Pitchers and catchers report in about a month, and the Giants currently have one catcher with MLB experience on their 40-man roster.
Catcher Joey Bart, who hit .215 as a rookie last year, is expected to be the Giants’ Opening Day catcher. Blake Sabol, an outfielder who converted to catcher last year and has yet to make his debut, is also on San Francisco’s 40-man roster.
Speaking with beat reporters via Zoom on Thursday afternoon, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said it’s unlikely the team makes major improvements at the position.
“Maybe adding someone on a non-roster basis, but it’s really unlikely at this point we add someone on a Major League deal,” Zaidi said.
That apparently rules out remaining free agents like Gary Sánchez or Kevin Plawecki.
Austin Wynns, who served as San Francisco’s backup last year, cleared waivers Thursday and Zaidi said he hopes to retain him.
Wynns batted .259 in 65 games with the Giants for a .651 OPS. He earned rave reviews for his work with the pitching staff and essentially became Carlos Rodón’s personal batterymate. Pitchers recorded a 3.76 ERA with Wynns behind the plate compared to 4.00 with Bart.
His contributions were impressive given the organization added him as a stopgap solution, but clearly not overly impressive given the Giants designated him for assignment.
“We’re hoping Austin comes back,” Zaidi said.
Sabol, meanwhile, must stay on the Giants’ 40-man roster all season because they acquired him via a Rule 5 Draft trade. Sabol is a left-handed hitter, which could be a major asset if he’s fit to actually catch.
“(Sabol) has been working really hard, has been connecting with a lot of our pitchers,” Zaidi said. “He’s really impressed us with his preparation for the season so far. He has no Major League experience, he’s a rookie. Again, it’s a little bit like what we discussed with (David) Villar and (LaMonte) Wade: we’ve got to give these guys opportunities, and they need to be part of the vehicle for improvement for us by creating some consistency for themselves at the Major League level.”
If the Giants stick with the current group of Bart, Sabol and potentially Wynns, Bart will be the biggest factor. His 2022 season was inconsistent and uneven, with alarming strikeout rates defining his first half and a promising hot stretch in August justifying internal optimism.
Bart spent most of June and July in Sacramento for a mental restart after his early struggles. In 18 August games, Bart hit .328 with an .888 OPS.
The Giants could bring in another catcher on a non-roster invite basis to compete but Zaidi said “we want to kind of keep the paths for Bart and Sabol and hopefully Wynns for two of those spots.”
The catcher position was a carousel for the Giants last year. Along with Bart and Wynns, Curt Casali, Ford Proctor, Yermín Mercedes, Michael Papierski and Andrew Knapp spent time in the squat.
San Francisco spent real capital on assembling that core, including trading outfielder Mauricio Dubón to Houston for Papierski.
Giants catchers overall finished with a .682 OPS in 2022, 11th in MLB. The unit finished 16th in Fangraphs WAR (1.3).
Though not disastrous, that’s a tough wake-up call after 12 years of Buster Posey.