Brian Sabean

Brian Sabean: Giants not going to anoint Steven Duggar, but...


Brian Sabean: Giants not going to anoint Steven Duggar, but...

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, the Giants went into the offseason eager to add pitchers who could give them 200 innings. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto fit that mold. Last year, the team desperately needed a closer, and Mark Melancon was brought in. 

This year’s end-of-season press conference focused on two areas. Team officials would like to add a dynamite defensive player in center field, and they would like to close the power gap that exists between the Giants and the rest of baseball. The early indications are that the Giants expect to address these issues through trades, not free agency. But could some of the fixes come from in-house? 

On this week’s episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, I asked Brian Sabean about two players who could potentially fix those problems. First, the power bat. Sabean has seen a lot of left fielder Chris Shaw the last two years, and he said two traits that stand out are that Shaw has made himself into a really good all-around hitter and he has major league power to all fields. Sabean believes that power will play at AT&T Park, even as a lefty.

“Those go hand-in-hand with being a run producer,” Sabean said. 

Shaw hit 24 homers across two levels, leading the organization. The 23-year-old had a .858 OPS after a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento. The current concern is his lack of experience in the outfield, and he’ll play in the Arizona Fall League to get more reps. Sabean said he agrees with general manager Bobby Evans’ assessment that Shaw’s bat is ahead of his glove.

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” he said. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, but having said that, if you can improve the center field defense — where you really get a ballhawk — then you can strategically kind of (shift Shaw) hitter to hitter or as innings develop.”

That ballhawk could end up being Steven Duggar, a 23-year-old who likely would have gotten a call-up had it not been for injuries. Duggar posted a .302/.388/.488 slash line in 2016 but he was limited to 44 minor league games in 2017, most of which were on rehab assignments. He also will play in the AFL, and the Giants believe he’s a true center fielder. 

“After last year, I think he was on everybody’s board in the organization as a potential five-tool player,” Sabean said. “Very good athlete. A lot of things come natural for him in the outfield. His reads, his breaks, his ability to outrun the ball, is very impressive. While the bat is still on the come, he should be a complementary type of offensive player in a major league lineup. Now, is he let’s say top of the order? I don’t know if we have enough information. But he certainly, far and away, is the next best thing or the next center fielder that we hopefully can produce sooner than later.”

The Giants have said Shaw will get a long look in spring training. Sabean said the same holds true for Duggar.  

“It’s not like we’re going to anoint him as the center fielder or put that kind of pressure on him, but with more playing time and catching up on at-bats this winter, he’ll be positioned to show us how soon he’s capable of contributing,” Sabean said. 

During our conversation, we also talked about this year’s draft class (led by Heliot Ramos), having the No. 2 pick in 2018, getting better in the international market, analytics, and the job Evans did in 2017. 

Sabean on state of Giants: 'Whatever culture we created...that window is closed'


Sabean on state of Giants: 'Whatever culture we created...that window is closed'

The Giants are just three years removed from their last World Series title. They played in the National League Division Series last October.

And despite still fielding the same core group of players that hoisted the commissioner's trophy in 2014, there is an air of dispair hovering over the Giants right now. Moving forward, the feeling isn't much better. The roster has gotten old and there isn't much help immediately on the way from the farm system.

While some fans might be calling for an overhaul of the roster, executive vice president Brian Sabean has no intention of going that far.

"We just need to get the season finished, take a step back, decompress, and not get blindly negative. We can’t go overboard, like, ‘Nobody can play. Nobody should come back on this team.’ We still believe in our core players. But we have to put a fresh look on things. Whatever culture we created, whatever atmosphere, that window is closed," Sabean told The San Francisco Chronicle recently.

The Giants enter Wednesday's game against the Rockies with an MLB-worst 59-93 record. They are flirting with matching or even surpassing the franchise worst 62-100 1985 season.

Upon the completion of the World Series, the Giants head into an offseason knowing they must retool the roster.

"We definitely need to get younger, more athletic and improve our defense, which has been atrocious. We’ve never been known as a big power team, unless you go back to 2000, when we were almost like an American League team (finishing with 226 homers). And let’s face it, how many free agents are going to come here? They’re not. For two reasons: the ballpark and the California taxes. That’s just a fact. So we’ll have to be very open-minded and aggressive on the trade front. We’re gonna have to be creative, and in some cases, bold. I’ve been thinking about how we can re-invent ourselves since the All-Star break," Sabean told The Chronicle.

Brian Sabean believes it's 'almost like (Giants have) forgotten how to win'

Brian Sabean believes it's 'almost like (Giants have) forgotten how to win'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans aren't the only ones confused about how a $200 million team can go into the break 27 games out of first place. In a lengthy interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Brian Sabean, the team's executive vice president, noted that it's "almost like we’ve forgotten how to win." Sabean also said this first half is something the front office is having "a difficult time coping with."

"All of us are scratching our heads at how we’ve flatlined like this and fallen off the map," Sabean said. "It’s beyond frustrating. The break couldn’t have come at a better time. Now having said that, I’ve been around this game a long time with two organizations and I don’t know what to expect to start the second half. I really don’t have a good handle on what our trajectory is, if any."

The Giants came into the season expecting to be buyers at the deadline. Instead, they'll try to shop Eduardo Nuñez, Johnny Cueto and others before July 31. Sabean noted in the interview that the Giants are already mixing youth in, calling the last few weeks "a tryout camp of sorts." Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones, Austin Slater and Kyle Crick are among the prospects who have seen action. The focus now is the trade deadline and trying to figure out what to do with this roster going forward. 

"I know Bobby and Jeremy are way ahead of schedule as to their preparation for trade deadline," Sabean said. "Needless to say, we’re going to be strategic. We’re not going to be buyers unless it would be an investment into the future, which rules out (Bryan) Reynolds. I would doubt that, given our current payroll situation, we would be willing to take on more payroll, but within that, I would think we can be as creative as any team that we’ll have players available at the deadline, and I think we’ll be a lot more open minded to more names than we have been in the past."

The Giants tried a similar approach last year, trading Matt Duffy and prospects for Matt Moore, who was supposed to help the 2017 team and then be a fixture in the rotation going forward. Moore has instead had a disastrous first half. When asked which aspects of this season are particularly disappointing, Sabean said among other things, "quite frankly, the starting pitching has been a huge disappointment."