Giants

Source: Bryce Harper, Giants met this week in MLB free agency visit

Source: Bryce Harper, Giants met this week in MLB free agency visit

SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi hinted last month that the Giants could get back in on some of the bigger free agents if prices continued to drop. They’re now targeting the biggest name still out there. 

Members of the Giants’ front office met with Bryce Harper this week in Las Vegas, multiple sources told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.

The Giants sent Zaidi, CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy to Las Vegas to meet Tuesday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Harper, one of the most accomplished free agents in MLB history, still has not found a home with less than a week until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

One source familiar with discussions said the chase was a “long shot,” but if the Giants have seriously entered the Harper market, they have done so at a time when the former National League MVP appears unhappy with his other options.

Harper reportedly turned down at least $300 million from the Nationals early in the offseason. That’s the type of deal the Giants would like to stay away from moving forward, but it’s also one they can afford, and that was the case even before Oracle promised hundreds of million for naming rights to the team’s ballpark.

The Giants have added just three free agents this offseason, and none were guaranteed even eight figures. Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pat Venditte add up to about one-third of what Harper would demand per season, but after the Pomeranz deal, Zaidi left the door open for bigger moves. 

“As the market evolves, there might be guys that you had kind of questioned or doubted the feasibility of at one point that you now circled back on,” Zaidi said last month. “It’s our job and responsibility to keep tabs on all parts of the market, and we’re continuing to do that. Yeah, I do think things can change and your target list evolves over the course of the offseason.”

The Giants had quietly targeted Harper over the past couple of years, but they underwent a shift in strategy when Zaidi was hired in November. The new plan was to overhaul the roster incrementally and add to the existing core, but Zaidi is known to be opportunistic, and if Harper’s price truly has dropped, the Giants could find a more suitable deal. Although they have been out of the headlines, they never eliminated Harper as an option. 

It’s unclear, of course, if the end price ultimately would be any lower than expected. Harper and Boras went into this offseason hoping to set records, but they have found a market lacking big-market suitors. The Phillies and the White Sox have been connected to Harper throughout the offseason, and at several points, it seemed he was close to joining Philadelphia, with the Nationals thought to be always on the periphery. 

The Padres were connected to Harper last week, and perhaps that helped jolt the Giants. Bigger spenders such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs have shied away. 

Those three are all contenders and have filled their holes in other ways, while the Giants have taken a not-so-subtle step back, preparing to rebuild a bit. Still, even a partial rebuild could include a player like Harper.

[RELATED: How signing Bryce Harper would affect Giants payroll]

At 26, he is young enough to be part of the next contending Giants team, yet also accomplished enough that he would immediately become the lineup's best hitter. Even in what was considered a down year, Harper hit 34 homers in 2018. All of the outfielders currently on the Giants’ roster have combined for 20 career homers. 

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media and Jon Heyman of MLB Network first connected Harper and the Giants on Wednesday morning. 

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

On the first day of intrasquad games the Giants were without two key players, and another was slightly limited. 

Gabe Kapler said Brandon Belt is out at least five to seven days with right heel pain. Hunter Pence took his swings Wednesday but did not play the outfield because he has minor foot pain, though the Giants expect him to be a full go soon. Buster Posey missed the day with the same personal issue that caused him to miss Friday's workout. 

Belt's pain, which he has had in the past, is by far the most concerning. The Giants have just 15 days until their opener at Dodger Stadium and their starting first baseman is in a walking boot. Kapler said it was “premature to make an assessment" for the opening series. He said he spoke with Belt and the first baseman was confident he would be okay. 

If Belt is not ready by opening day, the Giants do have some first base depth. Wilmer Flores, Pablo Sandoval and Darin Ruf all could handle starts there. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Belt had been working out with Group 2, which includes Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Posey and Donovan Solano. The Giants played a simulated game in the afternoon at Oracle Park, but they did not have players stationed at every position. Because they generally had infielders set up for every inning, coaches took turns fielding at first base. 

[RELATED: Watch Luciano hit monster home run in live BP]

Belt spoke with the media on Sunday and expressed optimism about the upcoming season. He said he feels good about safety protocols put in place and has talked to several doctors about whether this plan is a good idea. Belt also said he was excited about the short season.

"It could be a year that maybe a team that wouldn't get in otherwise gets in and they go on a hot streak and maybe win the World Series," Belt said. "Our goal is the same no matter if we're playing 162 or 60 -- we're playing to win ballgames and get in the playoffs and ultimately win a World Series."

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

The Giants held an intrasquad game featuring many of their regulars on Wednesday afternoon, but it seems the real action was seen in the morning. 

Marco Luciano, the organization's top prospect, has shown in workouts over the past week why he's one of the top 20 prospects in baseball, and on Wednesday the Giants gave fans a taste of Luciano's power:

Reminder: That's the swing and physique of a shortstop who won't turn 19 until September. Luciano signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago and made an impact in his pro debut last year, batting .302/.417/.564 in 47 games with 10 homers and 13 doubles. 

"Kind of taller -- little lanky, still -- not fully mature in the lower half, but incredibly twitchy," manager Gabe Kapler said on KNBR earlier this week. "Incredibly athletic and rangy to both his left and his right. In the batter's box, (he has) a high level of comfort and confidence."

Luciano likely would have spent much of this season with High-A San Jose, but now he'll get two months of extra work with more experienced players in Sacramento, along with this early time in big league camp. The Giants will reevaluate their prospects in the offseason, but Luciano has the look of someone who will move extremely quickly. There are plenty of scouts who believe he'll be a top-five prospect in all of baseball by next spring. 

[RELATED: Three interesting observations about Giants' 60-game slate]

Kapler has talked a couple of times this week of how impressive the younger Giants have been. Luciano is part of a group that includes Joey Bart, Patrick Bailey, Heliot Ramos, Alexander Canario and Wilson. Kapler said that group is often making Oracle Park "look small."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]