Who’s going to catch for the Giants? Farhan Zaidi shares his thoughts

Finding a replacement for Buster Posey is no easy task

By Chris Haft

Special to The Examiner

The Giants’ No. 1 catcher’s job isn’t necessarily Joey Bart’s to lose as the ballclub begins its truncated spring training. But it could be his to win if he can perform capably during the rushed run-up toward Opening Day.

Buster Posey’s sudden retirement after last season has focused attention squarely on Bart, who San Francisco drafted second overall in 2018. The Giants knew that they’d face a challenge when the time came to replace the peerless Posey. They wagered their highest draft pick since Will Clark in 1985 that Bart could handle the task.

The Giants are still waiting for Bart’s inner Posey to emerge. At least Farhan Zaidi, the club’s president in charge of baseball operations, has been impressed enough by Bart to indicate that there’s more reason to be encouraged by the 25-year-old than discouraged.

Bart continues to be the master of his own fate, Zaidi said Friday in a teleconference with Giants beat reporters. Zaidi did not commit to either Bart or Curt Casali, last year’s backup behind the plate, as the favorite to replace Posey.

Zaidi described the current status of the catcher’s spot as being “some kind of timeshare” between Bart and Casali, adding that the Giants would make adjustments to that kind of timeshare “depending on how Joey comes along. We see an everyday catcher-kind of upside with Joey.”

Bart has shown flashes of that upside offensively, amassing 39 home runs while batting .287 in all or part of three minor league seasons.

During a brief stint with the Giants in 2020, Bart weathered public criticism from veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto for lacking thorough understanding of defensive subtleties. But Zaidi credited Bart’s defensive development: “I think we saw continued evolution from him last year.”

Zaidi cited the Giants’considerable trust in Casali, owing to the club’s 42-13 record in his starts.

Zaidi said that he continues to “cast a wide net” in his search for an impact bat and starting pitching depth. Though the Giants lost Posey to retirement and could lose Kris Bryant to free agency, Zaidi emphasized that San Francisco isn’t limiting its pursuit only to right-handed batters, calling the existing complement of righty swingers (including Evan Longoria, Darin Ruf, Austin Slater and Wilmer Flores) “underrated.” Both searches could be limited to free agency, since the work stoppage prevented the trade market from developing due to the enforced shutdown of trade negotiations.

In other news since the end of the lockout, the Giants filled a noticeable void in their starting rotation by signing left-hander Carlos Rodon to a reported two-year, $44 million deal.

Rodon, 29, may have been the best starter remaining available in free agency. He finished 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 24 starts last season for the Chicago White Sox. A power pitcher whose fastball velocity regularly reaches 95 mph, Rodon struck out 185 batters and walked just 36 in 132-2/3 innings a year ago. He provides a potential complement to San Francisco’s existing group of starters, which includes Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Alex Cobb.

Injury history is the most ominous item on Rodon’s resume. Due to a variety of arm injuries, he has exceeded 162 innings in a season (the one-per-game average expected of most starters) only in 2016, his second big league season.

In seven seasons, all spent with the White Sox, Rodon has compiled a 42-38 record with a 3.79 ERA in 121 outings (116 starts). He no-hit Cleveland in an 8-0 White Sox victory on April 14, 2021.

Chris Haft is a longtime Bay Area baseball writer who covers the Giants for The Examiner.

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