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Austin Slater and Pat Venditte headline latest round of Spring Training cuts

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Tough competition in the bullpen and outfield left little room for the fringe players.

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Pavlovic reported earlier this morning that OF Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte had been optioned to the minors, representing the first real surprise transactions of 2019.

Venditte, you’ll recall, was Farhan Zaidi’s first major league deal as the Giants’ President of Baseball Ops (really need to abbreviate this going forward — POBOps? PBOps? Prez?) and his switch-pitchingness inspired me to write this:

He’s better overall as a left-handed pitcher, which just adds to the possibility that the Giants will trade Tony Watson and/or Will Smith... or, more likely, this is another margin move designed to add depth and versatility to the organization, but it’s also a dream come true for this beleaguered, joyless sports blogger. The Giants didn’t get interesting or take a risk — it’s a $585,000 deal — but they got a little more fun. When they have another 5-win month, we’ll still have Pat Venditte switch pitching. It’s okay to cry when you’re happy.

But, he had an option remaining and an 11.12 ERA in 5.2 innings this spring when there’s already tough competition in a talented ‘pen. He’ll still be that needed depth if the trades start flying or the September storyline we’ll need when the team is in the middle of another 5-win month.

Austin Slater, meanwhile, has not shown much in the longer look he’s been given, going back to last season. In my season review of him, I insisted that he’s what “Replacement Player” means. When you see someone say that a player is a 1-win player, they mean they’re 1 win better than Austin Slater.

This Spring, he’s seventh on the team in at bats (27) and has posted an OPS of .526, with 10 strikeouts against three walks. Slater’s problem is that he can’t hit for power. When he’s not getting on base in other ways, his value evaporates. In terms of defense, the Giants already have enough capable corner outfielders and emergency infielders, so Slater would’ve really needed to demonstrate that he was indispensable, and to this point, he has not.

He can be optioned through next year, so expect Slater, who just turned 26 in December, to hang around and get some more opportunities. In the meantime, this round of cuts is a disappointing reminder that last year’s depth just doesn’t measure up right now. Gerardo Parra, Cameron Maybin, and Yangervis Solarte are hardly lighting up the Cactus League, but they’re proof that there’s better bench talent to be had virtually anywhere outside the org.

Slater and Venditte will be back, but the Giants are slowly building up depth to the point that the path might not be so direct or such a given.

Meanwhile, Derek Law and Zach Green were reassigned to minor league camp. This follows the other moves of Spring Training that we didn’t fully cover. The difference between optioning and reassigning, by the way, is that a player must be optioned if he’s on the team’s 40-man roster while a non-roster invitee (someone not on the 40-man but in the organization) can be reassigned.

This is why Chris Shaw, Abiatal Avelino, Sam Coonrod, Ryder Jones, Breyvic Valera, Merandy Gonzalez, Jose Lopez, Melvin Adon, and Logan Webb were optioned, while others have been reassigned to minor league camp.