When it comes to players who finished the season with nagging injuries, no offseason news is essentially good news. That’s the case right now with Austin Slater.
The outfielder was on his way to a breakout season but was limited to DH and pinch-hitting duty after August 11 because of a right elbow flexor strain. This is the second time in three years Slater has had elbow soreness, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday that the outfielder is on a “rest and rehab” plan.
“He’s doing well, and it’s obviously a good sign that (rest and rehab) was even an option. When things are more serious, surgical intervention can’t really be avoided,” Zaidi said. “We’re anticipating him being 100 percent for spring training based on what we think he’ll be able to do from a rehab perspective this offseason.”
Avoiding surgery is good news for Slater, but also for Zaidi and Scott Harris, who are putting the roster together. They will always pursue depth, but in an ideal world Slater could go into 2021 as a right-handed bat for an outfield that has left-handed starters — Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson — in both corners.
Zaidi gave several updates on a Zoom call with beat reporters Wednesday, and two of the other ones aren’t as positive. Brandon Belt had heel surgery after the season and Zaidi said it was unclear if Belt would be ready when position players report to Scottsdale Stadium — assuming they do — in mid-February.
“I think it’s a little too early to tell right now. It depends on his recovery,” Zaidi said. “Everything we’re hearing is positive, but I don’t think that we have a firm timetable or target date yet. I know that’s the hope, that he’s available for spring training or he’ll be ready to go by opening day, but I don’t think we can say that for certain right now.”
Belt missed nearly all of July’s summer camp with the heel injury and then had his best season at the plate, so a late start wouldn’t be too much of a concern.
The Giants also recently announced that Alexander Canario, an outfielder widely considered among their top six or seven prospects, had shoulder surgery. Canario dislocated his left non-throwing shoulder during the last week of instructional league action and had a torn labrum repaired. He is rehabbing in Arizona and Zaidi said he would miss the start of the minor league season (assuming one exists).
Canario, 20, hasn’t played above rookie ball, so he’s far from the big leagues. But he’ll miss some reps in a year when the Giants hope to be aggressive with top prospects. Heliot Ramos, the organization’s top outfield prospect, missed at-bats in the instructional league when he suffered an oblique injury, but Zaidi said Ramos will be ready for spring training. Ramos has a shot at making his debut at some point next season.
— The move with Kevin Gausman ultimately ended up being straightforward. The Giants made a qualifying offer and Gausman accepted, locking in $18.9 million for 2021. But before that, Gausman did test the market a bit, and the two sides explored a multi-year deal. Zaidi said those talks have been shelved for now.
“It’s on the back burner right now,” he said. “We’ve obviously got other things that we’re looking to accomplish. It’s not sort of a front burner item, but obviously we love having him here, he did a great job and he was a great leader to our younger players. I could see that being something we revisit, but I don’t think anything there is imminent.”
— In case you missed it, here’s Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler on the loss of Drew Smyly. And then there’s Johnny Cueto, who is likely to play winter ball. Finally, here are some options to fill out the rotation.
— The Giants added two players on minor league contracts, left-hander Sam Long and outfielder Jason Krizan.
Long, 25, is a Sac State product who pitched as a starter and reliever for the A-ball Kannapolis Intimidators (a sweet name) in 2019. He was briefly a teammate of fellow former White Sox prospect Luis Alexander Basabe, now also a Giant. Long struck out 112 batters in 97 innings.
Giants signed LHP Sam Long (25.4Y, 6’1″ 185) to a minor league contract. He was a 2016 18R pick by TBR out of CSU-Sacramento. Released and then signed by CWS in 2019.
A: 97IP 73H 28BB 112K 3.06 ERA. 91-93 FB, good CH, and has a CB. pic.twitter.com/m5aF8dsMXa
— GPT (@giantsprospects) November 18, 2020
Krizan, 31, last played with the Triple-A Syracuse Mets, where he was teammates with Gregor Blanco. He has flashed average power in recent years and has consistently high on-base percentages, and he’ll provide some depth at Triple-A.