Marin Independent Journal
Wynns happy to rejoin Giants
After getting cut in offseason, veteran tries to figure where he fits in San Francisco catching competition
There's something missing in the major-league clubhouse here. Or, more accurately, someone.
For Austin Wynns to access the perks of the sparkling three-yearold facility — the snacks, the massage tables, the hot and cold tubs — he has to navigate a hundred-foot corridor, climb a flight of stairs and walk down one more hallway. The daily trek is what separates the lockers of minor leaguers and non-roster invitees from those with secure spots on the 40-man roster and plentiful major-league service time.
It hasn't gone unnoticed that Wynns, who was behind the plate for the Giants in more games last season than anyone but Joey Bart, who is talked about in high regard by the pitchers who threw to him last season and team brass alike, who is firmly one of four catchers competing for two spots on the Opening Day roster, seems a little out of place down here.
“But,” Wynns said, “this was in my heart. I was just like, you know what, I want to be a Giant still. I'm happy they wanted me back.”
His humble home downstairs, at a corner locker inside the old clubhouse the major-league team used until its new facility opened in 2020, is a result of a roster move made in early January. San Francisco had agreed to terms with Michael Conforto but needed a spot on the 40man roster. Wynns was the sacrificial lamb.
While Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, publicly and privately, expressed their desire to bring him back, Wynns did explore other opportunities, he said. With a .671 OPS in 65 games, both career highs, while garnering rave reviews from the pitching staff, there's reason to believe Wynns had other offers.
Ultimately, Wynns took the Gi
ants' assurances that he would be in the mix, even if not as a member of the 40-man roster, and decided to return on a minor-league deal.
“That's the part that is most notable,” Kapler said. “The conversations with Austin to let him know that he was still very much important to us and we weren't going to let him forget that. And we haven't, by the way.”
Wynns said the Giants were “prepared and professional” in their conversations after he was designated for assignment.
“This is the nature of this game,” he said. “It is what it is. I'm still here. I want to be here. I love this club. This organization is great. I know I have a lot to offer this club. I know what it takes and I want to win and I know this club wants to win too.”
Like this winter, however, Wynns' fate is only so much in his hands.
In a catching competition with a former top pick looking to reach his potential, a veteran who hasn't been healthy in three seasons and a Rule 5 draftee who has played 25 games above Double-A (and none in the majors), Wynns, to an extent, is the known quantity.
Kapler was asked to give an assessment of the two catchers in Monday's Cactus League game, Wynns
and Blake Sabol, the 25-year-old Rule 5 pick.
“Wynns looked like Wynns,” Kapler said, before offering an extended answer on Sabol's pitch framing.
Don't expect any clarity in the Giants' catching competition for “several weeks,” Kapler said Sunday morning.
“I wouldn't expect to have much on that until we get the most information possible,” Kapler said.
Through 11 spring exhibitions, Joey Bart, Roberto Perez and Wynns have each started three games, while Blake Sabol has gotten the nod twice.
Alex Cobb, who struck out six over three innings
in his second spring start Sunday, came away impressed with Pérez after throwing to him for the first time.
“Roberto is special,” Cobb said, specifically referencing his pitch-framing. “He's done it at the big league level. He thinks differently than any other catcher I've talked to. So he's going to really rub off on all of our guys.”
VILLAR'S EARLY STRUGGLES DON'T CONCERN KAPLER >>
Unlike Bart, David Villar entered camp as the Giants “incumbent” at his position, third base, in the words of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
No Giants player has started Cactus League
colder at the plate.
In 11 plate appearances, Villar has yet to record a hit and has struck out seven times. But, as Kapler has repeatedly stressed, the Giants aren't making any decisions off small spring samples.
“Ten plate appearances is nothing,” Kapler said. “My only message to David is don't stress about your first 10 plate appearances in camp. Don't stress about the first 20 plate appearances in camp, or the first 30. It's not enough.
“I have full confidence and belief in David and his ability. His track record is 100 times more important than the first couple of atbats in spring training.”