Giants

MLB free agency: Giants, Madison Bumgarner's agents to meet this week

MLB free agency: Giants, Madison Bumgarner's agents to meet this week

SAN DIEGO -- The news that Stephen Strasburg had just signed the richest pitching contract in MLB quickly bounced through the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Monday morning, but it didn't take long before the focus turned elsewhere. 

Does Strasburg's $245 million contract mean it will take $300 million to sign Gerrit Cole? And what does this surprisingly strong market mean for longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who reportedly is seeking at least five years and $100 million.

Bumgarner downplayed concerns about the state of free agency throughout his final year, and it appears he was right. There will be a line of suitors, and the Giants remain part of that group.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday that the Giants will meet with Bumgarner's agents this week and a reunion remains possible.

"We're involved in those discussions," Zaidi said while appearing on Winter Meetings Live. "We're planning to meet with his representatives this week and they have other meetings scheduled, too. That's what happens when a player is a free agent, they're going to explore all their options. Guys are looking for different things, looking for maybe a particular geography, maybe a team in a specific part of their competitive cycle.

"We're one of the suitors. We're just going to put our best foot forward and see what happens, but he's earned this opportunity to be a free agent and, as we expected, there's no shortage of interest in a guy with his pedigree."

Bumgarner has been connected to about a third of the majors at this point. The Braves and Phillies were two teams with early interest but seemingly have spent most of their free-agency money elsewhere. The New York Post's Joel Sherman reported Monday that the division rival Diamondbacks have checked in on Bumgarner, and the Cardinals have also recently been connected.

Industry sources speculated that the Angels could be a suitor if they miss on Cole, and sources also said the Twins remain a strong possibility. Some Giants people believe the Twins, who won 101 games last year with a young team, could emerge as the strongest contender for Bumgarner's services.

[RELATED: Giants reportedly have 'serious candidate' for pitching coach]

The Giants have been on the outside of the race throughout the offseason, but it's not uncommon for a team to let a popular player hit free agency with the understanding that the sides will circle back at the end of the process. Bumgarner is as popular as any recent Giant, and Zaidi said the club will consider what any move would mean to the city and the fan base. 

"I think it's definitely part of it," Zaidi said. "People talk a lot about how we're in the entertainment business and one thing I've learned about the fans of our team is the connection they have with the players is different than what I've experienced elsewhere, and that's something that I've had to learn and appreciate and make an adjustment to. At the same time, I think ultimately what fans respond to is a winning team. We saw it when our organization was winning the World Series and as we haven't been a winning team the last three years, it's kind of shown up at the turnstile. 

"I think (winning) has to be our primary goal and sometimes that takes making difficult decisions, but we definitely appreciate the connection that our fans make with these players. It's very unique in baseball."

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

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Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants' improving farm system continues to rise in Keith Law's eyes

When The Athletic's Keith Law was asked late last month which team is building the next elite farm system, all he needed was one word: Giants. 

Law further explained his reasoning Friday with KNBR's Mark Willard. While the prospect evaluator isn't head over heels about one player in general, he believes San Francisco is building its system where the sum is greater than its parts. And it all goes back to teenagers like shortstop Marco Luciano. 

Prospect like Joey Bart and Hunter Bishop, who already are 23 and 21 years old respectively aren't who make Law so intrigued. It's the players like Luciano (18), Alexander Canario (19), Luis Toribio (19) and Luis Matos (18) that excite Law.

"The No. 1 reason  is because they have this really intriguing group of very young prospects, mostly guys from that large Latin American prospect class they signed a couple of years ago," Law said when asked why he's so high on the Giants' farm system "... Now, Marco Luciano looks like he might be a really elite prospect. Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio, Luis Matos, these guys have at least performed well enough in the early going at young ages to increase my confidence levels that at least some of them will turn into really elite prospects.

"When you add that to some of the guys who are already in the system like the Joey Barts and the Hunter Bishops, I am much more optimistic about what we're gonna think about this system in say a year from now." 

That's just the first reason for Law, too. While a handful of the Giants' top prospects and recent players to make their big league debuts come from the Bobby Evans era, Law is a big believer in president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. 

He believes Zaidi will only take the Giants to the next level.

"I just really think highly of Farhan Zaidi and the group that he's put together there," Law said. "I think he's brought in some really smart people from other organizations on the scouting side and on the player development side.

"One, they have a lot of talent coming into the system. And two, they're going to continue to add to that going forward."

Giants fans will have to wait a while to see prospects like Luciano and Canario make their way to San Francisco. Bart is a different story. He dominated spring training once again, and if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic he likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento before making his big league debut. 

Law, however, doesn't exactly envision a superstar in Bart like many Giants fans do. He has Bart as No. 44 on his top 100 prospects list, much lower than a lot of other major outlets. 

"There's risk that he's maybe a backup catcher," Law says. "He's going to strikeout quite a bit, he's not going to hit for a whole lot of average." 

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Between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond, Bart hit .278. He also struck out in 22.7 percent of his at-bats, which shouldn't be too concerning with the power he has. His swing is long and has some moving parts that could hurt him against higher velocity, though. 

While he doesn't love Bart, Law wants to make it clear he has him as his top Giants prospect for a reason. Law just sees a lot more floor than ceiling for Bart.

"The reason that I have him as the No. 1 prospect in the system is that he's got the highest floor of anyone in that farm system, because he's a big leaguer," Law said. "There's no chance that Joey Bart doesn't spend several years in the big leagues, unless he just has a catastrophic injury.

"He can catch and throw and he has some power. That's a backup catcher in the big leagues for 10 years or more. If he just stays healthy enough, he will play in the majors. But I do not view him as a slam-dunk everyday player."

[RELATED: What former Giants GM thinks of Bart-Posey comparisons]

Law also is hot and cold on the Giants' top draft pick from last year, Hunter Bishop. The powerful outfielder might have a higher ceiling than Bart, but there are reasons for concern. Many are the same as Bart's, too. 

"It's top-end power," Law said. "Some of the best exit velocity that I've ever seen for a college-hitting prospect. He's got the bat speed and the potential to hit for average and hit for power. He also strikes out too much. And when the competition got better last spring in the Pac-12, he got worse.

"He did most of his damage in non-conference play when he was facing better pitching in the Pac-12. His numbers did begin to dip."

Looking back at the numbers, Law is correct. Bishop hit .342 overall as a junior at Arizona State, but only .264 in conference play. He hit 22 homers overall and only seven against Pac-12 teams. 

The upside, however, is huge. 

"He may develop a little more slowly because of a lack of a lengthy track record of performance and there still is some swing and miss there," Law explained. "I just think the upside is so tantalizing. As long as he makes enough contact to hit for a decent average, he'll hit for more than a decent average because he makes such high quality contact and he'll probably hit 25 to 30 home runs." 

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the Giants' future. As Law notes, the real talent might take a little longer to see in the big leagues.

Where Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Buster Posey rank on 'Sweetest Swings' list

Where Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Buster Posey rank on 'Sweetest Swings' list

Those who utter the term, "baseball is boring," must not have been around when Giants' legendary slugger Barry Bonds would step up to the plate.

Not many were able to mimic what he could do -- both on the field, and from the comfort of your own homes. He would make you stop what you were doing and turn the channel to when it was his turn to hit. That simply doesn't happen anymore.

His ways with a bat were highlighted in Bleacher Report's "The 20 Sweetest Swings in MLB History."

Bonds landed at the No. 4 spot, but almost didn't make the list altogether from how it changed after he bulked up. BR's Zachary Rymer did, however, say aspiring hitters would study Bonds' ways. And why wouldn't they? The guy is the all-time leader in home runs and walks. Watching him launch one into McCovey Cove was a treat. 

Reds first baseman Joey Votto told NBC Sports California last season he would grow up studying the seven-time MVP's offensive ways obsessively. He wanted to be "unpitchable" to, just as Bonds was. 

Right behind Barry at No. 16 was Will Clark, who had a similar feel when he approached the plate. Not only did he have a presence, but he also had a sense of "swagger," that BR highlighted. It was almost as if Clark had an eight-count worth of choreography and he was about to perform for the crowd.

The Thrill was a six-time All-Star select, two Silver-Slugger Awards and a career .303 batter. Whatever he was doing, appeared to work for him.

Catcher Buster Posey landed at the No. 13 space due to how stealthy and smooth his swing is. Despite the downtick in productivity in recent seasons, BR recognized the fluidity. 

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During the spring, Giants manager Gabe Kapler complimented what he saw, and what other coaches said, from Posey in the cage. He was also putting extra work in with the organization's director of hitting, Dustin Lind, and maintained an optimistic attitude about that and how his body was feeling after coming off major hip surgery

[RELATED: Mays, McCovey are Baer's all-time favorite Giants]

And the guy is known to hit a walk-off or two ... or more than that. He was the NL batting champion in 2012, and holds many accomplishments to his resumé. 

The trio joins the historic names of Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Ted Williams on the list. 

Talk about great company.