Giants

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler spent nearly an hour discussing the more controversial aspects of the Giants' manager hire, new general manager Scott Harris sat to Kapler's left and took it all in. Other than his own introductory remarks, Harris was mostly silent, but Zaidi smiled and looked at his GM when a reporter asked Zaidi how he planned to "attack free agency."

"Scott?" Zaidi said, laughing. 

Harris took the question, but he didn't give up much more than Zaidi would have. 

"We're excited to have the three of us in place and to start having those conversations that are full of debate, that are full of challenging each other," Harris said, "To make sure that we're targeting the right players and Gabe feels comfortable deploying those players in the right way to allow them to succeed."

More than anything, Kapler simply needs better players. Zaidi and Harris jumped right in to that process, flying to Scottsdale after the Kapler press conference despite the fact that they had already missed most of the first three days of the four-day GM Meetings. Zaidi and Harris have spent plenty of time over the last month discussing their future plans, but they planned to set up meetings in Scottsdale to start zeroing in on specific free agent targets. 

Who are those players? We know one who is off the list. Closer Will Smith signed with the Braves before Kapler could even move into his office, leaving a big hole in the bullpen. That's where we'll start in this early look at what the Giants need in free agency:

Bullpen

The closer right now is ... maybe Tony Watson? Maybe Shaun Anderson? Tyler Rogers and Sam Coonrod showed flashes as rookies, Trevor Gott is healing well, and guys like Jandel Gustave, Sam Selman and Andrew Suarez should be part of the mix. But that's not a good bullpen on paper. 

The Giants will need to add, although as we saw last year, they're more likely to do so with minor additions and trades -- like the Gott move. Don't expect them to spend big on what's left of the relief market. One of the best arms still out there, Drew Pomeranz, is already familiar to them. They're more likely to find the next reclamation project than sign a player looking for big money. 

Backup catcher

Stephen Vogt is wildly popular and had a very nice year as Buster Posey's partner, but he has talked of trying to win a World Series. He is smart enough to know San Francisco is not the place to do that in 2020. 

Vogt liked San Francisco and may return, but if he signs with a contender, the Giants will need a bridge to Joey Bart. Aramis Garcia is an option, but if Zaidi wanted to go with Erik Kratz last opening day over Garcia, it seems likely another veteran is brought in a year later. 

Lefty infielder

The Giants used more platoons last season and could use a left-handed hitter to take some at-bats away from Evan Longoria and Mauricio Dubon. Longoria had a .722 OPS against righties last season and Dubon is still unproven. Pablo Sandoval did some heavy lifting at third base last season, but he'll miss most of 2020 after Tommy John having surgery and is a free agent. The other backup infield option, Donovan Solano, also hits from the right side. 

Kean Wong, claimed off waivers earlier this month, hits left-handed, but he has just 18 big league at-bats. 

Righty outfielder

Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson (if he can stay healthy) should go into next season looking at meaty roles, but the Giants don't have much from the right side other than Kevin Pillar. Austin Slater's numbers took a nosedive in the second half and Jaylin Davis struggled in a September cameo. Joey Rickard is a candidate to be non-tendered. 

The Giants need outfield help in general, but they're especially lacking in right-handed pop. Zaidi tried plenty of fringe options in 2019. He has the financial wiggle room to take some bigger swings this offseason if he wants to. 

[RELATED: Giants continue Triples Alley work, move bullpens off field]

The Bumgarner situation

If it feels like we've hit on all corners of the roster here, it's because, well, yeah, the roster has a lot of holes. 

The biggest one is now at the top of the rotation, where the Giants very well may be looking for a way to replace their longtime ace. Bringing Bumgarner back would actually pretty much set the rotation. The Giants could feel pretty comfortable going into next spring with Bumgarner, a healthy Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, followed by the group of Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Anderson and any depth options Zaidi is able to scoop up. 

But pull Bumgarner out of that group and you have a big hole, especially because Beede is still mostly unproven and Webb will have an innings limit. Internally, Zaidi and Harris likely have already decided how hard they'll go after Bumgarner. If they're not intent on bringing him back, they'll need rotation help. 

D-backs troll Giants over Madison Bumgarner signing, 2017 Opening Day

D-backs troll Giants over Madison Bumgarner signing, 2017 Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner left the Giants for the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency this offseason, and in an ironic twist, MLB aired the 2017 Opening Day game between the two teams Thursday.

On April 2, 2017, with Bumgarner on the mound for the Giants, they were trying to win their fourth straight Opening Day start.

Bumgarner had an incredible day on the mound and at the plate. In addition to striking out 11 in seven innings, the Giants ace also belted two home runs.

But Mark Melancon, making his Giants' debut, blew the save in the bottom of the ninth.

With the 2020 season on hold, MLB decided to re-air memorable Opening Day games Thursday, and MLB Network sent out a tweet to promote the broadcast of that game.

The D-backs' social media team responded with this tweet.

Giants fans are already hurting over the loss of Bumgarner to a division rival. They don't need his new team to rub it in.

[RELATED: Zaidi doesn't regret holding onto Bumgarner]

Hopefully for the Giants, when the 2020 season starts, they can get the last laugh on the field.

How Giants will be impacted by MLB-MLBPA agreement for 2020 season

How Giants will be impacted by MLB-MLBPA agreement for 2020 season

This is the furthest thing from business as usual for Major League Baseball, but there was still plenty of work to be done over the last couple of weeks. The league and the MLB Players' Association have been hard at work trying to figure out what a 2020 season might look like if players are cleared to return at some point this summer, and how to prepare financially and behind the scenes. 

An agreement was reached Thursday and ratified by owners Friday morning. There is plenty to catch up on, and Jeff Passan of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic did a nice job of providing all the information. Here are some of the key points, with notes on what they specifically mean for the Giants:

--- Service time was the main priority for the MLBPA, which wasn't a surprise. The owners have held service time over players' heads for years, and it's the main reason why top prospects are often left off April rosters. The sides agreed that a player will receive the same number of days in 2020 as he did in 2019 if the season is canceled. If there's not a full season, players will still earn a full year of service time. 

This means that, no matter what, Mookie Betts will get his year of time and be a free agent at the end of the year, which is a small blow to the Dodgers. This isn't that big a deal for the Giants. Jeff Samardzija is the only player on a significant contract that will expire after this season. 

There is a big difference for some other guys when it comes to getting closer to arbitration and free agency. A shortened season would still count as a full one for players like Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon, who were not on Opening Day rosters last year. 

Under Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have mostly sat out free agency. But they're close to getting their books in order, and they should be in a nice position to jump in on big names now that there's a guarantee the 2020 free agent class will still exist. With Mission Rock and other side projects, the Giants are better positioned than most other teams to come out of this season with money to spend. 

--- The draft could be as short as five rounds, per ESPN's Passan, and the internationightal signing period could be pushed back to 2021. The 2021 draft could also be shortened to 20 rounds. 

The MLBPA represents players on 40-man rosters, not minor leaguers or amateurs, so there was little reason for them to fight over the draft when they were getting small wins elsewhere, like an advance on salaries. The end result m get the owners closer to eliminating some minor league teams, a goal this past offseason. It also will save them a few million in draft bonuses. 

This is going to have a huge impact on the college game and junior colleges, and it's probably a big bummer for Giants scouts. Team officials believe they're a couple more good drafts away from being truly competitive, and shortened drafts in 2020 and 2021 would certainly make it harder to add talent to a system that is much improved but still needs it. 

The Giants have gone all-in on player development and are counting on finding some diamonds in the rough. Take, for example, Sean Roby. He was a 12th-round draft pick out Arizona Western College in 2018 and after a solid 2019 year he got seven spring at-bats this year, picking up five hits and six RBI. Those are the types of players the Giants are hoping to get into their system and develop every year. 

A five-round draft would still get some high-end talent into every system, but a lot of players would miss out on taking a shot at their dream. Dubon was a 26th-round pick. Yastrzemski went in the 14th round. Tyler Rogers was picked in the 10th round. A lot of amateurs will be left on the outside. 

[RELATED: How Dubon is staying ready]

--- The agreement was necessary to iron out some financial details as both sides seek further clarity on what comes next. At some point they'll need to figure out what spring training looks like, how much they'll expand rosters, if there will be an All-Star break, how many doubleheaders they can play, how late a shortened season can go, and much more. 

But the league, like the rest of society, is on hold: