The Giants didn’t succeed in landing the free agent marquee they sought when the offseason began, but they have added to their roster in a different way. They’ve spread their money around and given eight-figure guarantees to six different players in Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Sean Manaea, Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson. But they still have their sights set on further upgrades, with Hector Gómez of Z101 Digital reporting they have shown interest in catcher Gary Sanchez.
The level of interest the club has is not known, but it makes plenty of logical sense. The Giants only have a pair of catchers on their 40-man roster at the moment, as Austin Wynns was designated for assignment last week. The two remaining backstops are Blake Sabola Rule 5 draftee with no major league experience, and Joey Bart.
The latter was a second overall pick in 2018 who has been ranked as one of the better prospects in the game, but he’s yet to fully cement himself in the big leagues. Through 408 plate appearances over the past three seasons, he’s hit 11 home runs but struck out at a 38% rate. His batting line currently sits at .222 / .294 / .351 for a wRC + of 84. He was also considered a subpar defender and framer last year, according to Defensive Runs Saved and FanGraphs. Even if the Giants still believe in Bart as their long-term solution behind the plate, it makes sense that they would consider a veteran alternative as a safety net for the short-term.
Sánchez, 30, earned a reputation as a bat-first catcher when he hit 53 home runs over 2016 and 2017. His batting line over that two-year stretch was .284/.354/.568 for a wRC+ of 143. He’s since cooled off at the plate, posting a 96 wRC+ in the five seasons since, including an 89 in 2022. Despite that tepid platform year at the plate, his previous production should still lead to some interest. It’s also possible he could get a boost from the upcoming defensive restrictions since he was shifted in more than 70% of his appearances last year, despite being right-handed. Sanchez has long been considered to be weaker on the defensive side of his game, but he was actually ranked above average by both DRS and FanGraphs’ framing metric last year.
The Giants have been quite active on the waiver wire in recent years, grabbing various catchers and cycling them through the roster throughout the year. Signing Sánchez would be a change in strategy but an understandable one since he’s arguably the top catcher still available in free agency.
The club also has interest in relievers Evan Marshallreports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Marshall bounced around the league for a few years but seemed to have a breakout with the White Sox in 2019 and 2020. Over those two seasons, the right-hander made 78 appearances with a 2.45 ERA. His 10.3% walk rate was certainly on the high side but he struck out 23.5% of batters faced and got ground balls at a strong clip of 52.3%.
Unfortunately, things went sideways in 2021, with his ERA jumping to 5.60. He went to the injured list in June with an elbow injury and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in October. The Sox outrighted him off the roster at season’s end and he missed the entire 2022 campaign.
The club’s interest in Marshall, who turns 33 in April, would be somewhat akin to their signing of Luke Jackson. The latter pitcher underwent Tommy John in April of last year and isn’t likely to be ready for Opening Day. Marshall is also coming back from TJS but should be further along since he went under the knife about six months earlier than Jackson, though that’s speculative and each injury rehab is unique. Regardless of his current status, it seems the Giants have some interest in seeing if he can get back to that strong form he showed a few years ago.
Elsewhere in Giant news, Conforto provided a health update to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The outfielder missed the entire 2022 season due to a shoulder injury but is now healthy enough that the Giants signed him to a two-year, $36MM guarantee. Conforto can opt out of the deal after the first season but only if he makes at least 350 plate appearances this year.
He tells Shea that he’s begun ramping up for 2023 and is already throwing from 200 feet. “It’s all going great, knock on wood,” Conforto says. “There haven’t been any setbacks. I got all my measurements today with the medical team, and they’re pleased with the way everything’s looking, strength-wise, swing-wise, running, everything.”