The deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft came and passed Tuesday with the Giants leaving two of their top position player prospects exposed, betting that both are still too raw to meet the requirement they spend all year on a major-league roster.
Shortstop Aeverson Arteaga and center fielder Grant McCray, the Giants’ No. 7 and No. 12 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, will be available for any team willing to select them in the Dec. 6 draft and keep them on their major-league roster all of next season, a move the Giants pulled off with Blake Sabol in 2023.
The Giants instead added a trio of pitchers — RHP Trevor McDonald, LHP Erik Miller and RHP Kai-Wei Teng — to the 40-man roster ahead of the deadline, which president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi explained was more a reflection on the state of baseball under the current rules than their feelings toward the younger position player prospects.
“Having capable reinforcements and capable reinforcements who can provide length is as important as it’s ever been,” Zaidi said, citing the 13-pitcher limit on 26-man rosters, the 15-day minimum for pitchers upon being optioned to the minor leagues and the limit of five options per season. “Unfortunately on the flip side, it’s a little bit harder now to carry younger position players who may be a year-plus away from the big leagues.”
Arteaga, 20, and McCray, 22, are considered two of the best athletes in the system and plus defenders, two traits that lend themselves to the possibility of a team drafting and stashing them as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement. But neither has played above High-A, where Arteaga hit .235 with 17 home runs and McCray hit .255 with 14 homers — and 52 stolen bases — in 2023.
“Some of our highly regarded position players who we felt were a little bit further away, that was a tough decision for us,” Zaidi said. “But some of it boils down to 40-man roster functionality and the demands that we have getting through the season, making sure we have enough pitching in particular to get through times when things become a real crunch.”
Zaidi said adding Miller, 25, and Teng, 24, were “slam-dunk decisions.” While injuries prevented McDonald, 22, from advancing beyond High-A last season, Zaidi said all three pitchers have a chance to take down major-league innings next season.
Miller, a Stanford graduate acquired from Philadelphia for Yunior Marte last winter, posted a 2.54 ERA over 54 relief appearances between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento. Teng, a non-roster invitee in 2021, made 28 starts between Richmond and Sacramento last season, going 7-8 with a 4.42 ERA.
Bringing the Giants’ one player shy of a full 40-man roster, the trio of pitchers will be expected to contribute next season in the same way as Sean Hjelle, Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck in 2023, taxiing between Sacramento and San Francisco depending on roster needs.
“Having those guys available to go up and down, even though that can be tough for an individual player, the way the rules are now, you absolutely need that,” Zaidi said.