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Giants Mailbag: Will Zaidi make international splash?

NBC Sports
Farhan Zaidi

The "virtual winter meetings" have come and gone, and we're all still waiting for some real action. 

There have been no mystery teams, no $100 million deals, barely even any juicy Giants rumors. You can argue that the two biggest stories six weeks into the offseason involve the New York Mets changing ownership and the Philadelphia Phillies hiring a new executive. Scott Boras did not give his usual speech to reporters this week. If the commissioner has any thoughts on the immediate future of the sport, we haven't heard them. He might be on vacation. It's hard to tell. 

It's been slooooooooooow, for the media and fans alike. But as we wait, let's dream a little. I asked my Instagram followers for some questions for a mailbag and they delivered a great batch (edited a bit for clarity). We'll start with the obvious one ... 

"Bauer Bauer Bauer." -- achyuthanb_

Sounds about right. The questions I received closely matched the comments on the Giants' YouTube chat when they had Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris on recently ...

So yeah, we'll get Bauer out of the way first. There remains no indication that the Giants are going big this offseason. In fact, it's the opposite. They talk of "complementary" pieces and "rolling the dice." I've said this before and will again: The Giants will never eliminate themselves from the competition for a player until he signs elsewhere, and they were remarkably quiet in their pursuit of Bryce Harper a couple of years ago, but it would be a stunner if they became a serious suitor here. 

 

"Do you see Crawford being traded this season?" -- daniellodi209

There's an odd thing about doing these mailbags. Just about every time, I get a couple of questions about ditching Brandon Crawford. 

He was 16 points above league average by OPS+ and was on pace to provide his highest WAR since 2016, when he was a down-ballot MVP candidate. Plus, he stabilizes the defense. Remember how sloppy the Giants were over the first two weeks? It's not a coincidence that a lot of that got fixed when they started playing Crawford every day again. 

Beyond all that, he has a full no-trade clause. I can't imagine a situation where the Bay Area native and father of four young children wants to waive that to go play elsewhere in the middle of the year. So, basically, stop thinking about a Crawford trade! 

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"Has there been any word about the roster sizes for next season?" -- lou_seal_new

I don't think there's been an official word about anything, which is par for the course with MLB. It's Dec. 11, two months from the start of spring training, and we still don't know if the universal DH is returning. That's embarrassing.

But, teams have been under the assumption that rosters will go back to 26 -- the original size last season before the pandemic -- with the Giants planning to carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players. There's no reason to think that'll change, and it'll impact the Giants. They benefited quite a bit from the extra flexibility, and they'll need some more reliable starting pitching with the smaller roster. They also may have a tough spring decision to make on Darin Ruf given the size of their bench. 

"What do you see Buster's role being in '21 with Bart and Tromp on the roster?" -- chids316

Chadwick Tromp was brought back to compete to be Buster Posey's backup. Joey Bart will likely start the season in Triple-A to get additional at-bats. As of now, Posey is the clear starter on Opening Day and likely throughout at least the first half of the season. At some point the Giants will have to figure out how to divide starts between Posey and Bart, but we're not there yet. 

"How long will Joey Bart 'develop' in AAA?" -- tromp.meme

This is a great question, and one I don't think the Giants know the answer to. It's really, really important when discussing Bart to remember that he had just 87 plate appearances above A-ball when the Giants put him in their lineup. Even Posey, as "big-league-ready" a catching prospect as you can imagine, had 151 plate appearances in Triple-A before getting a September cup of coffee. The next year he went back for 47 more games in Fresno. 

 

Bart's situation is a little unique because Posey's opt-out forced him to get his feet wet as an everyday player, but the Giants now can take a step back and let him make adjustments. They're not worried about the lack of power at all, but 41 strikeouts to three walks is a ratio that has to be corrected. At the moment, I would think the Giants want Bart to get at least a month down there to get 100 additional plate appearances, and then they can reevaluate. 

"How close is Luciano from making a debut?" -- lilricckibobby

Zaidi said a few weeks ago that the Giants would be somewhat conservative with their placements early in the year but then would be very aggressive with promotions.

I don't see why Marco Luciano would need any Low-A time after a summer with big leaguers, so High-A Eugene seems likely, with the possibility that he comes to camp and looks so advanced the Giants send him straight to Double-A Richmond. That would put him on track to debut in the summer of 2022 sometime.

But the best prospects, the special ones, shoot through the upper minors. Fernando Tatis Jr. reached Double-A in 2018 and was the 20-year-old opening day shortstop in San Diego the next year. If Luciano is as advertised, we could be talking about him making a similar leap in spring training of 2022. 

"Do you think the front office is interested in getting Seiya Suzuki next year?" joshwertheim

I'm just fine with skipping past this slow offseason and talking about next year's group! I don't know much about Suzuki except the stat line -- .409 on-base percentage, 25 homers in 2020 -- but Andrew Baggarly, who spent part of last offseason in Japan, says he's going to be a star and that's good enough for me. 

As a young, power-hitting, right-handed outfielder, he would in theory be a perfect fit. The Giants have been extremely active in chasing overseas stars in recent years, so yes, I would expect they're right near the front of the line here. 

"Thoughts on Ha-Seong Kim and how he might potentially fit in short- and long-term?" b_english33

Kim, a 25-year-old shortstop with power and speed, is a fascinating case -- and unlike Suzuki, he's available right now after being posted. He doesn't fit an obvious need for the Giants, who may already have a similar young player in Mauricio Dubon, need a left-handed platoon bat for third base and have a top shortstop prospect on the way. 

But ... if the Giants feel Kim can hit big league pitching and handle a utility role, they could certainly create room. There's a belief that Luciano will stick at short, but it's not a sure thing long-term. Evan Longoria is 35 and Donovan Solano is 32. They have Luis Toribio and Will Wilson in the system, but they're still short on young infielders, particularly guys who could play in 2021-22. Kim could be a fit, although he might find much more playing time elsewhere. 

"Why did the Giants move their A-ball team to Oregon? Why not keep it in San Jose?" jillmgut

The entire California League was moved to Low-A, which led to the shuffling. Eugene, the new High-A affiliate, seems like a great get, but this is certainly a bit of a bummer for fans down in San Jose. They may not see as many players on rehab assignments in future years, and some top prospects will skip the level entirely. But, overall, most of the best young Giants should still come through San Jose early in their careers, and you should still go visit when fans are allowed. The BBQ is worth it!

 

"Do you expect the team to go after a high-risk, high-reward starting pitcher? Kluber, Paxton, Tanaka, etc." -- camstrong53

Masahiro Tanaka probably slides in a level above the "high-risk" guys, but yes, in general, this is exactly what I expect. The Giants have had a lot of success with the Kevin Gausman/Drew Smyly/Drew Pomeranz model. I would expect them to sign at least two similar players in January. Here's a list of some who might fit. 

"Is it possible the Giants spend big on a relief pitcher this offseason?" -- sfgiants.today

It's extremely unlikely. They plan to be patient and opportunistic as camp approaches, adding more guys like Matt Wisler, who signed for just $1.15 million. It'll cost a bit more than that to get someone with closing experience, but they're not going to be in on the high-end guys, and they shouldn't be. They've tried that. It hasn't worked.

By the way, I think the bullpen has a chance to get pretty good, pretty fast. The return of Reyes Moronta should be huge, and there are good pieces in place in guys like Wisler, Tyler Rogers, Caleb Baragar, Jarlin Garcia, Sam Selman, etc. If a Camilo Doval or Gregory Santos type "pops" in spring training, the Giants could be in good shape. 

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"Are we making significant moves during the winter meetings?" -- edh_510

Well, this was supposed to be winter meetings week, and currently there hasn't been a contract handed out this offseason that tops Kevin Gausman's $18.9 million. So nobody is making significant moves right now. I mentioned Bauer above, but I wouldn't expect the Giants to go hard at any of the other big-name guys, with the caveat that Marcell Ozuna would be interesting if the DH is put back into place. 

"Aren't you forgetting something?" -- fakehankschulman

Can't end the week without giving a shoutout to my friend Henry Schulman of the Chronicle, who announced his retirement today. A long time ago, I was a young Mercury News reporter who got moved from the high school beat to the Giants, with no idea how to cover a big league team, book travel for an entire season, or even find the media entrance at most ballparks. Henry and I were technically competitors, but there's nobody who was more helpful in those early years -- or got me into more United club lounges -- and I've seen him do the same thing for Kerry Crowley and many others. The beat won't be the same without Henry. Thanks for everything, my friend!