SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris had met just once before Zaidi started his search for a general manager. Their initial meeting last month lasted five hours, and it’s easy to see how they hit it off.
When he was hired last November, Zaidi talked a lot about making the organization incrementally better with every transaction, even if the move was a small one. When he was introduced as the new GM earlier this month, Harris said something similar after he was asked what he learned from working for the Chicago Cubs.
"One of the reasons why these jobs are so inspiring is there are endless opportunities to compete, whether it's blockbuster trades or even those smaller back-page minor league trades,” Harris said at the time. “Major league free agency but also minor league free agency, first-round picks in the draft, but also 17th-round picks and 23rd-round picks. They just taught me to stay open-minded no matter what, to find talent at all corners of this league and just compete as hard as you can to go acquire that talent.”
Zaidi’s methods were on display in his first year, as the Giants constantly churned the back end of their 40-man roster and used an NL-record 64 players. A lot of the minor moves ended up making a major impact.
Mike Yastrzemski was picked up in a deal nobody thought much of at the end of the spring and ended up being one of the National League’s best rookies. Alex Dickerson turned the Giants’ season around briefly after he was acquired for a minor league pitcher. Trevor Gott was a big part of the bullpen’s success early on; he was acquired from the Nationals for cash considerations. A lot of the other moves the Giants made were designed to get better players onto their Triple-A roster.
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Harris and the Cubs had much more high-end talent than the Giants, but they still turned over their roster quite a bit. The Cubs used 52 players last season, one more than the previous Giants franchise record.
With Zaidi and Harris now running things together, you can expect much more of the same as they try to get the Giants back into contention.
With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.
One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.
The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.
St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.
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While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.
Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.
The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.
The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.
Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.
But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.
Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.
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While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.
Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.