Where Giants stand on competing, rebuilding after quarter of 2019 season

Where Giants stand on competing, rebuilding after quarter of 2019 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Derek Holland spoke up Saturday night and said he didn't know what the front office was doing, he wasn't just speaking for himself. There has been confusion this season, more than in past ones, from the players, coaches, support staff and fans. 

This is not what the #ForeverGiant organization has gotten used to. The roster moves have come quickly, young players are cut loose after a dozen at-bats and veterans are gone in a month. The process has led to some grumbling, and perhaps one day Farhan Zaidi will look back on this season and feel he wasn't clear enough from the start about what the goals would be. 

But in Denver last week, after Yangervis Solarte and Pat Venditte were let go, Zaidi did very clearly lay out his plan. 

"A key for us, I think, is going to be adaptability and looking at different guys. We're trying to compete, but we're also trying to find guys who could be keepers for this organization, who are going to be here for a few years," he said. "We're kind of trying to walk that balance and part of it is giving guys opportunities but sometimes having to pull the plug before you get what really amounts to an appropriate sample look. 

"That's part of the tightrope that we're walking with some of these guys. With that set of goals, I guess it's not that surprising that we moved on quickly from some guys."

That is not the kind of sexy message you put on billboards on Third Street or convey to season ticket holders, but it is a very clear one, and if you just read that one quote, you can see what this season is all about. 

But is it working? A quarter of the way through, let's take a look at those two goals:

"We're Trying to Compete"

Yeah, uhh, they're not competitive. 

At 18-24, the Giants have the sixth-worst winning percentage in the majors. They are 9 1/2 games behind the Dodgers already, and there's no known universe where you could make a realistic argument that they'll get anywhere close to catching them. With a six-game winning streak maybe you could start dreaming of a Wild Card Game, but the Giants have been outscored by 39 runs already, so there's no real reason to believe they can turn it around.

The moves made to compete -- Gerardo Parra, Yangervis, Holland, Drew Pomeranz, etc. -- mostly have backfired. Kevin Pillar has worked out well, but with so much of the core taking a step back, his addition didn't ultimately move the needle much. 

This, most likely, is a 90-plus loss team that will be torn apart at the trade deadline and will end up with another top 10 draft pick. That's good news for the long term!

But it's a major bummer when you remember that this is Bruce Bochy's last season, and the odds are good that he'll be eliminated in mid-September while penciling in a lineup full of prospects. 

"We're Also Trying to Find Guys Who Could Be Keepers"

A big part of the appeal of Connor Joe and Michael Reed was that they are 26 years old. If the front office hit on one of those guys, he could be around for the next Giants team to make the postseason. Alas ...

The jury is still out on most of the "guys who could be keepers." 

Steven Duggar has had a disappointing season at the plate, but the defense -- in any outfield spot -- is elite, and he should be part of the outfield mix for years to come. Tyler Austin, 27, has a .831 OPS and looks like a future bench bat or member of a left field platoon. Mac Williamson is getting his audition, but he's batting just .185 thus far. Mike Gerber did not run with a job. At some point we'll see Aaron Altherr. 

The Giants have plenty of guys in the minors -- Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski (who has 11 homers), Chris Shaw (who has made huge strides with plate discipline) -- who could get a look, but here in May, you can't say they have any idea what a 2020 outfield will look like.  

There certainly is concern in the infield, where Pablo Sandoval, 32 years old and about to hit free agency, has been the most consistent hitter. After years of hitting on draft picks, the Giants have gone through a drought in this department, although Jalen Miller has a .802 OPS in the tough Eastern League and the 22-year-old could get a look in the second half. 

On the pitching side, 26-year-old Trevor Gott and 25-year-old Travis Bergen have a chance to be part of future bullpens. But Reyes Moronta has regressed a bit, Dereck Rodriguez was demoted, Tyler Beede has been unable to translate his Triple-A success to the big leagues, Andrew Suarez and Ray Black got hurt, and Logan Webb was suspended

Shaun Anderson's debut was promising, and he'll get another shot next week to try to lock down a rotation spot. But the Giants need to find a lot more over the next four-and-a-half months. They'll send Beede back out to see if it clicks, and Rodriguez and Suarez will be back. 

[RELATED: Which teams make most sense in possible MadBum trade?]

Ultimately, the pitching staff is now in the same position as the lineup. How many guys in either group can you guarantee will be a contributor in 2021? Zaidi had a clear goal, but he'll have to shift. 

To find guys who can be keepers, he will have to officially give up on "trying to compete," trading the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and others for prospects and young pre-arbitration players. We always knew that was coming at some point, but the poor start should accelerate the teardown. 

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

As the Giants watch the World Series from home, their search for a new manager continues. Replacing a legend like Bruce Bochy won't be easy, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi can't wait forever. 

Interviews have begun, and the favorite coming into the process might be someone who would just have to switch sides in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Monday that "word around the industry is that [Mark] Kotsay entered this process as a favored candidate." One source also told Baggarly that he would be surprised if the Giants didn't hire Kotsay.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic first reported on Oct. 9 that the Giants would interview Kotsay, who currently serves as the A's quality control coach.

Kotsay, 43, had a 17-year MLB career where he spent four seasons -- 2004 through '07 -- as an outfielder for the A's. Zaidi was a baseball operations analyst in Oakland when Kotsay played for the A's. 

Kotsay retired after the 2013 season and became a special assistant in the San Diego Padres' front office the next season. He then served as the Padres' hitting coach for the 2015 season and was the A's bench coach in 2016. 

[RELATED: Could MadBum's ugly road stats hurt him in free agency?]

The Giants already interviewed in-house candidates Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus. The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and John Shea reported Monday that San Francisco also interviewed Cubs first base coach Wil Venable on Friday.

Other reported candidates include Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Madison Bumgarner is entering free agency at a curious time in his career. The longtime Giants ace has built a legendary reputation, but plenty of question marks also surround the 30-year-old.

Bumgarner proved he's still a workhorse after missing time the previous two seasons with freak injuries. His 34 starts were tied for the MLB lead, and his 207 2/3 innings pitched ranked second in the NL.

But while looking at Bumgarner's stats from this past season, one thing stands out that could hurt him in free agency and actually help the Giants if they want to bring back the left-hander.

MadBum's home-road splits were staggering in 2019. He was a completely different pitcher in front of the home crowd at Oracle Park, compared to pitching away from San Francisco.

Here are Bumgarner's home stats this past season, compared to when he pitched on the road.

Home: 19 GS, 6-2, 2.93 ERA, 122 2/3 IP, 40 ER, 15 HR, 120 SO, 21 BB, 0.93 WHIP, 5.71 SO/W
Away: 15 GS, 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 85 IP, 50 ER, 15 HR, 83 SO, 22 BB, 1.41 WHIP, 3.77 SO/W

Oracle Park is known as a pitcher's dream. In fact, the Giants' home park was the least favorable for offenses this season by Park Factors, per ESPN. The 11-year veteran used that his advantage, but that luxury didn't follow him on the road.

Bumgarner allowed the same amount of homers in four fewer road games as he did at home. He also walked one more batter and allowed five more hits -- 98 on the road, compared to 93 at home. For someone with a lot of mileage on his arm and his fastball declining in velocity, that's certainly alarming.

[RELATED: Astros call possible Giants target Cole 'West Coast guy']

As a pitcher who's never tested the open market and has spent his entire career in a pitcher's paradise, these numbers will be looked at closely by front offices around the league this offseason.

Bumgarner figures to join Gerrit Cole, among others, as the most coveted starting pitchers in free agency. So, while his road numbers could help the Giants in keeping him in San Francisco, they also could prevent the veteran from signing the hefty contract he likely desires.