Giants

Giants' Farhan Zaidi reflects on difficult decision at trade deadline

Giants' Farhan Zaidi reflects on difficult decision at trade deadline

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants used 64 players at the big league level, DFA'd plenty from the Opening Day roster and said goodbye to longtime second baseman Joe Panik late in the year. This was a season of transition, and there were dozens upon dozens of decisions to analyze. 

But as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi looks back, there's one that stands out from his first year. Asked about regrets earlier this week, Zaidi took a long pause and noted that he's constantly auditing every decision. 

"The thing that I spend a lot of time thinking about is just going back to July 31 and the way the trade deadline unfolded," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "I feel like I alternate nights losing sleep about not potentially buying at the deadline and trying to improve our chances this year, or selling more at the deadline and setting ourselves up better for 2020 and going forward."

The Giants ultimately played it somewhat down the middle. A stunning July run put them back over .500 and in a crowded wild-card pack, so Zaidi held Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith -- two of the bigger pieces on the market -- to give retiring manager Bruce Bochy a chance down the stretch. At the same time, he shockingly got the Atlanta Braves to take on Mark Melancon's salary and turned a couple of solid Drew Pomeranz performances into Mauricio Dubon. Sam Dyson was also dealt for prospects.  

Looking back on that decision-making, Zaidi noted that the Giants couldn't count on beating out all the other teams in the NL Wild Card chase at the time. But this season wasn't about getting a high draft pick and loading up on prospects at any cost. Team officials repeatedly said that they wanted to compete as long as possible. 

"I do think there are two separate goals between actually making the playoffs and being involved in the playoff chase," Zaidi said during a season-ending press conference. "If we had been basically in the wild-card race until the last weekend of the season and things hadn't gone well, I still would have felt like we achieved a lot of our goals of playing meaningful baseball as deep into the season as possible.

"I feel like we made some trades that are going to set us up better for 2020 and beyond, but we also kept a lot of the ingredients that had gotten our team to the point of being in contention in place."

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The fear within the organization was that the July bubble would burst, and that did happen. But the Giants were still at .500 on Aug. 26 and hanging around in the race after sweeping a weekend series with the A's. 

"On August 26, I was really happy we still had Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith on our team and felt like those guys gave us a chance," Zaidi said. "It didn't turn out the way we wanted and we didn't have the September we wanted, but I think we owed it to our fans and to Boch and to the players to keep those guys and give us a shot to continue what we had accomplished in July leading up to the deadline."

Rays designate popular ex-Giants infielder Matt Duffy for assignment

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USATSI

Rays designate popular ex-Giants infielder Matt Duffy for assignment

A Giants fan favorite needs a new home. 

The Tampa Bay Rays designated infielder Matt Duffy for assignment Wednesday, and they now have a week to trade or release him. Injuries limited Duffy, who played for San Francisco for parts of three seasons, to just 199 games with the Rays after being traded to Tampa Bay during the 2016 season.

“Wish that his health and his time with us would have gone different in that regard and we could have had him on the field more,’’ Rays general manager Erik Neander said (via the Tampa Bay Times). “He really is a special player and there’s the obvious stuff you can measure in how he impacts a game. His intangibles, his leadership, his influence on a younger impressionable clubhouse like we have is worth a lot. And that especially made this a very difficult decision and we’ll certainly miss him in that regard.’’

Duffy played in only 46 games, slashing just .252/.343/.327 and posting a career-low .670 OPS. Despite those struggles, Duffy's Rays career ended with eerily similar statistics to that of his Giants tenure. Duffy played 54 more games in orange and black than he did with Tampa Bay, but his .281/.326/.399 slash line with the Giants was not far off from his overall .284/.351/.357 line with the Rays. 

The pitcher Duffy was traded for, Matt Moore, is long gone from San Francisco. Could Duffy make his way back to Oracle Park, either through trade or free agency? It's difficult to imagine, given the construction of the Giants' infield depth chart. 

Duffy has played the vast majority of his career games at third base, and Giants third baseman Evan Longoria is under contract through 2022 and owed $53 million until then, making a trade unlikely. Behind Longoria is arbitration-eligible veteran Donovan Solano, who posted a career-best .815 OPS last season. Right-handed shortstop Mauricio Dubon, who the Giants acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, will at least back up Brandon Crawford next season, and Dubon's status as one of San Francisco's most promising young players will give him the priority in terms of playing time. 

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Plus, Duffy's connections to the Giants are largely gone. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler were not in San Francisco when Duffy was. The Giants are no strangers to bringing back one of their own, but it remains to be seen if San Francisco's newly formed brain trust values that in the same way. 

The Giants opted not to make any changes to their 40-man roster Wednesday, and they would've had a chance to acquire Duffy via trade. Neander said the Rays were unable to find a taker, but perhaps a team circles back now that Duffy has been DFA'd. It just might not be San Francisco. 

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made a multitude of personnel moves since taking over control of San Francisco’s roster. 

A handful of holdovers remain from the previous regime, many of whom were part of the organization’s three World Series trophies in five years.

Guys like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and others are facing increasing competition for innings after several rough seasons in a row for the Giants.

Zaidi wants to continue the team’s rebuild but isn’t going to just jettison every guy who’s not in their prime.

“Sometimes I think the change does not mean a change in personnel,” Zaidi told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on “The TK Show” podcast. “But a change in outlook and perspective.

“Baseball is a game where development should never stop, whether you’re a 22-year-old rookie or a 33-year-old veteran.”

Zaidi is hoping that the infusion of fresh blood into the Giants clubhouse should give every returning player an opportunity to re-evaluate their own roles and abilities.

[RELATED: Would Cole be perfect fit for the Giants this offseason?]

“As I view it, being a change agent doesn’t mean just turning over the roster,” Zaidi said. “But it means everybody reassessing where they are in their careers, what they do well, what their roles are, and trying to progress further for the betterment of the team.”

Expect to see some familiar faces on the Giants next season. But Zaidi and his new general manager Scott Harris likely will continue making moves throughout the offseason and even in-season, as we saw frequently in 2019.