Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to add at least two outfielders in MLB free agency

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to add at least two outfielders in MLB free agency

LAS VEGAS — The first move of the Farhan Zaidi era was the addition of an outfielder. It’s possible that’ll be the theme of the offseason. 

Zaidi and the Giants entered the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings with just four outfielders on their 40-man roster, none of whom have established themselves as everyday major leaguers. On Monday, Zaidi said he expects to add at least two more outfielders to the mix before spring training.

The biggest name out there, of course, is Bryce Harper. Zaidi said the Giants have not met with Harper or his representative, Scott Boras, although he expects to meet with Boras and all the other major agents over the next three days.

There’s no indication that the Giants are seriously in on Harper, though. In fact, it’s the opposite. Larry Baer, the team president and CEO, was flying home Monday night, so the Giants certainly are not a team gearing up for one of the marathon sessions Harper and Boras reportedly have been doing. 

Even if the Giants end up with much less famous options, it’s possible that those players — like Harper — will not find their new home until January. Zaidi assessed the market as “slow moving” and said he’s looking at trade and free agent options.

“Particularly on the free-agent side, I would expect some of those options to go into the next calendar year,” the Giants' new president of baseball operations said. 

Zaidi said adding to the outfield is a "high priority" right now, although he likes the depth provided by the current group of Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater. Duggar is the closest to a locked-down job, and Zaidi does view him as an everyday player down the line, but the Giants are strongly considering finding a platoon partner for Duggar, who is coming off shoulder surgery.

“The outfield is a good market to be buyers in,” Zaidi said. “There are always good options in free agency, and especially for us, as a team looking to improve offensively, having openings in the outfield are good spots to try to add offense. We’re going to be thorough. We’re not in a hurry.”

That certainly will be the case. It took a month for Zaidi to make his first roster addition, claiming outfielder Mike Gerber off waivers from the Detroit Tigers on Monday morning. In discussing Gerber, Zaidi hinted the organization is viewing things differently.

He said the team’s analytics staff looked at Statcast data to determine if Gerber has the proper range, top speed and sprint speed to play center field and right field at AT&T Park. The staff believes Gerber, who had strong minor-league seasons in 2016 and 2017 but took a step back last year, does have the right skill set.

“He can play all three outfield positions,” Zaidi said. “He’s an athletic guy, he’s a good base runner, and overall we’re just looking to improve our organizational depth in that particular area. He’s going to be a nice added piece for us.”

Travis Ishikawa didn't expect Giants call-up before 2014 MLB playoffs

Travis Ishikawa didn't expect Giants call-up before 2014 MLB playoffs

Travis Ishikawa provided one of the most memorable postseason moments in Giants history, blasting a three-run walk-off homer in Game 5 of the NLCS to advance San Francisco to the 2014 World Series.

It was Ishikawa’s second stint with the organization after making his MLB debut with the Giants back in 2006. In a recent appearance on 95.7 The Game, the now-retired first baseman said he wasn’t even sure he’d get a chance to play in the majors during that 2014 season.

“At that moment, I felt like there was no possible way I was getting called up,” Ishikawa said Friday. “I was struggling, [and] at one point, I was actually benched. I was a backup for about two weeks in Fresno, wasn’t even getting starts. Being a defensive replacement for somebody else at first base.

“They’ve got other guys that kind of do what I do, they don’t need me. I mean, there’s no way I see myself getting called up.”

[RELATED: Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players]

Ishikawa ended up being called up to the Giants on July 29, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Giants' Triple-A team at the time was the Fresno Grizzlies, and the organization switched over to the Sacramento River Cats in 2015.

Ishikawa ended up winning two World Series titles in San Francisco (he also was on the 2010 Giants roster), but there likely isn’t a more thrilling moment in his baseball career than that fateful night in McCovey Cove.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]