SF has stiff spring competition at second

February 7th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- With first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria set to return in 2020, the Giants have veterans seemingly entrenched at every infield position -- except for second base.

The keystone figures to be one of the Giants’ most intriguing position battles this spring, which should foster plenty of healthy competition in the weeks leading up to Opening Day. Here’s a breakdown of the top contenders and how they might fit into San Francisco’s infield plans this season.

Acquired from the Brewers in exchange for relievers Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black at the Trade Deadline, Dubón essentially finished last season as the Giants’ everyday second baseman, batting .279 with a .754 OPS and four home runs over 28 games. The 25-year-old showed he can handle both middle-infield positions and impressed with his baseball instincts, skills that appeared to make him the frontrunner to become the starting second baseman in 2020. But San Francisco believes it can maximize Dubón’s athleticism by potentially developing him into a super-utility player and plans to experiment with him in center field this spring. Dubón still seems likely to draw substantial at-bats at second base this year, but his ability to move around should allow the Giants to deploy others at the position as well and create more favorable matchups for manager Gabe Kapler on a daily basis.

The Giants added another versatile piece to their infield mix by reportedly signing Flores to a two-year contract earlier this week. It marks the first multiyear deal given out by the Giants since Farhan Zaidi took over as president of baseball operations in November 2018. Flores, 28, can play all over the infield and brings a solid right-handed bat that has historically crushed left-handed pitching. He batted .317 with an .848 OPS and nine home runs for the D-backs last year, though he appeared in only 89 games due to a right foot injury and became a free agent after his '20 option was declined. Like Dubón, Flores seems likely to settle into a utility role and could start primarily against lefties.

Sánchez, who won the American League Gold Glove Award at second base last year, will also be in the running for the second-base job after signing a Minor League deal with the Giants. A switch-hitter, Sánchez turned down two Major League offers for a chance to compete for the starting role, so he could push the rest of the field if he shows that he can hit better than his career OPS+ of 80 would indicate. The 27-year-old batted .252 with a .638 OPS and two home runs over 149 games in 2019, prompting the White Sox to non-tender him in December. Sánchez will come into Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and isn’t guaranteed a spot on the 40-man roster, which could work against him this spring.

Solano emerged as one of Zaidi’s more underrated acquisitions last year, serving as a reliable backup middle infielder despite not having played in the Majors since 2016. The 32-year-old veteran batted .330 with an .815 OPS and four home runs over 81 games for the Giants, including an eye-popping .402 clip on the road. Solano signed a one-year, $1.375 million contract to avoid arbitration this offseason and could fill a similar reserve role in '20, though he’ll have to show that his success last year wasn’t a fluke.