Giants

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO -- "We were jealous."

Those were the words of a rival executive after the Giants took on Zack Cozart's contract in order to get shortstop prospect Will Wilson, the No. 15 pick in this year's draft. The Giants made just two moves this week, but that one certainly caught the attention of many around the game, and it was one team officials couldn't stop talking about over the last couple of days of the Winter Meetings.

It was a creative move, one straight out of an NBA offseason, with the Giants using their financial flexibility to pry away a good prospect from an Angels organization that soon would give Anthony Rendon $245 million. This isn't the type of move that will sell season tickets, but I think it's the most instructive one so far when trying to determine how Farhan Zaidi and now Scott Harris will turn this around.

Ownership hired smart people to run the baseball operations department. Zaidi, Harris and the rest are trying to make the kinds of creative decisions that have been seen in places like Oakland and Tampa Bay for years, while flexing the financial power of a big market.

Eventually, that money will be spent on free agents. For now, it allows the Giants to add players in other ways. The ownership group was thrilled with the Cozart/Wilson move (the Giants completed the deal Thursday by sending lefty Garrett Williams to the Angels) and has granted permission to seek similar, and possibly bigger, deals.

In Wilson, the Giants get a player who was one of three or four in the mix when they took Hunter Bishop at No. 10 overall in June. They would have been happy to end up with Wilson, and now they have both young hitters. Cozart has a "ways to go," before being ready after shoulder surgery, Zaidi said. He added that there's "uncertainty there." But that doesn't matter.

A few front office folks surveyed this week said a big-market team would spend $20-30 million to get a mid-first-round pick like Wilson if that was an open market (draft picks are kind of getting screwed, eh?) and the 21-year-old enters the Giants organization as one of their top 10 prospects, according to multiple outlets.

"We're really excited about him," a team executive said. "We're not going to need three or four guys like that to turn this around, we're going to need eight or 10."

The Giants got a bit closer to that goal by being creative. Here are four more things we learned over four days in Scottsdale.

Positional Versatility

Where were you when the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft went to a fifth-round?! What a time to be alive.

In the first round of Triple-A drafting, the Giants added Brewers minor leaguer Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster. It potentially was significant because it fits with the theme of the meetings. The Giants announced Torres as a catcher even though he played first base, third base and a bit of outfield last season.

Zaidi has talked in the past of how appealing it is to have players who can catch but also play other positions -- like Austin Barnes or Kyle Farmer did in Los Angeles -- and it seems the Giants will give Torres, a catcher earlier in his minor league career, that shot. Get ready to hear a lot of this.

Gabe Kapler repeatedly said this week that the ability to play different positions will be huge for prospects, even noting that it could help Joey Bart's value down the line. The Giants are planning this at the big league level, too, with Mauricio Dubon set for time in center. Kapler compared Dubon to the Phillies’ do-everything hitter Scott Kingery.

"From the perspective of looking at Dubon, the more capable he is at moving around the diamond, the more valuable he becomes to the San Francisco Giants," Kapler said.

The Giants want to mimic what the Dodgers do with guys like Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy. Get ready to see box scores where a guy moves back and forth, potentially two or three times a game.

A Hint With a Core Giant?

On the same day, the Giants acquired Cozart, it was reported they were a runner-up for shortstop Didi Gregorius. Now, Cozart may not be ready by Opening Day -- Zaidi said it's possible he's out until deep into the first half -- and he may not end up on the team at all. The Giants added him just to buy a prospect.

But, Gregorius is a starting shortstop.

Signing Gregorius -- assuming that rumor is true -- would have installed a new starting shortstop right then and there. It's also interesting to note what Kapler said about Brandon Crawford during his media availability.

"Brandon Crawford at times has been a plus defender up the middle," Kapler said. "I think he still has that capability to be a plus defender at shortstop."

"At times" is not the most ringing endorsement of a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Crawford surely is motivated to come back strong next season, but it's clear the front office is contemplating some major changes.

The Next Yaz?

The Giants are looking for a right-handed bat in the outfield, but some team officials believe they might already have the solution in-house. There's a lot of excitement about Jaylin Davis, who hit 35 homers in the minors last year but went just 7-for-42 in a September cameo.

The goal with the coaching hires was to unlock the potential that's inside a lot of these prospects, and the 25-year-old Davis certainly is going to be one of the top projects for Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele, Dustin Lind and the rest. The new regime believes there are some changes he can make to carry that minor league success over to his big league at-bats.

Zaidi said the Giants continue to look at other options in free agency and through trades. The Giants have been connected to Nicholas Castellanos, perhaps the best remaining fit, but the reports that they're the leading contender for his services are overstating it, per sources.

[RELATED: Winners, losers of MLB Winter Meetings]

Who Is Left Out?

The Giants added Kevin Gausman to their rotation, giving them a group that currently is led by five right-handers.

"I think we want to have balance," Zaidi said. "Obviously we've got Tyler Anderson, who we're hoping can be ready on Opening Day or at least early in the season. He factors in from the left side and (Andrew) Suarez and (Conner) Menez and some of our younger guys as well. But that's going to be an area we're going to keep an eye on in free agency as well."

This is where the fans will stop and note that, uhh, a man named Madison Bumgarner still is available. The Giants still are involved, but are expecting to lose him, possibly in a painful way. No matter what happens with Bumgarner, expect more changes to the rotation group.

Given the money that's flying around, $18 million is a very palatable salary for Jeff Samardzija, who had a nice season. He might be traded, and Johnny Cueto could have suitors, too. The Giants are excited about Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, but keep in mind that a year ago at this time Zaidi was saying he wanted Dereck Rodriguez and Suarez -- coming off solid rookie years -- to start the season in Triple-A as depth. Neither ended up as a rotation regular. Webb, the organization's top pitching prospect, will be on an innings limit next year, too.

So, here on Dec. 13, do not at all lock in a rotation of Cueto, Samardzija, Beede, Webb and Gausman, or even four of those guys and Anderson as the fifth. The Giants have more rotation changes on the way.

Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

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USATSI

Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

The outrage continues in Tinseltown.

As the fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal continues, many have called into question the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, a thrilling seven-game series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With the championship appearing to be tainted by Houston’s systematic tracking of pitching signals, the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a resolution last week urging Major League Baseball to rescind the victory from the Astros and award it to the runner-up Dodgers. The resolution also included the 2018 World Series, which the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in five games. Boston remains under investigation for similar allegations.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pushed back on the idea, pointing to the MLB’s history with not altering the past.

“Whatever the impact of the sign stealing was, it could have changed who was in the World Series,” Manfred said earlier this week on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria." “It’s absolutely unclear that the Dodgers would have been the World Series champion. I think there's a long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened. I think the answer from our perspective is to be transparent about what the investigation showed and let our fans make their own decision about what happened.”

Followers of the Giants’ archrival definitely made up their own minds, as they flocked to Dodgers FanFest on Saturday.

Pantone 294, one of the Dodgers’ fan groups, also has organized an outing to the Los Angeles Angels’ home opener against the Astros. The group’s website wants LA fans to flock to Anaheim and “support the team that's playing the game we all know and love the right way!”

Even if by Manfred pulled a complete 180 and decided to not only take away championships from both Houston and Boston, but award them to the Dodgers, they’d still have fewer rings than the Giants have won over the past 30 years.

Nothing got the fans in LA more fired up than watching the Giants bring home three World Series titles over a five-year stretch, firmly cementing them as the NL West's team of the decade.

We all know this isn’t emblematic of every Dodgers fan, as many have voiced their opinion that being awarded two championships doesn't mean anything after the fact, especially when everyone watched them get obliterated by the Red Sox in five games and only score one run in Game 7 against the Astros in 2017.

No matter how many signs might have been stolen, only scoring one run in a World Series game isn't going to get you a win in almost every situation.

Some players, including third baseman Justin Turner, made it clear they aren't interested in receiving a ring that doesn't feel earned.

Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling, however, is cheering on fans choosing to waste their time and money heckling Houston.

“I like it,” Stripling said (h/t Los Angeles Times). “The Dodger fans are fired up. If they want to do their part, and they think that is what it is, then kudos to them. Go do it.

“I know that they’re passionate, and they wanted a championship as much as we did. Obviously, they have still got some fire in their belly to go fight for us.”

[RELATED: Mailbag: Will Beede, Webb be with Giants come Opening Day?]

While the official punishments likely are over for the Astros, it appears they still will be living rent-free in many Dodger fans’ heads all season long.

Meanwhile, Giants fans can sit back and enjoy three, controversy-free World Series trophies residing inside Oracle Park.

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

A little over a year after he was fired, former Giants general manager Bobby Evans could land on his feet.

Evans interviewed for the open Houston Astros general manager position, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday, citing sources.

Evans spent four seasons as the general manager of the Giants before being reassigned within the organization at the end of the 2018 season. Including the 2019 season, Evans has spent the last 26 seasons in San Francisco.

The Astros are in need of a new GM and manager after Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired in the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball in recent weeks.

Houston is tainted at the moment, but Evans would be inheriting a roster that still possesses the talent to compete for a World Series, with or without trash cans.

While serving as assistant general manager for the Giants, Evans helped lead to the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But his tenure as GM wasn't as successful. A lot of the moves Evans made, including the signings of Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, didn't lead to the desired results.

[RELATED: Evans' dismissal hard on Giants players]

With Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris at the helm of the Giants, it makes sense for Evans to consider outside opportunities, even if the Astros are the black eye of baseball.

Both Evans and the Astros need second chances, so this could be the perfect marriage if the two sides can come to an agreement.