SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after Farhan Zaidi finished his introductory press conference at AT&T Park, Scott Boras stood in front of reporters at the annual General Managers Meetings and discussed his biggest client, Bryce Harper.
Boras told reporters in Carlsbad that Harper is a “generational player” and said “Harper’s Bazaar has begun.” Zaidi will head down to Carlsbad later Wednesday night, and it’s possible he’ll get that pitch from Boras in person. But it doesn’t sound like it’s one that will win him over.
After two years of whispers about their chase for Harper, the Giants appear to have cooled off. Sources familiar with their thinking said any interest in Harper has been overblown. “We’re shocked" by some of the rumors, one person said, noting that Harper would have to "really, really want to come" to San Francisco and pass on more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.
That is not Boras’ style. He will go for the biggest deal every time, and Harper is believed to be aiming for a record contract well over $300 million. But giving out big deals has not been Zaidi’s style, and Giants CEO Larry Baer said he will not change the way Zaidi has operated.
“His success speaks for itself,” Baer said.
In Los Angeles, Friedman and Zaidi didn’t give out a deal larger than Kenley Jansen’s five-year, $80 million contract. Jansen already was a Dodgers star and fan favorite. Justin Turner, another All-Star already in-house, got $64 million over four years. When Clayton Kershaw threatened to opt out, the front office tacked on just one year, bringing him to three years and $93 million. Rich Hill got $48 million over three years. Brandon McCarthy got $48 million over four years.
See a theme here?
During his press conference, Zaidi talked about potentially adding a starting pitcher. He said no move is too small, and he seemed particularly impressed by a past trade that brought MVP candidate Khris Davis to Oakland for two lesser-known prospects. Zaidi also said this when asked about the Giants roster:
“The No. 1 thing that stands out to me is the importance of selfless play in baseball. We’re in a baseball culture, at an amateur level, where there’s a little bit of a showcase culture and a lot of emphasis on individual performance over the team. I think when you can create a culture where players put team over the individual, that can be a competitive advantage. Ninety percent of the time, individual and team goals align. Sometimes (though) you need to move a runner over and have a long at-bat to tire out the pitcher. I’ve seen a lot of the guys on this team play for a long time, and they have that (team) spirit in spades.”
That is not, at all, a description of Harper or how he is being pitched in free agency. Some rival executives, while noting that Zaidi disdains massive deals, have pointed out that Baer and Giants ownership might overrule him. But Baer said he would trust his new head of baseball operations.
“There’s no restrictions coming in,” Baer said. “Is that ($300 million player) going to be what’s the game-changer for the Giants in 2019, 2020, 2021 — I don’t know … we didn’t look at it as generic ‘no big contracts.’ He’s been successful in getting from Point A to Point B. We want him to go with what’s successful for him.”
The Giants have long felt Harper would like to play in San Francisco, and perhaps there’s a point where the price becomes acceptable. But the Giants do not currently feel the need to make a splash.
Zaidi was the splash, and they’re going to let him do what he feels is best to turn this organization back into a sustainable winner.