SAN FRANCISCO -- Nearly six weeks ago, at the start of camp, I took a look at position battles and included this line when discussing the open outfield spots: "Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them ..."
Oh, how things could have been different.
Instead, it was a stream of veterans on identical deals -- usually $1.75 million if they make the team -- with the idea that a trade could be made at any point.
The Giants still have not swung that deal, and in a week they'll board a short flight to San Diego with 25 players. The Opening Day roster could look different by the end of that first series, but for now, let's take a look back at those spring battles and make some predictions ...
Outfield: Barring a rehab setback, center field was Steven Duggar's job. It's been smooth sailing, and he'll start there on Opening Day and possibly lead off. Mac Williamson and Gerardo Parra are currently in line to start in the other corners, with Cameron Maybin the favorite to be the fourth guy. The Giants were excited to get a long look at Drew Ferguson, but the Rule 5 pick has hit just .111 with no extra-base hits. It appears he'll be headed back to the Astros.
Backup catcher: Signed the day before FanFest, René Rivera has emerged as the frontrunner to back up Buster Posey. There is still some gap power in the 35-year-old's bat and he quickly built a rapport with the pitching staff. The Giants could go with a third catcher, Aramis Garcia, as Posey eases into the season, but with a 1:10 p.m. opener followed by two night games, that doesn't seem a necessity.
Fifth starter: It turns out there was never much of a battle here. Jeff Samardzija is healthy and earned his spot. Dereck Rodriguez had the upper hand on Andrew Suarez from the start, and he'll be in the rotation. Suarez seems destined to start in Triple-A, although there could be plenty of movement here. Rodriguez, Suarez and the resurgent Tyler Beede all have options and could be shuttled back and forth a bit as needed.
Last spots in the bullpen: I went deep on this group yesterday and came up with this bullpen if the Giants go with eight relievers: Smith, Watson, Dyson, Moronta, Melancon, Bergen, Gott, Stratton. This is the one place, though, where Farhan Zaidi may get the most creative to store inventory. Will someone be traded, or discover a sore muscle 48 hours before the opener?
The infield: The original article did not touch on the infielders, because Pablo Sandoval and Alen Hanson seemed set. But then the Giants signed Yangervis Solarte, and he has passed both on the depth chart. Would Zaidi really start his first season by releasing Sandoval, a fan favorite as well as one of Bruce Bochy's all-time favorites? Hanson brings value, too, but he is out of options and it's hard to see him getting through waivers. The Giants could carry three backup infielders and use Solarte and Hanson as their fifth outfielder, but that would require going a man short in the bullpen.