It hasn't quite hit the Giants yet, and it probably won't until they come walking out of the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium and gather on a field for the first time next spring. Buster Posey, after a decade as the face of the franchise, won't be there, and it's going to be a huge hole to fill.
For as much as Posey will be missed in the clubhouse, the Giants also have brought plenty of leadership back, locking up Brandon Crawford early, giving the qualifying offer to Brandon Belt, and guaranteeing that a lot of the rotation stays intact. It remains unclear if they can come close to filling that void on the field, although perhaps that's something they shouldn't stress too much about at the moment.
"You can't look back. You've just got to move forward," starter Alex Wood said last week, smiling. "The game is too hard to really dwell on guys leaving or not being part of your group the next year. You're not going to be able to replace Buster Posey -- it's Buster Posey."
Wood said it was a privilege to get to watch Posey in person last year, something others have echoed since Posey announced his retirement. When Kevin Gausman was introduced to Toronto media last week, he was asked what his favorite memory from San Francisco was.
"First and foremost, getting to play with Buster for his last season," Gausman replied. "Being able to be the last pitcher that he caught is something that really resonates for me. It's something crazy for me. I played with him but I was still a fan of his."
Quotes like that are an occasional reminder of how difficult this will be for the organization, but the Giants are set up about as well as any team could be, given the circumstances. They have one of baseball's best catching prospects, Joey Bart, in the wings, and Curt Casali will be brought back. Casali came up often during media sessions in recent weeks. The veteran pitchers have full faith in his abilities, and they're excited to see Bart get his shot.
"Joey's no slouch. I've thrown a lot to Joey this past year in bullpens. Any time I ever needed him when he was around, he was there to catch or play catch, and I've really enjoyed throwing to him," Wood said. "He receives the ball really well. I'm excited to work with him. I think Curt will be a great mentor to him with all his years and all his experience."
San Francisco Giants
Bart was the primary catcher when Posey opted out in 2020, but Logan Webb is the only member of the current staff who was around for that. The Giants made sure Bart had several stints in the big league clubhouse last year to get his feet wet, but he made just one start behind the plate. It was promising, though. Bart caught Anthony DeSclafani, who threw six shutout innings, striking out six and walking one as the Giants blew out the Washington Nationals. Bart added two hits and drove in a run.
"I have the utmost confidence in Joey Bart and Curt," DeSclafani said after signing his deal last month. "I've been throwing to Curt for a while and I threw to Bart one game last year and I had confidence in his pitch-calling and all that. I look forward to working with him more this spring and building that rapport."
The Giants are hopeful Bart takes the job and runs with it for years to come, but for 2022, a season in which they plan to contend for a World Series title, Casali may be just as important. He had the lowest catcher's ERA in the big leagues last year and he caught Webb, Wood and DeSclafani -- the three returning starters -- 31 times. It's unclear how manager Gabe Kapler plans to split up the playing time behind the plate, but he'll go into the season knowing that his backup catcher is fully capable of handling the staff on any given night.
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That staff, one that now includes veteran Alex Cobb, will be crucial in the transition. Wood pointed to the continuity and experience on the staff as one reason the Giants will be able to move forward without Posey. Aside from Webb, it's a rotation full of guys who have been doing this for a long, long time. The bullpen will be filled with veterans, too. When Bart sits in meetings before games, he'll be surrounded by experience, including a coaching staff that returns all three pitching coaches.
"A lot of the guys know what they need to do and what they want to do," Wood said. "I don't think that'll be a huge deal going forward. (Bart) will get better and better as the year goes by. I'm excited to see what Joey Bart is going to do for us."