Chris Taylor recalls how he broke through for Farhan Zaidi's Dodgers


Chris Taylor recalls how he broke through for Farhan Zaidi's Dodgers

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Farhan Zaidi said he wanted to give new Giants a "runway" to establish themselves as big leaguers, it was unclear what kind of length he was thinking about. 

Was this like the absurdly long runway that hosted the fight scene in Fast & Furious 6? Was he imagining SFO or LAX? Was he talking about something closer to a private strip of dirt on a secluded island? 

The answer came over the past week. Michael Reed was let go after just eight plate appearances, Connor Joe after 16. It turns out they aren't -- at least yet -- the next Max Muncy and Chris Taylor, but the search will go on, and it's clear now that while the new-look front office wants to give players opportunities, there also is a need for production, or at least a strong hint that it's coming. 

That's a lesson Taylor learned two years ago when he was the breakout star for an already-loaded Dodgers team. Taylor was 26 when called up to replace an injured Logan Forsythe that April and he had already made more than 100 plate appearances for the Mariners and Dodgers, failing to secure a job. But he ran with that opportunity in 2017. 

Taylor had two doubles in his first game back in the big leagues, a pinch-hit homer in his next game, and two hits and a walk the night after that. He had been called up primarily to play second base against lefties, but by the time Forsythe returned a month later, Taylor had carved out a role with a .326 average and OPS over 1.000. 

"It is a very short leash in this game, but it's crazy how quickly the perspective on you can change," Taylor said recently. "Guys can go from being an everyday player to all of a sudden they're a platoon guy, or a four-A player can be an everyday player. It can go in either direction real quick."

Taylor ended up getting 568 plate appearances that season and hitting 21 homers. A year later, he played in 155 games, once again moving all over the field for a division champion. Muncy's breakthrough last season was slower, but he benefited from being on a team in a much better situation than the 2019 Giants. The Dodgers could afford to be patient, something the Giants no longer felt they could do with Reed and Joe, who combined for one hit. 

"When you have a Rule 5 guy or an out-of-options guy, you kind of need one of three things to keep the situation live," Zaidi said Monday. "You need either immediate performance and immediate returns, or you need your team playing well, where you can buy that player a bit more time. Or if you're in a full rebuilding mode and you're willing to kind of work your way through that, that's another scenario. 

"Unfortunately none of those applied in this case. You'll always have to ask if Connor had gotten three or four more balls to drop in and he's 5-for-15 instead of 1-for-15, are you looking at it different? Or if we were firing on more cylinders offensively, would we be in a situation to get him more rope?"

Looking back on those first couple of weeks where he hit his way into a role, Taylor said he feels fortunate that he got hot right away. 

"I got some more opportunity from there and more looks," he said. "It was a combination of good timing and then also them being open to throwing me out there a little bit more."

Zaidi certainly is open to the unorthodox. He picked up two outfielders over the final week of the spring and threw both in the Opening Day lineup. Both were then gone before the second home series of the year. From the outside, that can look like a cold set of moves. But the decisions to designate Reed and Joe for assignment weighed on Zaidi. 

Last week, Zaidi said it was "tough and unfair" to judge Reed on eight at-bats. He liked Reed enough that he re-signed him to a minor league deal a few days later.

"I take responsibility for putting him in a tough spot coming into camp so late," Zaidi said. "There were a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure on him."

On Monday, Zaidi took on a serious tone while talking about how much he wanted Joe to succeed. He said he was disappointed that the team, 3-7 at the time of the move, was not in a position to give Joe a longer look.

"I've seen people refer to this as the Connor Joe Experiment, which sounds all well and good, but he's not an experiment," Zaidi said. "He's a real person who worked his ass off to get here."

Both Reed and Joe should take comfort in the fact that the players who made it for Zaidi in Los Angeles did so after failing to take advantage of earlier opportunities. Perhaps one or both will be back, or perhaps someone else will break through. With Reed and Joe gone, Tyler Austin will get the next opportunity to prove he belongs. 

[RELATED: Kevin Pillar, Tyler Austin make instant impact on Giants' offense]

Zaidi has had success with this kind of move before, and he's counting on finding a hidden gem or two to speed up the rebuilding process for an organization with a poor farm system and bloated big league payroll. There will be more runways built, and Taylor said anyone in that spot should just do his best to try and stay loose between the lines. 

"I think the best thing to do is to not think about it at all, control what you can control, don't worry about playing time," Taylor said. "And whenever you do get your opportunity, play your best and hope for the best."

Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves


Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves

Will Smith spent the last three-and-a-half years with the Giants. He missed one of those seasons to Tommy John surgery, but certainly will never forget his time in San Francisco. 

Smith, 30, signed a three-year, $39 million contract on Thursday to go home and join the Braves. The veteran reliever expressed his gratitude to Giants fans with a message sent to NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez later that night. 

Smith went out of his way to thank the Giants, their fans, the training staff and former manager Bruce Bochy. 

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Talked to @white_willy13 about his time with the @sfgiants. He will be missed and I want to personally wish him all the best with the @braves. Here’s what he wanted to say to the fans, the team and the Giants organization: I’d like to thank the Giants for giving me the opportunity that they did back in 2016.. it was my first taste of the playoffs I’ve had in my career and it is something I’ll never forget. The Giants are a first class organization hands down and welcomed me and my family with the utmost respect. Without their training staff, coming back from TJ surgery would not have been possible and for that I am forever thankful. Furthermore, I can never express the gratitude I have for Boch. Playing for him was an absolute honor. To my teammates... thank you for having my back on and off the field. Thank you for thinking as highly of me as I do of you and honoring me with the Willie Mac award. Something I will forever have and take with me from my time with you guys. Thank you for all the good times. And to the fans thank you for the constant support and loyalty. I’ll never forget my time wearing the orange and black. #BeatLA

A post shared by Amy Gutierrez (@amyg) on

San Francisco acquired Smith from the Brewers on Aug. 1, 2016, right before the MLB trade deadline. When healthy, he was Mr. Reliable for the Giants. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Smith made his first All-Star Game appearance this past season with San Francisco. He finished the year with a perfect 6-0 record, 2.76 ERA and had 34 saves. 

Over his two-and-a-half seasons on the Giants, Smith went 9-4 with a 2.70 ERA and saved 48 games.

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

The Giants finally gave fans a reason to be excited about their outfielders last season after years of disappointment.

They found a diamond in the rough with Mike Yastrzemski, and Kevin Pillar is expected back next year after knocking 21 homers and bringing defensive highlights every night. And yet, the outfield still has question marks. 

It's unclear this early in free agency if new general manager Scott Harris will explore adding a veteran bat to the mix. Nevertheless, the Giants reportedly have eyed one of the bigger names on the open market. 

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Wednesday night that the Giants "have at least checked in with the representatives" for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. This isn't the first time the Giants have been tied to Ozuna this offseason, either. 

Earlier this month, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Ozuna to sign a three-year, $45 million contract with San Francisco. His age -- he turned 29 years old two days ago -- and power (29 homers in 2019) make plenty of sense for the Giants to explore. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Ozuna was handed a qualifying offer from the Cardinals going into this offseason, and declined it on Thursday. Any team that signs Ozuna would lose a draft pick next June, but not their first-round pick. However, the Giants will gain a draft pick from the Braves signing Will Smith, and the same goes for any team that signs Madison Bumgarner

Since 2014, Ozuna has averaged 24 homers per season. He easily would be the Giants' biggest power threat right away, something San Francisco has lacked for years.