San Francisco Giants: Analyzing Upcoming Roster Decisions

The MLB season is just a couple weeks underway, and the San Francisco Giants are already experiencing trouble, in terms of depth. Some key Giants have suffered varying degrees of injuries so far, including Hunter Pence, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Brandon Belt, Casey McGehee, and Travis Ishikawa.

Because of these injuries, the Giants’ somewhat lack of depth has been exposed. The bench and the long relievers have already been utilized more often than they would’ve been at this point in a typical season.

The Giants are limping through the beginning of the season, but since Ishikawa is eligible to come off the DL today, there are some important upcoming roster decisions that will have to be made.

Should the Giants activate Ishikawa from the DL as soon as possible to gain more bench help? If they do, who will they cut from the current roster?

Or will the Giants cut a pitcher, since they’re carrying 13 pitchers on the 25-man roster? If so, will they cut Jean Machi or George Kontos? Do they risk going with less pitchers (while the starting rotation is struggling) for more bench help?

As seen in these questions, the Giants have several options for when Ishikawa returns with the way the roster is currently constructed, and there are, of course, several factors that will go into this decision.

One factor is McGehee. He is doing better after an MRI revealed he suffered a bone bruise on his left femur, and he will most likely be back in the lineup within the next few days. That means that the Giants’ need for more bench help will slightly decrease once McGehee comes back, especially with Belt back too.

Therefore, the Giants don’t need to necessarily immediately activate Ishikawa for extra bench help. This also means that once he returns, the Giants will have more depth on the bench, which could suggest that they decide to cut a pitcher.

As mentioned before, the Giants are currently carrying 13 pitchers, which is partially due to the uncertainty surrounding the starting rotation and the fact that the Giants don’t have a day off until April 20th. The Giants could certainly decide to cut back to just 12 pitchers and add a bench player (which will most likely happen at some point in the near future), but it appears as if that will not happen in the next few days.

With that being said, this suggests that the Giants will wait one more week until the day off to activate Ishikawa and cut one pitcher. Can the Giants afford to go one more week without some extra bench help? With a healthy McGehee and Belt, yes. However, that still leaves them with a difficult decision to be made, in terms of the pitchers.

In terms of Ishikawa’s return, that decision will most likely come down to whether the Giants want to keep Kontos or Machi. They had this same position battle during Spring Training and chose to bring both onto the Opening Day roster for the reasons mentioned before but also since they both had similar statistics and production during Spring Training. The Giants will ultimately have to make that tough decision sometime soon though.

So far this season, Kontos has appeared in four games and 5.1 innings, he has a 0.00 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, he’s given up five hits, he’s walked one, and he’s struck out four. Machi, on the other hand, has also appeared in four games, but he’s pitched three innings, he has a 6.00 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP, he’s given up four hits and two earned runs, he’s walked two, and he’s struck out one.

Obviosuly, this is such a small sample size that it’s hard to fully analyze their production. However, Kontos has appeared to have better command this season, has been utilized more, and has better statistics so far. This could suggest that Kontos gets the nod over Machi when Ishikawa gets activated, but the Giants really could go either way on that decision.

The roster decisions involving Ishikawa’s return are the most relevant at this time, but there are some other upcoming decisions that will have to be made in the near future as well.

For example, when Cain comes back, another tough roster decision will need to be made. There isn’t a set timetable yet on when he will be back, but when he does return, Chris Heston will most likely be the one sent down to Triple-A, as he was the one that was called up when Cain was put on the DL and because of the abundance of capable starters on the Giants’ roster.

This would be an unfortunate decision since Heston has been superb since being called up. In his two starts so far, he has a 1.38 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, he’s pitched 13 innings, he’s given up 10 hits and just two earned runs, he’s walked four, he’s struck out 10, and he’s allowing batters to hit just .217 against him.

As mentioned before though, there just isn’t room in the rotation, especially with two long relievers. There’s a great possibility that Heston pitches for the Giants again at some point during the rest of the season though, as he’s really impressed his teammates, the coaching staff, and fans.

In addition to the Cain-Heston decision, the Giants will also have to eventually address what to do when Pence comes back in a few weeks. It’s hard to suggest a decision now, as a lot can change in a few weeks in terms of injuries and other unforeseeable factors, but the Giants could possibly decide to option Justin Maxwell to Triple-A, although he’s been a quality outfielder off the bench, or could decide to cut or designate Matt Duffy or Joaquin Arias. We will discuss this topic in another upcoming article though.