Near the end of a lengthy conversation a couple of weeks ago about the Giants' 2020 season and their future commitments, president and CEO Larry Baer was asked about something he can't control, the possibility of being in the same division as what might be the two best teams in the Majors.
Baer pointed out that the Padres were built over time, and that as good as the Dodgers were last year, the Giants played them tough, something management was proud of. And then he went back to previous successes, noting that the Giants were never favored to win titles. Even in 2014, when they won their third World Series, the Dodgers took the National League West crown.
"I think there will be an underdog nature to this team," Baer said. "Which we're sort of used to as a franchise."
It doesn't appear that's going to change anytime soon.
The Giants have, in the eyes of rival evaluators, done a solid job this offseason. They've added about $34 million in 2021 commitments to sign three starting pitchers, one of the game's best utility infielders, a backup catcher and help for their bullpen. That was all overshadowed Friday with a two-minute, 26-second YouTube video by the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. At the end of it, Trevor Bauer flipped a baseball in his hand.
"I can't wait, Dodger fans," he said, revealing his new home.
Bauer was the most coveted pitcher on the market, and he chose the Dodgers over the Mets, taking a three-year $102 million contract with opt-outs after the first two years. He'll make $40 million in 2020, more than all of the Giants' additions combined. It is the kind of creative, high-AAV contract the Giants will probably be offering to marquee free agents next offseason and down the line, but it's not something that was in their playbook over the last three months.
The Giants have continued to wait for the big contracts -- over $100 million in total -- to come off their books after this offseason, and while Bauer fit their biggest need and their widespread shift to analytics and new approaches, he was never a real target. Sources have said all offseason that the Giants talked about Bauer internally, but did not seriously chase him.
It's unclear if that would have even made a difference. Bauer is from Hollywood, and it appears all the Mets did at the end was help the right-hander squeeze more out of the Dodgers and make some national reporters look foolish.
The shocking twist comes at the end of a winter that has mostly been about the Padres, who added Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and others. You can make a strong argument that the two best rotations in the game are now in the NL West, and both teams have plenty more talent on the way.
So ... what now for the Giants?
Well, they'll probably be first in line to vote for expanded playoffs at the next owners' meetings, but beyond that, they'll wait.
They'll wait for Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, Luis Matos and the rest of their future. As he has talked about his own additions in recent weeks, Farhan Zaidi has mentioned how many eyes will be on the minor leaguers, and how the Giants can't quite know what they want to do during the next hot stove season until they see where their prospects stand after this summer.
They have built smartly and made savvy additions on the margins, but on days like this, it's hard for the fanbase to be patient. The Giants are better and deeper than they were a year ago at this time as they prepared for a surprisingly competitive season, but they've never been bigger underdogs.