Gi­ants pass on Gon­za­lez, move for­ward with in-house op­tions

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - BY KERRY CROW­LEY

Farhan Zaidi has a type. He showed it with his first free agent sign­ing – switch-pitcher Pat Ven­ditte – and he’s con­tin­ued to show it with each sub­se­quent ad­di­tion to the Gi­ants ros­ter.

“They were one of the first teams to reach out,” Ven­ditte said of the Gi­ants. “They were in the first wave, the first cou­ple days of free agency.”

As dozens of jour­ney­men free agents wait for the phone to ring this Fe­bru­ary, a re­liever with limited big league ex­pe­ri­ence who hap­pens to be the most ver­sa­tile pitcher in the sport found a home rather eas­ily.

It’s no sur­prise that home is the one Zaidi is re­mod­el­ing.

Dur­ing his ten­ure as the Dodgers gen­eral man­ager, Zaidi es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for hoard­ing multi-po­si­tional as­sets and pitch­ers who could flip from the ro­ta­tion to the bullpen at a mo­ment’s no­tice. Zaidi views the 40-man ros­ter like an in-progress mo­saic and he’ll wear down the waiver wire if it gives his prod­uct even the slight­est im­prove­ment.

So when Zaidi was hired, many in the in­dus­try con­nected the Gi­ants to one of the off­sea­son’s top free agents, Mar­win Gon­za­lez. With a ca­reer .737 OPS and the abil­ity to play ev­ery de­fen­sive po­si­tion out­side of catcher, Gon­za­lez can do ev­ery­thing ex­cept throw with both arms.

The Gi­ants checked in with Gon­za­lez’s agent, Scott Bo­ras, ear­lier this off­sea­son, but on Fri­day, mul­ti­ple re­ports said Gon­za­lez had fi­nal­ized a twoyear, $21 mil­lion deal to join the Min­nesota Twins.

The terms of Gon­za­lez’s con- tract came as a ma­jor sur­prise, but the fact he didn’t land in San Fran­cisco de­spite Zaidi’s pres­ence isn’t as much of a shock. Many ex­perts thought Gon­za­lez would com­mand a three-to-four year deal in the $40-$60 mil­lion range, but in a de­pressed free agent mar­ket, Gon­za­lez failed to gen­er­ate more in­ter­est.

In the hours be­fore Gon­za­lez’s sign­ing, the Gi­ants were still con­sid­ered a pos­si­ble des­ti­na­tion, but Zaidi has sev­eral other in-house can­di­dates to fill a sim­i­lar role.

The most com­pa­ra­ble player in camp to Gon­za­lez might be Yangervis So­larte, a five-year vet­eran who signed a mi­nor league deal with a non-ros­ter in­vite to spring train­ing. So­larte has ap­peared at ev­ery in­field po­si­tion and also earned play­ing time in left field, a spot the Gi­ants plan to try him at this spring.

“So­larte is a guy who can play any­where in the in­field, he’s played some out­field and he’s a switch-hit­ter,” Zaidi said. “Even if these guys don’t have a de-

fined ev­ery day role com­ing out of spring train­ing, they find a way to get 300-to-400 at-bats.”

So­larte is one of sev­eral multi-po­si­tional play­ers com­pet­ing for a ros­ter spot in Gi­ants camp, as he joins fel­low switch-hit­ting in­field­ers Alen Han­son and Pablo San­doval. Though Zaidi doesn’t ex­pect any mem­ber of the trio to se­cure a start­ing job at one po­si­tion, their abil­ity to cre­ate more fa­vor­able matchups by hit­ting from both sides of the plate should of­fer man­ager Bruce Bochy some ad­di­tional mid and late-game flex­i­bil­ity.

“Whether I’m a starter or com­ing off the bench, I don’t pay much at­ten­tion,” So­larte said through Span­ish lan­guage trans­la­tor Er­win Higueros. “I know what my abil­i­ties are, I know what I can do and I know I can help the team. So what­ever they want to do, I’m okay with it.”

So­larte hit 16 home runs in the first half of last sea­son with Toronto, but cratered later in the year as he dealt with an oblique in­jury. His ca­reer on-base per­cent­age and on-base plus slug­ging are nearly iden­ti­cal to Gon­za­lez’s num­bers, but he’s not nearly as strong of a de­fender and he’s com­ing off the worst sea­son of his ca­reer.

The Gi­ants ac­quired So­larte op­ti­mistic that last sea­son’s strug­gles were an out­lier, but if he doesn’t meet ex­pec­ta­tions, Zaidi is hope­ful Han­son can seize a Gon­za­lez-type role. In his first sea­son with the Gi­ants, Han­son ap­peared at five po­si­tions and show­cased blaz­ing speed, but his glove is a ma­jor ques­tion mark and his abil­ity to hit from the right side is a weak­ness.

At 26, Han­son still has plenty of time to be­come a more com­plete player, es­pe­cially if the Gi­ants re­ward him with more sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties this year.

MATT YORK AP

The Gi­ants work out dur­ing spring train­ing Feb. 13 in Scotts­dale, Ariz. Af­ter the Gi­ants failed to land free agent Mar­win Gon­za­lez, who signed with the Twins, they are fo­cus­ing on in-house op­tions for build­ing the ros­ter.

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