Austin Slater

Zaidi explains what Giants' roster moves mean for youngsters

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wasn't on the road trip, but as the team plane arrived back in San Francisco on Sunday night, Zaidi headed to the ballpark to make sure he could see one player in person. 

He wanted to join manager Bob Melvin in informing Austin Slater that he was being traded to the Cincinnati Reds, and two days later, the organization's leaders had to let another veteran know that he would no longer be wearing orange and black. In trading Slater and designating Nick Ahmed for assignment, the Giants shook up a roster that has played better in recent weeks, but still is three games under .500.

The moves were in part about the struggles of Slater and Ahmed at the plate, but Zaidi said it also was time to open up additional at-bats for young players. The Giants are hoping not just for more production, but also a jolt of energy and athleticism.

Luis Matos will get Slater's at-bats against left-handed pitching and should get additional opportunities against right-handers. Tyler Fitzgerald was the shortstop on Tuesday with a lefty on the other side and will split time at the position with Brett Wisely. Both Fitzgerald and Wisely also can play other positions. 

"We've talked a lot about wanting to give some of our young players coming up opportunities and adding athleticism to the roster and one of the best ways to do that is to have the young guys come up and earn roles," Zaidi said. "As much as anything, it's just a vote of confidence in those guys. Matos and Fitz, in particular, are guys who have been a little bit on the up-and-down shuttle between here and Sacramento. 

"Hopefully this is an opportunity for them to feel like they don't have to look over their shoulder and continue a lot of the positives that we've seen from them."

Fitzgerald entered the homestand with a .724 OPS and Matos was at .604. Both Slater and Ahmed were under .600, and each had just one home run. Matos should bring a bit more power to the lineup, while Fitzgerald adds speed to a group that is last in the majors in stolen bases. 

The Giants on Tuesday night had Fitzerald, Matos, Wisely, Heliot Ramos and Patrick Bailey in a young lineup. It won't be like this every night, but they're hopeful that this is their path in the second half. Making the moves now also allows them to take an extended look at some young players ahead of the July 30 trade deadline

The Giants don't currently figure to be particularly active. Zaidi is happy with his group, and the biggest weakness in recent months -- the starting pitching -- soon should be solved by veterans coming off the IL. 

He made an early trade, though, sending Slater to the Reds for lefty reliever Alex Young, who could help a tired bullpen at some point. Slater was the longest-tenured Giant, a title that now belongs to Mike Yastrzemski, who called the trade "a little bit of a shock." 

The Giants believe better days are ahead for the outfield, although they'll miss Slater in the clubhouse. As their union rep, he helped them navigate not just the shortened coronavirus season but also the lockout. Yastrzemski called that "very selfless," noting that Slater was spending hours a day on calls with the union and then relaying information to teammates. 

Melvin said delivering the news on Sunday night was "difficult." He had a lot of respect for Slater, and Zaidi felt the same way. 

"He's just a consummate pro in terms of a guy who had a pretty specialized role with us and did it really well," Zaidi said. "He was one of the best in baseball, I think, at the role that he had for us. All these guys at this level want to be everyday players and want to get that chance to prove themselves and hopefully he gets that chance in Cincinnati. 

"He always let us know he wanted more of an opportunity to play every day but he also understood his role and did it really well and didn't view it as a negative. I have all the respect in the world for him as just a consummate professional."

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