Former Giants pitcher Mike Leake, first player to miss out on the 2020 MLB season

The Giants were the last team standing, which is generally what you want when it comes to Major League Baseball. Unless you’re just dealing with a lot of unexpected paperwork.

As the Giants settled new contracts with Pablo Sandoval, Billy Hamilton, Yolmer Sánchez, and Trevor Cahill, the rest of the league’s teams released rosters of players. Finally, just before noon on Monday, news of the Giants arrived.

The initial roster is just 51 players, leaving room for maneuver to add nine more before camp begins on Friday or before the July 24 opening. One of those locations will likely go to Hunter Bishop, a top prospect who is quarantined after a positive COVID-19. test. We’ll figure out the rest over time, but for now, here are three initial conclusions from the list’s launch:

The giants are looking for him

Look, the Giants are not a contender on paper, and they certainly will enter the 60-game season as a likely option to finish fourth or fifth in the National League West. But they also feel strongly that a sprint to the finish gives them a chance, and the list reflects that.

In a Zoom call with top journalists, Farhan Zaidi joked that he always talks about being competitive on the season as the Giants rebuild themselves behind the scenes.

“We have 100 games deep,” he said, smiling. “I think the gravity of each victory and loss will be felt.”

With that in mind, the Giants leaned toward immediate help. One of the many discussions they’ve had internally in the past few months was how much they could benefit in the coming years by filling their pool of players with prospects, while counterparts from the Western Division of the National League prepared for a playoff boost. But ultimately, the Giants only had three: Joey Bart, Marco Luciano, and Heliot Ramos, who stood out on the initial roster, and many of the spots went to veterans who can fill the gaps for Gabe Kapler right away.

Joey Rickard, Abiatal Avelino, and Zach Green stood out as major minor leaguers who can help fill platoons if there are injuries, but the pitching team is where you can really see the strategy. It includes Andrew Triggs, Carlos Navas, Rico García, Trevor Oaks, Tyler Cyr, Sam Selman, Wandy Peralta, and Cahill, along with more familiar names. Does not include, for now, Sean Hjelle or Seth Corry.

The Giants wanted to make sure they were covered on opening day and for two months. They don’t seem willing to let Bart, Ramos, Hjelle, and other more advanced prospects get their jobs. Chris Shaw and Melvin Adon were left out entirely.

Manager Gabe Kapler plans to go heavy in platoons and fill most of the opening innings with short relief outings from guys who have experience in the big leagues. While Bart isn’t really in the opening day talks, veterans like Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton, and Darin Ruf are. The Giants will add more prospects in the coming weeks, but the initial roster was heavy for guys who have already played in the big leagues.

“We are going to start the 2020 season in a pennant race,” said Kapler.

There are still cuts to come

Tyler Beede was placed on the 45-day IL and Enderson Franco was scrapped, but Zaidi still needs to clear some space before Opening Day.

Sandoval, Sanchez, Hamilton, Cahill and Ruf seem to bet big to make the team and none are currently in the 40 players. A second receiver is also required. Others, like Oaks and Triggs, could build the expanded bullpen, leading to the removal of two more points.

If you thought Zaidi was busy last year, wait until you see how many minor moves are made to clear points before July 24 and in the following weeks. A hint of some moves was given Monday when Shaw, Adon, Jandel Gustave, Kean Wong and Jose Siri were left off the list despite being among the 40 men. It’s possible that a couple of those guys end up in San Francisco, but from here, it looks like the Giants had some DFA candidates who stayed home.

Stay healthy, Buster

Do you know what stands out when you look at the list the Giants sent out on Monday? They have a catcher, Buster Posey, who is on the 40-man list, and he is the only one of the four who comes to camp who has been a regular starter in the big leagues. There is no Stephen Vogt or Nick Hundley on the wings this year. The Giants have Posey playing as close to 60 games as his body can handle.

Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly will compete for backup work, both would fit well behind Posey, and Bart is waiting in the wings, but a ton of success this season depends on the man everyone will play. That has been the case for most of the past decade, but there is no margin for error this season. Zaidi said the Giants plan to carry just two receivers, filling most of their additional roster points with throwing depth.

[[[[RELATED: Hunter Bishop tests positive for coronavirus]

They plan to go without a traditional five-man rotation and will use openers sometimes. Many games are likely to be filled with several very different types of pitchers in two innings at once. Posey will try to guide all of this, and he’s still counted on to take offense at a lineup that didn’t make major additions in the offseason.

Posey has not started more than 100 games behind the plate since 2016. He won’t have to approach that number this year, but in a season that is likely to be filled with injuries and periods on the COVID Injury List, the Giants are depositing many Hopes that her lifelong star can carry a heavy load.