Farhan Zaidi identifies main issue in search to improve Giants roster

Farhan Zaidi identifies main issue in search to improve Giants roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first time in eight years, Farhan Zaidi will not be spending October watching his team participate in the postseason. But that doesn't mean it'll be a quieter month for the Giants' president of baseball operations. 

The Giants have to hire a new general manager and manager. They have to decide what they want to do in the bidding for Madison Bumgarner. The bullpen has holes, and will have two gaping ones if Will Smith and Tony Watson depart. 

Then there's the lineup, and as Zaidi went over the situation on Tuesday - he pointed to that group as the one that represents his biggest need this winter. Asked what specifically stands out about the roster deficiencies, Zaidi said the Giants simply must figure "out a way to generate more offense in this ballpark."

"When you look at our home record and road record, there's a feeling that if we could have sustained offense a little better in this park it would have put us in a better position," he said. 

The Giants finished just 35-46 at home, tied for the worst home mark in franchise history. They scored 271 runs at home compared to 407 on the road, where they went 42-39 and generally looked like a contender. 

Two of those road wins came at the end of August, when the Giants outscored the streaking A's 15-9 while winning both weekend games. Zaidi repeatedly pointed to that series, which got the Giants back to 65-65, as one that stood out given what happened afterward. 

"You looked at the rest of our schedule and we had a daunting road schedule in September, playing some very good teams on the road, and you felt like we were going to have to really make hay (at home) in the games and the series we had left," he said. "We went 6-7 on our last two road trips against some good teams and we were 6-13 at home. Obviously the offensive output in those 19 games was a major issue."

The Giants scored just 58 runs over those final 19 home games. With a city ready to erupt for any sign of life on Bruce Bochy's final weekend, the lineup got shut out twice and swept by the Dodgers. 

Zaidi said the major goal will be finding ways to be more dangerous at home, regardless of what position an option might play. That could ultimately lead to some changes, and less playing time, for core players. Buster Posey didn't hit his first homer at Oracle Park until the final homestand and slugged just .335 at home.

Brandon Crawford had a .209/.292/.269 slash line at Oracle Park. Evan Longoria crushed in away games but had a .658 OPS at home. Brandon Belt was at .709 with just five homers and 20 RBI.

While some of the newcomers had their moments -- Kevin Pillar and Mike Yastrzemski did hit for power at Oracle -- the only hitter with an OPS over .800 at home was Alex Dickerson, who had a .942 but had trouble staying on the field. 

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In future years, it may be easier to sell free agent hitters on coming to a park that will have new dimensions. But that may be a tough ask this winter, so the Giants likely will have to get creative with trades. If you've proven you can hit at Oracle Park in the past, you're going to be on the front office's wish list.

"For us to identify ways to improve in the ballpark, that's going to be a major goal," Zaidi said. 

Forbes lists Giants as worth $3.1B, fifth-most valuable MLB franchise

Forbes lists Giants as worth $3.1B, fifth-most valuable MLB franchise

The 2019 season was another down year on the field for the Giants, and they struggled to attract as many fans to the ballpark as in the past, but the franchise still increased in value, according to Forbes. 

The annual list of MLB team values was released Thursday and the Giants ranked fifth at $3.1 billion, a three percent increase from the year before. According to Forbes, the Giants rank behind only the New York Yankees ($5 billion), Los Angeles Dodgers ($3.4 billion), Boston Red Sox ($3.3 billion) and Chicago Cubs ($3.2 billion). The A's were 26th at $1.1 billion.

The Giants crossed the $1 billion mark in 2014 and have continued to rise since. While the sport will be taking a massive financial hit this season, the Giants should be on solid footing moving forward. Their ballpark is paid off and construction is underway on the Mission Rock development across McCovey Cove that will provide a new stream of income.

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The Giants took a hit at the gates last season, falling under three million in total attendance for just the third time since moving to their new ballpark 20 years ago. The 2,707,760 fans marked the fewest total in Oracle Park's history. 

[RELATED: Bochy reveals his favorite memory from managing MadBum]

The organization should be on the upswing, though. The farm system once again is rated in the top 10 and should provide the talent to get the organization back into contention. The Giants, after years of paying or flirting with the luxury tax, can also see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the team's payroll. 

Getting the payroll under control has been a point of emphasis for Farhan Zaidi, who was able to trade Mark Melancon's contract in July. Jeff Samardzija's $90 million deal ends after this season regardless of how many games are played and big contracts for Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford expire after the 2021 season. For 2022, a year in which the Giants hope to have a competitive young core, Evan Longoria is the only player with a guaranteed contract. 

Bruce Bochy reveals favorite Madison Bumgarner memory as Giants manager


Bruce Bochy reveals favorite Madison Bumgarner memory as Giants manager

Bruce Bochy spent a lot of time with Madison Bumgarner over the last decade. San Francisco's former manager was there in the dugout for Bumgarner's MLB debut and his last game as a Giant. 

Despite all of Bumgarner's World Series heroics, it's fitting that Bochy's favorite memory of the former Giants ace comes off the field. And it's about bear hunting of all things.

"Well my favorite -- I'm pausing for a second because I can't tell my favorite," Bochy recently said to ESPN's Buster Olney on the "Baseball Tonight Podcast." "It's a bear hunting trip and I swore to secrecy on that. Hopefully he'll let me tell it one day." 

Bochy's favorite Bumgarner story certainly fits, too. It's more about the left-hander's unmatched mentality than anything else. 

"On the baseball side, my favorite of course is 2014," Bochy said. "The incredible run that he had between the wild-card game and of course what he did in Game 7 [of the World Series]. It was after Game 5, he had just shut out the Royals and I had switched it a little bit, because I felt like we just had to go into Kansas City up a game instead of down a game.

"I was taking some heat for not pitching him in Game 4 and then starting him in Game 7, but [Ryan] Vogelsong started Game 4 against their fifth starter and I wanted Bumgarner to pitch against [James] Shields." 

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It clearly was the right decision to start Bumgarner in Game 5. He threw a complete game shutout in San Francisco while striking out eight in a 4-1 Giants win. What he did in Bochy's office before traveling to Kansas City, was even more vintage MadBum. 

"He shuts out the Royals and now we're going to Kansas City. We're up 3-2, we're a game away from being the World Series champions and guys are starting to pack because we've got to go to KC and he comes into my office," Bochy said. "He goes, 'You know I just wanna tell you, if you wanna win this thing, you're gonna put me out there. You're gonna start me.' I says, 'Start you when?' And he goes, 'After [my] day off.' He meant Game 6.

"I said, 'No, I'm not starting you with one day's rest!' He goes, 'I'm telling you, if you wanna win this thing.' And I said, 'Well, we haven't set the pitcher for Game 7. Right now it's [Tim] Hudson.' He looked at me and said, 'No, no. You gotta start Huddy. I want him to start this game. But you have me ready if you wanna win this thing.' " 

The rest is history. Hudson lasted just 1 2/3 innings before Jeremy Affeldt relieved him for 2 1/3 innings. And then, Bumgarner opened the bullpen gates and gave us all one of the greatest performances in baseball history. 

Bumgarner threw the final five innings and didn't allow an earned run as the Giants outlasted the Royals, 3-2, to win their third World Series title in five years. His masterpiece on the mound forever will be remembered in the history of the Giants and baseball as a whole. 

To put it in context, Bumgarner had a 0.43 ERA in the 2014 World Series. Here's how the rest of the starting staff fared: Tim Hudson (6.14 ERA), Ryan Vogelsong (9.82) and Jake Peavy (12.79).

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"It's just this guy who had this maniacal focus on winning that World Series, and he wasn't gonna hold back on his feelings," Bochy said on Bumgarner.

Bochy's two favorite Bumgarner stories, both on and off the field, truly couldn't be any better.