counting the days and surveying the landscape.
It’s a little premature to deconstruct the Giants’ 40-man roster that will report to Scottsdale next month because there could (and will) be more changes via trades and free agent acquisitions. However, this week the Giants did announce their list of non-roster invitees (NRIs) to camp. (As a reminder, anyone who is on the 40-man roster is automatically invited to major league camp. That’s why we won’t be talking about the likes of Jaylin Davis or Wandy Peralta here.)
Here’s an article with the list of Giants’ NRIs. It’s not a long list, and the only top prospects it includes are Joey Bart and Sean Hjelle, the top two draft picks of 2018. In a recent podcast with Henry Schulman, Giants’ farm director Kyle Haines was asked why guys like Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop were not on the list. Haines explained that their philosophy is that players who are not in the running to make the major league roster are better served by being in minor league camp, working with the coaches, and playing everyday in minor league games, rather than the occasional AB off the bench in the late innings of a Cactus League game. Haines even suggested that the main reason Bart is on the list is that they need catchers to catch bullpens with so many pitchers in camp. This appears to be a shift in approach from the previous regime, but as Andrew Baggarly also noted, the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse is under renovation, and there may be space issues at play.
Beyond top-prospect watching, the list just isn’t very interesting unless you’re hoping for the “all-Sam bullpen.” (Sam Moll and Sam Wolff are NRIs who could join 40-man reliever Sam Coonrod.) I’m keeping an eye on Tyler Cyr, a local guy who was on the fast track to the majors before needing arm surgery in 2018.
And it’s hard not to root for this guy, given Baggarly’s comment about him.
RHP Trey McNutt — McNutt, 30, came up in the Cubs system and split last season between the A’s top two affiliates before heading to Mexico, where he was almost untouchable in 14 games for Hermosillo. His full name is Kenneth Trey McNutt and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. McNutt, love him very much.
I mean…c’mon, Baggs.
Around the same time as this short and nondescript list was released, the Giants announced that they had added two advanced minor league catchers to the mix. One is Tyler Heineman, most recently with the Marlins, who among other things is apparently a talented amateur magician and a poker aficianado. Also, a PSA: If you try to type “Heineman” on your phone, it will autocorrect to “Heineken.” The other is one Chadwick Tromp, who will be 25 in March and had a good year with the Reds’ AAA team last year. Tromp is on the NRI list. The interesting thing about these two guys, besides the obvious fact that they provide some depth in the Posey-Garcia-Bart mix, is that Grant Brisbee picked both of them out in an article in November called “Searching for the Next Ryan Vogelsong.” That was some pretty good research there. It’s one thing to suggest that “Anthony Rendon would be an upgrade at 3B” and another to suggest that “the Giants should take a look at Chad Tromp.”
Coaching staff is complete
The Giants finally completed their major league coaching staff, adding Antoan Richardson as the first base (plus other stuff) coach and Nick Ortiz as the “quality assurance” coach (which sounds like he works for Goodyear or Midas or Geico or something). Richardson, 36, was one of the few internal hires the Giants made, as he was a coach in the organization last season and even filled in for ousted 1B coach Jose Alguacil when the latter was away for his son’s graduation. He also was originally drafted by the Giants in 2005 and spent five years in their organization before moving on. Here’s another tidbit about Richardson. I like this one. From the mlb.com article:
The Bahamian native made his Major League debut on September 4, 2011, and recorded his first career hit off Clayton Kershaw in his first career at-bat.
Bonus trivia: Which current Giant also got his first career hit off Clayton Kershaw in his first career at-bat in 2011?
Ortiz is a native speaker of Spanish, and he’s old (46). He spent several years coaching in the Yankees organization.
Other baseball news
Yesterday was the deadline for teams to settle with players eligible for arbitration, and there were some record-setting contracts. Mookie Betts got $27 million from the Red Sox, the highest arbitration contract in MLB history. Cody Bellinger received $11.5 million from the Dodgers, which broke the record for the highest contract ever awarded to a first-year arbitration player. This was not an interesting day for Giants news, since they agreed upon contracts with their own arbitration-eligible players (Alex Dickerson, Wandy Peralta, and Donovan Solano) back in early December. We may have missed that because we were paying attention to the non-tender of Kevin Pillar.
While the Dodgers did come to terms with Bellinger and with Corey Seager, they did not agree on contracts for four other arbitration-eligible players, including Joc Pederson and Max Muncy. The Dodgers have not been to an arbitration hearing since 2007, so this is unusual.
The other big baseball news was a new investigative piece implicating the 2018 Boston Red Sox in a cheating scandal involving their video replay room. This is interesting because it means that the Dodgers might have lost two World Series in a row to teams that cheated to get there (the 2017 Astros and the 2018 Red Sox). It especially looks bad for Red Sox manager Alex Cora, already a central figure in the Astros investigation as their bench coach in 2017.
As I noted yesterday in a comment, it seems obvious that the Giants were not cheating in 2017-18 (or that if they did, they were hella bad at it).
So that’s it for Giants baseball news this second week in January, and I know we’re mostly all thinking about the 49ers playoff game today or the sad news about the drummer from Rush (RIP).
Enjoy this photo of the new-look Oracle Park, taken this week. Lefty out.