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. 

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There has been nothing over the first couple weeks of camp to indicate that Buster Posey won't be ready Opening Day, but the Giants promised all along to be cautious, and that will start Saturday when the Cactus League season kicks off. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Posey won't play until March 1, and that may be the case for some other veterans. Brandon Crawford has been watched closely the last couple of years and Bochy wasn't sure if any regulars would be in the lineup Saturday when the Giants visit the Angels.

He said it's the right thing to do with a long spring, although he's hoping to get big names out there soon, aware that fans often pay a lot for spring games. 

"As a kid, I was one of those guys that would skip school to see spring training games in Florida," Bochy said.

Brandon Belt and Joe Panik seem the most likely to get out there early on. Belt said he's eager to see real pitching. As for the rest of the everyday lineup, Evan Longoria fits the vet status, the Giants have position battles in both outfield corners, and Steven Duggar is coming off shoulder surgery and may be a few days behind. 

Bochy had a somewhat unusual spring when veterans like Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Vogt and Yangervis Solarte signed late. He said there's no rush to see what they can do. 

"These guys are chipping some rust off," he said. 

[RELATED: Giants 'trying hard' for Bryce Harper, but not optimistic]

--- The schedule for the starters early on: Chris Stratton and Ty Blach on Saturday; Madison Bumgarner on Sunday; Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz on Monday; Dereck Rodriguez on Tuesday; Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez on Wednesday. 

--- At the beginning of camp, Bochy said he hoped to get Joey Bart into early Cactus League games. That remains the plan. 

--- One more on the "Bochy is retiring" front: Here's what Bob Melvin had to say.

--- I wrote about top pitching prospect Shaun Anderson the other day. Here's some video of him in action today. There's certainly a Noah Syndergaard thing going on at times. 

Giants poised to take another step forward with center field defense

Giants poised to take another step forward with center field defense

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A year ago at this time, veteran pitchers were quietly asking around about Steven Duggar, the prospect in center field who looked ready to chase down anything that got up in the air. They waited a few months for his debut, and when he arrived, Duggar certainly lived up to the hype defensively. 

After a half-decade of having the worst center field defense in the game, the Giants finally took a step forward last season, with Duggar leading the way. With the addition of Cameron Maybin last week, they might be poised for another step.

Imagine a Giants team with center field defense that’s well above average? That’s what Bruce Bochy expects to see. 

“I really know that we’re going to be really good out there in center field defensively with whoever we put out there, and that’s an area we had to improve,” he said. “I thought we did last year, but you’re always looking to improve that outfield defense. We all know what happens when you don’t catch the ball in that outfield or make a mistake. There’s usually damage. We were a better club because we played better defensively in the outfield, I thought.”

In 40 games in center last year, Duggar was worth four Defensive Runs Saved, helping the Giants get to six DRS as a team. That put them 22nd in the majors, which doesn’t sound like a big deal … until you realize they were dead last a year earlier with negative 32 DRS, and ranked last in MLB overall from 2014-2017. 

Go back a few years and you won’t find another season quite as bad as 2017, but it has been a long time since the Giants were even an average team defensively in center field. Before 2018, you have to go back to 2013 (three DRS) to find a season that wasn’t a negative. The following three years, the Giants ranked 25th, 29th and 23rd in Defensive Runs Saved by center fielders. 

Maybin’s metrics have bounced back and forth during his career, sometimes showing him as elite in center and sometimes as the opposite. That can happen quite often with some defensive metrics, but generally, he’s viewed as an above-average defender in center, and he was plus-one over the last two seasons. When you move him around, those center field skills bump him up a notch. Maybin was worth six DRS in 316 innings in left field last season. 

Bochy has had to hide inferior defenders in left in recent years, but with the group the Giants have, there’s a chance outfield defense will be a strength late in games. The Giants have six weeks to sort all this out and it’s not a lock that both Maybin and the strong-armed Gerardo Parra make the team, but a late-innings alignment with both surrounding Duggar would be the best defensive outfield the Giants have had in years.

[RELATED: Odds for who will become the next Giants manager]

Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is viewed as a good defender in center, too, and can play all three spots if he makes the team. 

Bochy said he’ll move guys around and could play multiple center field-types at the same time. That will be decided once the roster is set, but at the very least, the Giants have a more promising defensive group than in recent seasons. 

“We’re happy to have him,” Bochy said of Maybin. “Excited to have him and he’s excited to be here. He gives us some nice depth in center field.”