Giants' Farhan Zaidi hire shows Larry Baer entering a brave new world

Giants' Farhan Zaidi hire shows Larry Baer entering a brave new world

Larry Baer probably looked at himself Tuesday night in the mirror and said the words he could never have imagined uttering.
“I have hired a former Athletic and a former Dodger to repair the Giants. Oh, hell.”
But hey, life’s funny that way.
Truth is, Baer hired someone who is eminently qualified to be the next architect of the baseball division of San Francisco Giants, Ltd. He learned in Oakland, he honed his skills and analytical gifts in Los Angeles, and now he’s going to fix the Giants ... if that’s how the end game plays.
But we live with labels. We like labels. We love the illusion that We Are Giant is antithetical to anything A’s or Dodgers. It makes life more fun, if that’s how you traffic in fun.
And it is a statement about labels and their fragility that Baer, who enjoys the myths of baseball as much as anyone, is willing to chuck them all to put the baseball team he runs for Charlie Johnson in a different place.
It is the first time Baer has had to do this, because the last time there was true and substantive change in this franchise’s baseball profile, he wasn’t running the shop. Peter Magowan was.
In other words, Baer broke his own marketer’s programming to hire Zaidi, because as bright as he might be, his résumé had those two words that we always have believed make him twitch -- A’s and Dodgers. And to make that jump, Baer recognized that past associations were the small stuff, and Zaidi’s gifts and how they could be applied to the Giants were too important to hold his T-shirt collection against him.
Zaidi will further explain his master plan for making the Giants younger and more vibrant Wednesday, and in doing so either will immediately win over the audience or give himself enough time to do so.

[RELATED: Three lessons the Giants can learn from their last three offseasons]

But for now, his mere hiring is sufficient to point how what a brave new world Baer has decided to enter. The Giants built an entire 60-year image on hating the Dodgers for simply existing, and 50 years on blaming the A’s for existing in their breathing space. No other teams made the Giants or their fans react reflexively in their search for the kind of rivalry they read about when the Giants played in Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and how they longed for good old days before the A’s left Kansas City in search of a history it couldn’t create in Missouri.
The upside of Zaidi is that if successful, he will be lionized as Brian Sabean has been. The downside is, if he fails, his résumé will be held against him -- in baseball, that’s what fans do.
But this is easily defensible as a hire, even to those who thought the job easily could have gone to Kim Ng, or Chaim Bloom, or anyone else. Zaidi brings analytical and political game to a job that requires both, and his job is to show how his game can make everyone else’s better.

And eventually, Baer might be forgiven for breaking two fan codes at once. All he needs is a parade.

Scott Boras selling Bryce Harper to teams with LeBron James comparison

Scott Boras selling Bryce Harper to teams with LeBron James comparison

While the chances of Bryce Harper of joining the Giants seem slim and the A’s non-existent, it’s still interesting to note how the free-agent outfielder’s agent is marketing him to prospective teams.

That’s because Harper’s contract will set the market this offseason, and therefore the direction of teams that don’t even sign him.

USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale detailed how Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, is presenting his client’s worth in meetings, including in a 118-page handbook that, among other things, compares the outfielder to NBA superstar LeBron James and explains how he’s worth $1 billion to a franchise.

“My goal in this thing is to let teams know what they’re getting -- that’s why we brought in the LeBron comparisons,” Boras said. “A lot of people don’t know what he’s done by the age of 25, and how that compares to what LeBron James did at 25. You get a very clear path on how hard it is to achieve a standard of excellence in an arena where you’re both No. 1 picks, both rookies of year, both MVPs, and set a standard that no one can meet.”

Boras predicts Harper will have two, possibly three, serious suitors, according to Nightengale. Will the Giants be one of them, swayed by Boras’ research of minute details such as Harper being thrown just 41 percent of all pitches in the strike zone, and hitting .327 with a .779 slugging percentage on fastballs thrown at least 94 mph?

[RELATED: How Giants really should use Harper contract money]

According to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic, the Giants have downplayed their interest in Harper, but they might seek a meeting with him. Although Harper would be an enticing addition, the cost -- more than the $300 million he reportedly rejected from the Washington Nationals -- could be too high, especially with San Francisco's immediate roster needs.

But the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants’ NL West rivals, reportedly met with Harper last month, and they always seem to have money to burn. Still, if Harper signs with the Dodgers but is more LeBum than LeBron, it could reshape the division for years to come.

Three questions for Giants to answer as MLB Winter Meetings start


Three questions for Giants to answer as MLB Winter Meetings start

LAS VEGAS -- The MLB Winter Meetings have never been held in a spot with more distractions than the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, but for the Giants executives settling into their suite Sunday afternoon, the next week is all about how much work there is to do. 

Farhan Zaidi got a late start to the offseason, but that hasn't been an issue. Aside from a few big trades and signings, the market is intact, and the Giants remain poised to execute whatever plan Zaidi presented to Larry Baer in a long meeting that made him the man for the head of baseball operations job.

The details of that plan are one of three big questions to be answered this week:

What's the roster going to look like?

Until Zaidi makes a couple of moves, we won't have a true idea of what he's thinking the 2019 team can look like. For now, we have some information, though.

The Giants are looking for starting pitching, and they obviously have major issues in the lineup. The fan base would feel a lot better if there were some sort of outfield addition this week, although team officials continue to downplay the possibility of a run at Bryce Harper. This team does not in any way appear to be at the start of the rebuild. 

Many of Zaidi's moves will be made on the edges. Letting Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez go shows that he believes there are equal (and cheaper) alternatives on the market. The Giants haven't yet found those alternatives, or players to fill in a 40-man roster that has only 34 players, but this is the week when that should heat up. 

[RELATED: Zaidi makes Winter Meetings unpredictable]

What does a new front office actually think of the holdovers?

Zaidi has not publicly said much about the 2018 roster, only noting that it's a group he likes but one not good enough that any options should be off the table. This week, he'll meet with the media at least three times, and countless other whispers will emerge from the endless churn of information-gathering at the Mandalay Bay. 

Do the Giants actually want to trade Madison Bumgarner? We'll have much better intel in a few days. Will Brandon Belt or Evan Longoria be put on the block? What's the real plan for Buster Posey, who is coming off hip surgery? Does Zaidi like Derek Holland and Nick Hundley as much as they like the Giants?

By the end of this week, we'll know much more about the new president's thoughts on a team he repeatedly beat over the last four years. 

What's the future of the front office and staff?

Manager Bruce Bochy is not expected to address his future this week, but he is entering the last year of his contract and he has a new boss, so he'll be asked if this is his last year with the Giants. Don't expect an answer just yet. 

We do have some answers about the new staff, though. According to The Athletic, Zaidi has hired Zack Minasian as pro scouting director and Michael Holmes as amateur scouting director. Both come highly regarded, and it's possible that other newcomers will be in the suite this week, or that Zaidi will speak with potential candidates as the whole industry is gathered in one place.