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San Francisco Giants add Tyler Austin, play musical chairs defensively

DETROIT, MI - September 19: Tyler Austin #31 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates scoring a run in the second inning with teammates while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 19, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - September 19: Tyler Austin #31 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates scoring a run in the second inning with teammates while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 19, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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After an extremely quiet offseason, the San Francisco Giants have been busy making moves to strengthen their roster.

The San Francisco Giants have now made two in-season trades less than two weeks into the regular season, following the addition of Tyler Austin from the Minnesota Twins on Monday in exchange for minor league outfielder Malique Ziegler. To make room on the roster, rookie Connor Joe was also designated for assignment.

Austin, who is a first baseman and outfielder, started at first base and batted second Monday night against the San Diego Padres.

In turn, Brandon Belt shifted to left field, giving the Giants their fourth different starting left fielder in 11 games.

That’s nothing new.  Oracle Park’s left field has been a revolving door since Barry Bonds once roamed it. In fact, the Giants have had 12 different Opening Day starters at the position in the 12 years since Bonds made his last Opening Day start.

It was Joe who lined up in left field on Opening Day this year, with Michael Reed manning the other corner outfield spot. Now both players are gone.

In the five games prior to Austin’s debut on Monday night, the Giants had gone with an outfield alignment of Gerardo Parra in left field, Kevin Pillar in center field and Steven Duggar in right field.

Now, uncertainty reigns once again.

If Austin is going to earn a regular role, it will likely be in left field. That means he’ll be competing with Duggar, Pillar and Parra for playing time.

There’s just one problem with that:

While the same is true of Belt, he entered the season with ample experience playing left field, having lined up there for 495 innings of work throughout the course of his career. He often moves to the outfield on days when Buster Posey mans first base.

However, Belt is still going to get the majority of the playing time at first base. In fact, he ended up back there before Monday night’s game was over when Gerardo Parra was subbed in for defensive purposes:

There’s nothing wrong with some experimentation when the offense is struggling and you’re off to a 3-8 start.

Austin slugged 17 home runs in 268 plate appearances last season and he was particularly effective against left-handed pitching with an .846 OPS and eight home runs in 101 plate appearances. In a division loaded with quality lefties, it’s not hard to connect the dots on why the Giants made the trade.

No matter what Bruce Bochy and Farhan Zaidi ultimately decide in terms of defensive alignment and playing time, the focus is still on rebuilding a team that is anything but solid at its foundation.

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