Giants excited about future after in-season infusion of young talent

Giants excited about future after in-season infusion of young talent

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi a year ago, the expectation was that the organization would finally commit to a rebuild of sorts. But in his introductory press conference, Zaidi spoke passionately about playing meaningful baseball as deep into the 2019 season as possible. 

This was not going to be a tank job, and for a while, it kind of worked. Thanks to a stunning July run, the Giants stayed in the Wild Card race through the end of August. They were 65-65 on Aug. 26 and just four games out of a playoff spot. The Milwaukee Brewers, who did end up making the postseason, were just two games better. 

Ultimately the Giants finished at 77-85. They were third in the NL West, which was perhaps a bit of a surprise, but also 29 games behind the Dodgers and 12 games out of a Wild Card spot. 

When he sat down with the media Tuesday, Zaidi was asked if he feels the organization is where he had hoped it would be one year into a new regime. 

"I would say we feel good about the progress over the last year," Zaidi said. "I guess it's hard to compare it to expectations. I do feel like as an organization we were juggling a few different objectives this season, and for good reason."

"We wanted to continue to compete -- it was Boch's last year with a group of veteran players that we have. But we also recognized the need to regenerate talent a little bit and surround our veteran group with some younger players that could bring some energy and added production."

There was a balance. The Giants couldn't go full youth in Bochy's final year, but they did succeed with that second goal, finding some help for the future. Rookie Mike Yastrzemski led Giants position players in WAR, serving as Zaidi's San Francisco version of Max Muncy, and should start next season in one corner outfield spot. Mauricio Dubon -- 25 -- looks like a keeper and the potential opening day starter at second base.

While Jaylin Davis didn't have a great Giants debut, team officials felt it was necessary for him to get his feet wet and they're excited about the power he showed in the minors and his plate discipline at the big league level.

Austin Slater finished on a down note but showed improvement over the course of the year. Throw Alex Dickerson and another year of Kevin Pillar in with those two and the Giants are in much better shape in the outfield than a year ago. 

On the pitching side, Tyler Beede and Logan Webb showed flashes and got more opportunities than expected. They'll enter next year as candidates to be in the season-opening rotation.

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Shaun Anderson was moved to the bullpen, where there's plenty of youth and some guys -- led by Tyler Rogers after a huge September -- who will be in the mix next spring. 

"At times last offseason, I said for us to have a successful season we're going to have to have some guys emerge that our fans don't necessarily know their names and we may not even know their names yet," Zaidi said. "I feel like, looking back now, we've seen some of those players emerge who are going to be part of our future who a year ago we didn't anticipate.

"From that standpoint, I feel good about us graduating some players to the Major League roster who are going to help us."

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi has been part of the group moving the bullpens to center field at Oracle Park, but once the season starts, he'll never have an up-close view of the action out there. The front office has a suite on the club level and Zaidi also has an office in the clubhouse, where he can work while watching his Giants. 

If Zaidi is able to accomplish his goal of getting the Giants back to the postseason, though, you might see him out in the bleachers by the new bullpens. His general manager might demand it

Scott Harris was an integral part of the Cubs' baseball operations department when the team won the World Series in 2016, and earlier that year, he played a leading role in a moment that went viral. Harris and other Cubs executives watched a game from the bleachers after the Cubs clinched their division, with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sporting a fake mustache that made him stand out even more than his fame would have. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Harris explained how he got Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and other Cubs executives to watch a game from Wrigley's wild bleachers. Harris said they generally watched games from the general manager's suite behind the plate and always noticed how much fun fans were having in the bleachers. 

"We were longing for a day when we could actually go out into the bleachers," Harris said. "I kept asking Theo and Jed, 'Hey we should do that one time' or 'Everyone should have the opportunity to go.' They finally said, 'If we win the division, the next day we can all go out to the bleachers.' Sure enough, we won the division and I reminded them via text message that night and we set it up so that we could go sit in the bleachers for that game. 

"We thought we would get away with it for a few innings -- maybe by the seventh inning people would start to catch on. In the very first inning the relievers in the bullpen started pointing at us and then our centerfielder flipped a ball to us. We thought to ourselves, 'Well, our cover is blown.'"

For Harris, hired a week ago to rebuild the organization with Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, it's more than just a funny story and memorable day. It's an example of the kind of leader he wants to be. Asked what stood out about working for Epstein and Hoyer, who finally brought a championship back to Wrigley Field, Harris mentioned their "commitment to culture."

"These are really stressful and very demanding jobs and you often work closely with people for as many as 17 hours a day, so culture is very important, working relationships are very important," Harris said. "You have to work closely together with the people on your baseball ops staff and the president and put yourself in a position to make the right decisions, to make sound baseball decisions one after another after another, to reshape an organization. 

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"They were fully committed to that in Boston (where Epstein won a title). Jed was in San Diego and then both Theo and Jed were in Chicago, and I hope to bring elements of that to San Francisco."

For more of Harris' thoughts on coming to San Francisco, learning from Epstein and Hoyer, developing top prospects, and baseball research and development, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

The Giants took plenty of criticism last week for their decision to hire Gabe Kapler as manager, but the week's other big move was met with positive reviews. One of the people who complimented Farhan Zaidi's decision to hire Scott Harris as general manager was the executive who had hoped to keep him around. 

At the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters that he was thrilled for Harris and knew it "was an opportunity he couldn't turn down -- a No. 2 (job) of another storied franchise in his hometown." Harris served as assistant general manager of the Cubs before Zaidi hired him last Sunday. 

"We're thrilled for him, but it was bittersweet," Epstein told NBC Sports Chicago. "We loved working with him and he was a big part of our culture and guys around the major-league team love working with him. It will leave a pretty significant void that we'll have to fill. We'll distribute a lot of his responsibilities around to a few different people internally and re-evaluate as we continue to look outside, if there happens to be the right fit outside the organization, too."

Harris' decision was a loss for the Cubs, who have had other notable departures in the front office since winning the World Series in 2016. There has been speculation within the industry that Epstein will leave the Cubs when his contract expires, which could have led to Jed Hoyer taking over that job and Harris getting Hoyer's GM responsibilities. 

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Harris loved his time in Chicago and called working for Epstein and Hoyer a dream situation for anybody looking to break into the game. He was hired as a 25-year-old in 2012, but seven years later Zaidi called with an offer that was too good to turn down.

"He's got incredible work ethic. He's got significant intellectual capacity, but he's very down to Earth, fun to be around," Epstein said of Harris. "He doesn't tell you how smart he is. He's one of the guys everyone loves going to to share things and pick their brain. He's got a good feel around managing up, managing down, managing laterally, (a) good feel with the players and uniformed personnel. He'll do a really good job over there."