Giants

Farhan Zaidi says there's 'mutual interest' after lengthy Bryce Harper meeting

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USATSI

Farhan Zaidi says there's 'mutual interest' after lengthy Bryce Harper meeting

SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi prefers not to discuss free agents, but sometimes you have no choice. When Zaidi gathered in front of reporters Friday morning, he couldn’t shy away from the Bryce Harper meeting that occurred earlier this week. 

“It’s kind of hard to deny it when your CEO gets made in the casino,” Zaidi said, laughing. 

It’s no secret at this point. After months of incremental moves, the Giants are seriously in on the biggest free agent to hit the market in a decade. As they met for media sessions a day before FanFest, Harper was part of just about every discussion. Some players made it clear that they would love to add him to the lineup. Zaidi made it clear that the meeting in Las Vegas this week was no PR stunt or fishing expedition. 

“There’s obviously mutual interest on both sides so we thought it made sense to get together,” Zaidi said. “We had a good conversation over a few hours. He’s obviously got a lot of suitors and a lot of interest and has some decisions to make, but again, I think it’s fair to say that was an expression of our interest level, to make the trip out there. 

That interest did not wane at the scheduled conclusion of the meeting with Harper, his wife, and agent Scott Boras. The meeting lasted much longer than the Giants anticipated, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned, and Zaidi later met with Boras on his private jet. It figures they weren't just discussing the comfort of the seats. 

The recruiting party was small, consisting of Zaidi, team president, and CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy, who called it "a great meeting."

“It was really good to get to know Bryce,” Bochy said. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen but I enjoyed the meeting with him. We’ll wait and see what happens here, but it was great for us to be able to sit down with him. We know what a great player he is. Now, let’s see what happens.”

The baseball world has been waiting three-plus months to see where this all ends up, and the Giants will continue to be patient, even if they are now in the ring. They have not made a formal offer to Harper yet, a source said, but that’s not a surprise. That’s never the purpose of a first meeting. Zaidi said he’s not sure when Harper might make a decision, but he nodded when asked if it could be soon.

[RELATED: Why Giants enter Harper sweepstakes ahead of suitors]

“I certainly think so, but again, it’s got to be a decision that he’s comfortable with in all aspects,” Zaidi said. “I think for any player, you’re going through free agency and you’d love to be with a new team when camp opens, be around your teammates, familiarize yourself. But there are plenty of players in the past that continued these kinds of conversations into camp. I don’t think they have any sort of deadline."

 

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

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USATSI

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whether he’s watching the team from the dugout, standing in the clubhouse hallway, or walking back and forth on the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium, Farhan Zaidi always seems to have his cell phone pressed to his ear. 

That was the case Monday when Bruce Bochy announced that this will be his final season, but Zaidi said he did not get calls from coaches around the game looking to get a head start in the search process. He knows that will change, though. It didn’t take long after Zaidi took the Giants job for colleagues to start asking about a potential GM position, and you can bet that parts of this season will be spent having secret discussions with candidates to replace Bochy.

The man who actually hired Bochy 13 years ago believes that’s a good thing. This won’t be a distraction or an awkward situation, Brian Sabean said. Zaidi was informed during the hiring process that Bochy was likely headed for retirement, and Sabean believes that gave everyone time to get “out front” and “on board.”

“I think it should relax the atmosphere among all parties and give (Bochy) his proper due, give him his proper sendoff, but it also gives Farhan some good lead time to noodle this whole thing or line up how he’s going to attack it,” Sabean said. 

Zaidi has already been through this process once before. He teamed with Andrew Friedman in 2015 to hire Dave Roberts in Los Angeles, and that collaboration proved to be a successful one. Zaidi, a communicator by nature, spent years with the A’s and Dodgers and has given plenty of thought to what or who he would look for if given his own shop. He wouldn’t give anything away this week, but he has a short list forming in his head already. 

“I think everybody is shaped by their own experience and people that they’ve come into contact with that they value their baseball acumen or their personal values or those kinds of things,” he said. “Everybody just by virtue of their own experience has a list of people that they’ve thought, ‘That guy could be a manager one day,' or, 'If I’m in a position that’s someone I would think about.’”

While Zaidi said this would be a collective process, Larry Baer made it clear that his president of baseball operations will take the lead. Baer said people within the organization — Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus would be two likely internal candidates — will be considered, but most of the candidates Zaidi has experience with would come from the outside. 

One possible candidate, David Bell, came off the board a couple of weeks before Zaidi was hired. When Bell joined the organization as farm director in 2017, he was viewed as a likely successor to Bochy or general manager Bobby Evans. The Reds hired him away in October. 

Bell was a nice blend of old and new, someone who could be a respected voice in the clubhouse but also work seamlessly with an analytics-driven front office. Roberts has been the same in Los Angeles, and that seems the likely mold for this search. 

But Zaidi promised to be open-minded, pointing out that he and Friedman had no idea Roberts would even be a finalist when they began that search. To that point, two executives known as analytics types put together an eclectic group of candidates when the Dodgers were looking for Don Mattingly’s replacement. 

Gabe Kapler, a favorite to win the Dodgers job back then, was certainly a modern choice. But the Dodgers also reportedly interviewed longtime baseball men Tim Wallach and Ron Roenicke, both of whom were in their late fifties at the time. Kirk Gibson was brought in, and he’s certainly not the type to be a puppet for a front office. Former Angel Darin Erstad, current Rockies manager Bud Black and current Nationals manager Dave Martinez also reportedly interviewed. That’s not a group that has a ton in common.

Zaidi has a reputation for being the smartest guy in the room, but he loves spending time with scouts and experienced coaches, and has regularly positioned himself behind the cage this spring, chatting up players and Giants coaches. He eventually will find a replacement for Bochy, but right now it’s not something he’s worrying much about. 

“I’m sure there will be conversations and inquiries along the way, but it’s not the focus for us,” he said. “For me, I’m still trying to learn the organization and the players and make sure I get off to the right start.”

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There has been nothing over the first couple weeks of camp to indicate that Buster Posey won't be ready Opening Day, but the Giants promised all along to be cautious, and that will start Saturday when the Cactus League season kicks off. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Posey won't play until March 1, and that may be the case for some other veterans. Brandon Crawford has been watched closely the last couple of years and Bochy wasn't sure if any regulars would be in the lineup Saturday when the Giants visit the Angels.

He said it's the right thing to do with a long spring, although he's hoping to get big names out there soon, aware that fans often pay a lot for spring games. 

"As a kid, I was one of those guys that would skip school to see spring training games in Florida," Bochy said.

Brandon Belt and Joe Panik seem the most likely to get out there early on. Belt said he's eager to see real pitching. As for the rest of the everyday lineup, Evan Longoria fits the vet status, the Giants have position battles in both outfield corners, and Steven Duggar is coming off shoulder surgery and may be a few days behind. 

Bochy had a somewhat unusual spring when veterans like Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Vogt and Yangervis Solarte signed late. He said there's no rush to see what they can do. 

"These guys are chipping some rust off," he said. 

[RELATED: Giants 'trying hard' for Bryce Harper, but not optimistic]

--- The schedule for the starters early on: Chris Stratton and Ty Blach on Saturday; Madison Bumgarner on Sunday; Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz on Monday; Dereck Rodriguez on Tuesday; Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez on Wednesday. 

--- At the beginning of camp, Bochy said he hoped to get Joey Bart into early Cactus League games. That remains the plan. 

--- One more on the "Bochy is retiring" front: Here's what Bob Melvin had to say.

--- I wrote about top pitching prospect Shaun Anderson the other day. Here's some video of him in action today. There's certainly a Noah Syndergaard thing going on at times.