Last-minute trade causes changes to Giants' Opening Day roster


NEW YORK -- As the Giants packed up at Scottsdale Stadium last week and prepared to set their Opening Day roster, it seemed likely that three young players -- Blake Sabol, Bryce Johnson and Sean Hjelle -- would make the cut after big springs. One minor roster move changed the math for two of them.

The Giants acquired veteran Matt Beaty on Thursday from the Kansas City Royals, changing the construction of their initial roster and bringing back memories of the new regime's first year in charge. Beaty arrived at Yankee Stadium in time to provide an extra bench bat for Gabe Kapler, but as he got comfortable, Johnson surprisingly headed to Salt Lake City to join Triple-A Sacramento. Another player who woke up thinking he was headed to the minors instead ended up seeing an "MLB Debut" patch on his Giants jersey. 

The Giants added Beaty to their 40-man, taking up the open spot that seemed certain to go to Johnson, a plus defender who stole 12 bases in 12 attempts this spring. To add center field depth, they kept Brett Wisely, who had been told Wednesday night that he was being optioned, only to hear something different a few hours later. Keeping Beaty and Wisely, and thus having 14 position players, meant Hjelle ended up back on the Triple-A roster after striking out 22 in 17 spring innings. 

"I'm honestly still in a little bit of shock," Wisely said as he stood in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. "My heart is pounding. I'm excited, but what a crazy ride."

The MLB debut will be a bittersweet one for Wisely, acquired in November from the Tampa Bay Rays. His parents had planned to fly up from Florida, only to learn late Thursday that Wisely was headed for Triple-A. They canceled those plans and the Giants were unable to get them to Yankee Stadium in time for Wisely's first game on a big league roster. 

Kapler said the late change was "nothing totally unexpected." The Giants had been discussing Wisely vs. Hjelle for days and have liked Beaty, who was drafted by Farhan Zaidi in Los Angeles, for a while. They sent cash considerations to the Royals after Beaty did not make their roster. 

"We felt like he's a good left-handed bat off the bench for us," Kapler said. "A guy that can pinch-hit for, on a day like today potentially, (Roberto) Perez, by way of example if we're late in the game and the opportunity presents itself."

Beaty, 29, spent three years with the Dodgers and played 20 games for the San Diego Padres last season. He has a .736 OPS in his career against righties and is an experienced pinch-hitter, although he is limited defensively. 

The move brought back memories of 2019, when the Giants acquired Connor Joe and Michael Reed at the last second and plugged them into the lineup. It is not at all out of character for the Giants, who used a franchise-record 67 players last season, although it was a bit unexpected after the way the spring went. 

Blake Sabol and Johnson seemed to have won jobs after Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater got hurt, and Zaidi spoke glowingly of Hjelle last week. Kapler made it clear that both Johnson and Hjelle will have a role this season, although it certainly has to be disappointing for Johnson, who was taken off the 40-man roster in the offseason and appeared to have a road back. 

"He had a fantastic spring, ran the bases very well, as we all saw, and I think made every possible push to be on our Opening Day roster," Kapler said. "We got to the end and it wasn't right for Opening Day, necessarily, but it could be right at another time pretty soon."

In other roster shuffling, the Giants granted Stephen Piscotty his release and put Haniger, Slater, Luke Jackson, Luis Gonzalez and Thomas Szapucki on the IL. The latter two went on the 60-day IL, which was to be expected.

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The moves came a few days after Zaidi said he liked the internal options the Giants had to fill in for Haniger, Slater and Jackson.

"We're excited about some of the guys who stepped forward in this camp and it's just kind of a good thing culturally to be able to reward those guys," Zaidi said last week. 

That day may come soon for Johnson and Hjelle, but it wasn't the opener. When a player they coveted became available, the Giants, as they have done so often, opted for a bit of roster churning.

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