Giants

How Farhan Zaidi can pull off Giants salary swap in trade this offseason

How Farhan Zaidi can pull off Giants salary swap in trade this offseason

SAN FRANCISCO — There are many moves that Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi made in Los Angeles that surely caught Larry Baer’s eye, but the most important one may have been a trade involving mostly players who wouldn’t contribute in 2018. 

Last December, the Dodgers sent Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson and cash to the Braves for Matt Kemp. It was a stunning move, and in the end the Dodgers ended up with a stunning result: Kemp made the All-Star team and contributed to a division title. 

But a year ago, this was simply a way to swap bad contracts and get the Dodgers under the tax line for a year. Kemp was never supposed to make the 2018 roster, he was there to give the Dodgers financial wiggle room moving forward. 

"One of the main considerations in this deal were economic, but they're part of the bigger picture, the longer-term plan,” Friedman, Zaidi’s former boss, said at the time. “It's a necessary strategic part of moves yet to come.”

As Zaidi works to overhaul the Giants roster, you can bet he’s looking to strike gold in a similar way. A league source familiar with Zaidi’s past work said one of his first moves would be trying to clear some future salary commitments, and nobody has more of those than the Giants. 

The 2019 roster will have nine players making at least $12 million — the Red Sox are paying nearly every cent of Pablo Sandoval’s salary, though — and six due at least $15 million. 

There are plenty of teams out there looking to dump similar deals. The Padres have made Wil Myers available; the rebuilding Royals have starters Ian Kennedy and Danny Duffy on big deals; the Mariners have six massive contracts on their books and they're starting over. You can look around the league and find plenty of Kemp-like options. 

But which deals would Zaidi look to get off his own books? Let’s roll through them … 

No Trade-Clauses

Buster Posey ($22 million), Brandon Crawford ($15.2 million), Mark Melancon ($14 million). All three of these guys have full no-trade clauses. Posey and Crawford are franchise pillars, anyway, and Crawford grew up in the Bay Area and Posey has moved his family here. They’re likely to retire as Giants.

But just in case you wanted to include them in deals, remember that they can veto any deal, and would. Melancon doesn’t have roots in the Bay Area, but he likes it here, has a young family, and also seems unlikely to seek a fresh start. 

Injured

Johnny Cueto ($21 million), Jeff Samardzija ($19.8 million): You can’t trade a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, so Cueto won’t be discussed at all. Samardzija is owed nearly $40 million and has a hurt shoulder, so he would be just about impossible to trade.

On the other hand, Gonzalez, McCarthy and Kazmir all had injury issues and Friedman and Zaidi found a taker.

[RELATED: Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM]

Samardzija has a limited no-trade clause, though, and wants to stay in San Francisco. We’ll include Sandoval here because he finished on the 60-day DL, but again, the Giants owe him just the MLB minimum. The Red Sox are covering the rest of his $18.6 million salary. 

No Long-Term Salary Concerns

Madison Bumgarner ($12 million). He may be traded for other reasons, but he doesn’t fit the theme here. His contract actually makes him more attractive to other teams. 

The Candidates

Brandon Belt ($16 million), Evan Longoria ($14.5 million). These are the two players who will be talked about moving forward. It’s not fair to lump Belt in as a “salary dump,” because he’s one of the team’s best hitters when healthy and might be the the best defensive first baseman in the NL. But he has three years remaining on a massive five-year deal and Posey may need to play a lot of first base in future years, so Belt is the most obvious candidate. He also is the likeliest option to bring a real package of talent back in return.

A complication here: Belt can pick 10 teams annually to put on a no-trade list. He wants to stay in San Francisco, and if he’s strategic, he can basically turn that into a full-no trade clause, because there are plenty of tanking teams and teams with a star first baseman already that he wouldn’t need to include. 

Longoria does not have no-trade protection, which makes him the easiest target. Because Bobby Evans got the Rays to chip in $14 million, Longoria is actually owed about $60 million more on a deal that takes him through 2022. The length is the main issue, and this is where the Kemp deal comes in.

The Braves took on all those massive salaries for one year while the Dodgers got two years of significant Kemp money, so perhaps Zaidi can replicate that and find a team that would take on four years of Longoria’s deal while shipping out a player who makes much more money but for just two or three years.

Longoria had a down year in 2018 but he was still worth 1.9 WAR, per Baseball Reference, led the team in homers, and played outstanding defense down the stretch. He could be part of the solution for the Giants next season, but if Zaidi is looking for a way to clear some future payroll commitments, Longoria would be one of his only options. 

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

There aren't many players around the league who get thrown into trade rumors by their own fans more than Brandon Belt does, but as the Giants prepare for their first spring under Gabe Kapler, the 31-year-old first baseman is headed for a milestone. 

If Belt is standing at his usual position on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, he'll become just the third Giant to make double-digit Opening Day starts at first base and the first to do it 10 consecutive seasons.

Willie McCovey never made 10 consecutive Opening Day starts at first base for the Giants. Will Clark and J.T. Snow didn't, either. Barring an injury, Brandon Belt, survivor of the #BeltWars, will stand alone with that distinction. 

Yesterday we looked at the catchers who will be in camp for the Giants, led by Buster Posey, who also is poised for his 10th consecutive Opening Day start. Today it's the first basemen, and it's not a big group ... 

Brandon Belt

Gabe Kapler had one of the more fascinating introductory press conferences we've ever seen in the Bay Area, but late in that hour, he made a point of mentioning one of his key players. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said in November. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

Kapler isn't alone here. Throughout the organization, the Giants are teaching their young hitters to be more patient and have a better sense of the strike zone. A common thread through just about all of the non-roster additions over the last 14 months has been solid to high on-base percentages. Belt, who finished 15th in the NL in pitches per plate appearance even in a down year, has plenty of fans in this new regime, and the Giants intend to accentuate his strengths, which is a bit of a change of pace from a staff that was frustrated with Belt's lack of aggression at times. 

That's part of the reason trade whispers have never made any sense. Belt, who was hampered by a knee injury much of last year, is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris would have been selling low, and that's not what those two do. With a new staff, hopefully some improved health, and ballpark changes that should help Belt more than anyone, the Giants are optimistic. 

But ... they're also ready to be quicker with adjustments, and this new staff is ready to be far more aggressive with platoons and days off when the matchup is a poor one. Belt has a .815 OPS against righties the past three seasons, but it's just .668 against lefties. If that continues, Belt will find himself starting a lot more games in the dugout. 

Darin Ruf

That last sentence is why Ruf, who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee according to The Athletic, might be more interesting than your average 33-year-old returning from the KBO. Ruf was a part-timer for the Phillies for most of his five seasons there (he was not there when Kapler was the manager) but he always hit lefties. He has a .299/.379/.542 slash line in 271 career at-bats against lefties, with experience at first base and in the outfield. 

The Giants have preached versatility since Zaidi took over, but they also now have a 26th roster spot to play with and can more easily carry a lefty-masher on their bench. 

Ruf spent the past three seasons in the KBO, where he hit 86 homers and compiled a .313/.404/.564 slash line. That league isn't anywhere near the level of competition as the big leagues, but the Giants clearly saw something they liked. 

Zach Green

Green was one of the more interesting non-roster invitees last spring, a 24-year-old who had hit 20 homers the year before as a Phillies minor leaguer. The Sacramento native took full advantage of whatever happened to the PCL last year, crushing 25 homers in 252 Triple-A at-bats. 

Green, who primarily plays third, actually got 16 plate appearances for the Giants right before and after the trade deadline, but he had just two hits and struck out six times. In September, the Giants placed Green on the 60-day injured list with a hip impingement to clear a roster spot for Wandy Peralta. Green was then outrighted off the 40-man roster in November, but he signed a minor league deal and returns to a good situation. 

The Giants have a much-improved farm system, but they have very little talent at the corner infield spots in the upper levels of the minors. If Green can pick up where he left off, he should be an everyday starter for the River Cats and could be one injury away from significant big league playing time.

[RELATED: Giants add depth at second base]

The Wild Card

Amazingly, Belt is the only true first baseman on the 40-man roster, but there are others with experience. Buster Posey made just three starts at first last year and it doesn't sound like the Giants want that to change in 2020. Keep an eye on Austin Slater, though. He can handle first defensively and the Giants want to find more ways to get his right-handed bat in the lineup. 

Giants' New Era 'Team Describe' hats represent city of San Francisco

Giants' New Era 'Team Describe' hats represent city of San Francisco

One of the best things about the game of baseball is the sense of community you feel when attending a game.

Before you sit down in your seat perhaps you go to a local bar to indulge in a beverage ... or two. Maybe you take public transportation to the event. It's all about coming together.

New Era, MLB's official on-field headwear provider, dropped a line of hats that embrace the cities MLB teams play the game in.

The Giants got some of the hometown treatment with a hat of their own in the "Team Describe" line.

It appears the theme of the hats (with only a select few from MLB and the NBA) has a specific item next to the team's logo in the front with some food component to represent the celebrated city on the back.

You can check out the San Francisco hat that represents the city here as well as the other cities.

[RELATED: Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Kapler's coaching staff]

The Giants logo sits next to a cable car on the front with some sushi on the back of it. 

What do you think?