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.
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.
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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.