Giants

Giants trade for Angels' Zack Cozart, 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson

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USATSI

Giants trade for Angels' Zack Cozart, 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson

The Giants made their first trade at the MLB Winter Meetings on Tuesday. 

San Francisco acquired infielder Zack Cozart and shortstop Will Wilson in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels, the team announced. 

Cozart, 34, slashed a career-worst .124/.178/.144 and in 38 games in 2019 before undergoing season-ending left shoulder surgery. He needed season-ending surgery on the same shoulder in 2018, and he is set to make $12.67 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent in 2021. 

[RELATED: Giants sign pitcher Gausman to one-year, $9M contract]

Wilson, 21, was the Angels' first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in the 2019 MLB Draft. MLB.com listed the North Carolina State product as the Angels' No. 4 prospect.

The Athletic's Fabian Ardaya first reported the news. 

How Antoan Richardson's journey to Giants' staff showed his perseverance

How Antoan Richardson's journey to Giants' staff showed his perseverance

Antoan Richardson was drafted by the Giants in 2005, spent five seasons in the organization as a prospect, and returned last year to be a minor league instructor. But he still will be a fresh face to nearly all of the players when he walks into the clubhouse next month.

It helps to come into that situation with some background in the majors, and Richardson will enter every conversation with two pretty cool highlights in his back pocket.

A speedy outfielder who reached the big leagues with the Braves and Yankees, Richardson notched his first career hit when he poked a single to right off Clayton Kershaw. In one of his final big league games, Richardson raced home from second, beating a strong throw from Baltimore's Nick Markakis to give Derek Jeter a walk-off single in his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium.

Those highlights are nice conversation starters, but what really will stand out as the Giants get to know their new first base coach is a trait that has defined his career: Perseverance. 

Those career highlights came three years apart, as Richardson got four at-bats for the Braves in 2011 as a 27-year-old and then bounced around Double-A and Triple-A before the Yankees called him up in September of 2014. For Richardson, there was never any doubt that he would keep going through those lean years. 

"I come from the Bahamas, it's a small country and I think a lot of my motivation is the people of the Bahamas and recognizing that when you take on a responsibility like this, a responsibility to get to the Major Leagues, there are people that put you in the spotlight," Richardson said last week. "I think continuing to not give up and continuing to pursue things and inspire others and be inspired by others is what kept me going and it's continued to keep me going."

Richardson was beating the odds long before he slid headfirst across the plate as Yankee Stadium erupted. He signed with the Giants as a 35th round pick out of Vanderbilt and was one of just seven players from that class (highlighted by Sergio Romo) to ever suit up in the big leagues. Years before that, Richardson kept pushing after he was cut from his seventh-grade fast-pitch softball team in the Bahamas. 

"You know what it is? It's life, right?" Richardson said, laughing. "Life is going to throw you so many challenges and some of them aren't going to be fun, but you've got to keep going.

"I always tell the story of the buffalo. The buffalo, whenever a storm comes, the buffalo knows that at some point he's going to be on the other side of it. So that's kind of the way I look at it. Whenever the storm comes, keep walking. It feels like forever but at some point you'll be on the other end of it."

Richardson, 36, was one of the last additions to a young staff that will try to lead the Giants out of their current storm. He finished his career in Triple-A with the Dodgers at a time when Farhan Zaidi was the team's general manager and Gabe Kapler was the director of player development, but he didn't know them personally until he met with Kapler at the Winter Meetings last month. Richardson was there to speak at an MLB diversity event.

Less than a month later, the Giants announced that he would be their new first base coach

Kapler said Richardson stood out during the interview process for being thoughtful, introspective and good at self-evaluation.  

“As I was going through my own interview process, I reconnected with Antoan and learned how impactful he is at creating and building a culture dedicated to open communication,” Kapler said. “He brings energy, enthusiasm and excitement to the clubhouse. He’s inquisitive and asks why.

"What 'AR' doesn’t already know about outfield play and baserunning, he’ll go find out. Baserunning is going to be a major point of emphasis for us this year, and Antoan will help everyone on the team improve.”

Richardson’s rise, like so many on this current staff, was meteoric. He was an outfield coordinator in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays but came back to the Giants last offseason to be a field coordinator for their farm system. He roved throughout the system, overseeing on-field instruction, baserunning, outfield and infield work everywhere from the team's facility in the Dominican Republic to Triple-A Sacramento.

[RELATED: Why Giants' hitting coach compares rebuild to 49ers' rise]

While Richardson is somewhat familiar to many of the team's prospects, he has just one day of experience with the current big leaguers. When previous first base coach Jose Alguacil attended his son’s graduation in June, Richardson was called up to do the job for a day.

He had walked past Oracle Park as a prospect and marveled at the size and look of the place. When Richardson joined Bruce Bochy’s staff for a day, he didn’t take it for granted. Richardson spent some time talking to fellow Vanderbilt alums Tyler Beede and Mike Yastrzemski and then got to work trying to find something that would give the Giants an edge that day. 

The cameo ended up being a preview of a major career move. 

“That was a really cool day,” Richardson said. “I remember Pablo (Sandoval) hit a home run and almost hit my hand off my body when he was coming around first base. And then we won the game, right, so I got to give a high five at the end of that, so that was cool.”

Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

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AP

Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

Donnie Ecker is a man of action. He would much rather show you on the field than tell you about it. 

Ecker, 33, has a big task ahead of him in 2020. The Giants named Ecker, a Los Altos native, as their new hitting coach in December. He respects the veterans on San Francisco's roster, though, he knows this team has a ways to go with turning around the offense. 

For Ecker, it all starts with being truthful when looking at the roster. 

"We were bottom three in every single offensive category three years in a row," Ecker recently said on KNBR. "Even if you're the No. 1 offense and you won the World Series, you're starting from sratch with a new team. With our hitting unit, that's a blessing. We're starting scratch." 

The Giants finished 27th in team batting average (.239) last season, 28th in OPS (.694), 26th in home runs (167) and 28th in runs scored (678). They have a ways to go, to say the least, after enduring their third straight losing season. 

Ecker is looking at a different Bay Area team that recently pulled themselves from the bottom to the top in a few seasons as something the Giants can use as a blueprint for success. No, not the Warriors. 

"What I will say is that I grew up in the Bay Area. The fan base, the community, the Giants brand -- it raised me," Ecker said, "I feel like I really understand it, and all you have to do is look at Jed York, John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and what they've built. I was around in those in between years after [Jim] Harbaugh and there's a lot of parallels if you look at what Farhan is doing and Scott Harris and what the 49ers ... how they intellectually had a process to build a roster, used their finances strategically and objectively.

"They've really built themselves on paper for a really sustainable run. There's a process to make really smart, small victory decisions over and over and over. Even in player development we're looking at that." 

Kyle Shanahan took over as the 49ers new head coach ahead of the 2017 season and picked nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch as his general manager. San Francisco had won seven games combined the two seasons before the Shanahan-Lynch duo took over. And then, Shanahan lost his first nine games as a head coach. 

[RELATED: Who starts for Giants vs. Dodgers on Opening Day]

All was not well at Levi's Stadium. But after winning 10 games between 2017 and '18, Shanahan led the 49ers to a 13-3 record this season, good for the NFC West title and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. If they beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Shanahan will pull a Bill Walsh and lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his third season at the helm.

The Giants are projected to win only 71 games this season, but have one of the most improved farm systems in baseball. They aren't exactly on their way to a World Series this year, however, it's clear president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a plan in place with his eyes focused on the future.