Giants

Giants outfield situation could change drastically before Opening Day

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USATSI

Giants outfield situation could change drastically before Opening Day

SAN FRANCISCO — Last week, Farhan Zaidi added two outfielders to the 40-man roster and told reporters he hoped to add at least two more before the end of the offseason. 

The Giants, who entered December with just four outfielders on their roster, should more than double that group by the time pitchers and catchers report in early February, and the incumbents won’t necessarily have a leg up.

Team officials don’t seem all that high on the current group, and when Zaidi was asked about the trio of Austin Slater, Chris Shaw and Mac Williamson, he noted how hard it can be to transition to the big leagues.

“One of the toughest things in professional baseball is for a hitter to make the jump from Triple-A to the big leagues, and then when you have to do it in AT&T Park, it doesn’t necessarily detract from the level of difficulty,” he said. “Between those three guys, obviously the major league production wasn’t there, but they’re all highly-regarded prospects and all have strong track records.

“Whether they’re kind of Opening Day guys or wind up being depth and get opportunities later in the season, there’s still confidence that they can be contributors at the major league level.”

[RELATED: Bochy embracing more platoon players]

Zaidi has said the Giants would be in a great position if they can add enough depth that Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez start the season in Triple-A or the bullpen, and he surely feels the same about an outfield that was a mess even with Andrew McCutchen last season.

That leads to some urgency for one member of the current group; Williamson is out of options, and although he came the closest to breaking through with a big start to the 2018 season, his year was wrecked by a concussion. Williamson was cleared in September and the Giants expect him to be given a chance to win a job when they report to Scottsdale. 

Slater is also strongly in that mix, although he is not a particularly good fit for Zaidi, who helped build a Dodgers lineup powered by homers. Slater hit just one in 2019, and the staff recently relayed the message to him that he’ll need to make swing changes and find a way to tap into more of his natural power.

Shaw has that natural pop, too, but he’ll need a huge spring to make an impression, especially with Zaidi so focused on adding versatile pieces. 

The fourth member of the group, Steven Duggar, is in by far the strongest position. Zaidi has long had his eye on the center fielder. 

“He’s a guy that I’ve — even before coming into the organization — I really liked as a prospect,” Zaidi said. “I thought he was a tremendous draft by the Giants. He was really productive coming up through the minor leagues, and unfortunately with the injury, I don’t think fans got a chance to see everything he was capable of as he was getting more comfortable and confident at the big league level.”

Duggar is said to be doing well after season-ending shoulder surgery, and team officials continue to light up when discussing his future. Long-term, the Giants view him as an everyday center fielder. Short-term, Zaidi hopes to ease Duggar in a bit and find him a platoon partner, although Duggar has shown an ability to hit lefties throughout his professional career. 

[RELATED: Dodgers, not Giants linked to big-name outfielders]

“There might be some spots where he sits against tough lefties,” Zaidi said. “I just think that’s a good way to try to keep your entire roster and your bench involved. I could see that happening, but it would be more about not overly taxing one player and trying to put players in the best position to succeed, rather than saying he’s a platoon player or an everyday player.”

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sure they're the ones talking to agents in suites, discussing blockbuster trades, and spending millions on players, but at points of the MLB Winter Meetings, Giants executives are just like their fans. 

That was the case Tuesday night, when Gerrit Cole reportedly agreed a record contract and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic immediately reported that the Dodgers, a finalist for Cole, would turn their attention to Madison Bumgarner. Rosenthal's tweet instantly caught the attention of officials in the team's suite and some who were wandering the lobby. Those who had already left for dinner discussed the news after ordering their wine. 

The report startled the fan base. It did not shake the front office. You won't find many people who work for the team who are confident that Bumgarner will be pitching in San Francisco next season, but the Giants also do not believe he'll actually end up with the Dodgers. 

"A smart negotiation tactic," one source said, smiling. 

The Dodgers reportedly bid about $300 million on Cole and were in on Anthony Rendon, who reportedly got $245 million from the Angels, but they don't have a recent history of spending big on free agents. Cole and Rendon were special cases because they were at the very top of their respective markets. 

Bumgarner, per sources familiar with his thinking, is seeking a deal in excess of $100 million. It's unknown just how high the Giants would go and they're not thought to be at the forefront of discussions, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with Bumgarner's agents on Tuesday and said Wednesday night that the Giants are still engaged with Bumgarner's camp. 

Most in the organization are still preparing for Bumgarner's departure, and it's unlikely that the latest rumors will change that thinking. Zaidi isn't one to be bullied into a move by the possibility of a popular player signing with a rival. This will be a baseball decision for the Giants.

[RELATED: Why Giants hired 'player developments' coaches]

"We are kind of going through the process with all free agents based on where we are as an organization, what our direction is going to be, and there's a lot of rumors and a lot of innuendo and a lot of noise," Zaidi said Wednesday night when the latest rumor was brought up. "We just have to go based on what we know and the conversations that we're having."

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

The Giants promised there would be changes to the dimensions of Oracle Park, and they evidently have lived up to their word.

The fences are coming in -- but not by a ton.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Hank Schulman, San Francisco reportedly has marginally shortened the distance to all fields.

What about Triples Alley, you ask? Surely there must be more drastic changes to that area of Oracle Park, right?

Not really.

Six feet doesn't sound like a lot, but then again, Brandon Belt might have doubled his home-run total from last season under those dimensions. The Giants are removing the bullpen mounds from the first and third-base sidelines, and they are expected to be relocated to the extra space now created in the outfield.

[RELATED: Giants announce eight additions to Kapler's coaching staff]

So, it appears Oracle Park generally will maintain the same character, but likely will allow for more offense. Given the trouble the Giants have had in attracting free-agent hitters, perhaps the shortened dimensions will somewhat detract from its identity as a pitcher's haven.