ORLANDO — Even three seasons removed from their last title, the Giants have found that there are still surprising benefits to being in the World Series during those even years. When they met with Shohei Ohtani in Los Angeles earlier this month, Ohtani remarked that he was already familiar with the organization and key personnel because he had seen so much of Bruce Bochy and Buster Posey on TV.
That familiarity didn’t bring Ohtani to San Francisco, of course. He chose the Angels, but the Giants were one of seven teams to be granted a meeting with the potential two-way star. They were taken up a private elevator to a large conference room, where they shook hands with Ohtani and his representatives and started their pitch. What exactly was that process like?
“We sat across the table from him and presented really who we are as an organization, and it was an opportunity for Boch to describe the role he would play with the Giants,” general manager Bobby Evans said this week. “Buster was able to answer a question or two about how (he) prepares our pitchers for games, but Buster asked his share of questions as well. With a translator, we all were able to interact in terms of a perspective on what it would be like to be a Giant in the clubhouse and on the field and get a snapshot of the city of San Francisco in some way.
“I thought (Ohtani) was incredibly impressive, very intuitive and alert, and very concerned about how the fit looked and would work. My understanding is that we were very close to that finish line, but I’m sure at some level not having a DH hurt.”
That became apparent to the Giants during the meeting. Ohtani told them at some point that he was not all that familiar with outfield play and he seemed to be gravitating toward a designated hitter role, so some in the traveling party left the meeting knowing that he would choose from the Angels, Mariners and Rangers.
As for the other December meetings, the Giants left Orlando without a major addition, but there are indications that next week may be a busy one. For now, here are some leftover whispers and notes from five days at the Swan and Dolphin Resort …
--- The front office has waffled a bit on the earlier desire to go defense-first in the outfield. Team officials said they might have to compromise defensively to add a power bat. Jay Bruce seems to be at the top of the list right now, although he is seeking a substantial deal and the Giants are watching their budget. They also have checked on Chicago's Avisail Garcia.
--- Winter ball was a disaster for Giants prospects. Jarrett Parker (eye infection) and Christian Arroyo (wrist) came home early and Ryder Jones was sent home early after he got off to a very slow start. Austin Slater never even went to play in the Dominican Republic because he was still rehabbing. Chris Shaw’s Fall League experience was cut short by shoulder tightness.
“Those are lost at-bats you never get back,” Evans said of the injuries.
--- It sure sounds like the Giants would like to hold off quite a bit longer on promoting Shaw, allowing him to spend much of the year in Triple-A before becoming a big part of 2019 and beyond. Shaw can force the issue, though. “We look at his bat as being so close to being ready to take major league at-bats,” Evans said. “He’s still relatively new professionally to playing the outfield. We’d like to get him more and more reps.” It doesn’t sound like Shaw will return to first base anytime soon.
--- Slater will get a look at all three outfield spots in spring training and the Giants believe he can handle all three. For now, they view him as a candidate to be the fourth or fifth outfielder on opening day.
--- The Giants hope to bring Nick Hundley back soon, and that seems like a lock. As for another familiar backup catcher name, Trevor Brown will be back in Triple-A after getting outrighted off the 40-man roster in September. Brown dealt with a groin injury throughout the 2017 season but he’s fully healthy and will be in big league camp.
--- Phil Nevin is the new third base coach for the Yankees and apparently will run spring training, so he's certainly going to be a hot managing candidate next offseason if the Yankees are as good as expected. Turns out Nevin was the one on hold as Hensley Meulens waited for the Yankees to make a decision. If Meulens had beaten out Aaron Boone, Nevin would have returned to San Francisco to take the open spot on staff.
--- Meulens will do most of the daily planning for Giants camp. Ron Wotus always handled that job when he was bench coach. Giants people were thrilled to have Meulens back, but they do believe he's such a high-profile candidate now that they may lose him in a year.
--- The early reports on pitching coach Curt Young are glowing. Young lives in the Phoenix area and he's already working with Giants pitchers who throw down there. Matt Moore, trying to move past a horrible season, is one of the players who went down early.
--- The Giants have heard that Pablo Sandoval's offseason conditioning is going just fine, but they'll check in again soon. This is the time of year when members of the training staff visit players in their home towns. Bochy said that if the season started today, Sandoval would be the third baseman -- but that's pretty much by default. The Giants want him in a bench role, with Evans saying Sandoval could have a Joaquin Arias-type role.
--- You can replay that whole Evans Facebook Live here. He was pretty forthcoming on several topics, including the Stanton discussions, saying Joe Panik hasn't been discussed in any deals. There’s also a Facebook Live video with Bochy there.
--- The latest podcast includes conversations with David Bell, who is overhauling the minor league system, and Craig Mish, who was all over the Stanton discussions. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.
--- Finally, a lighter note: Did Madison Bumgarner send angry texts to Bochy after hearing that he would give Ohtani 300-400 at-bats. The answer is here.