Why Farhan Zaidi chose Scott Harris as Giants' new general manager

Why Farhan Zaidi chose Scott Harris as Giants' new general manager

SAN FRANCISCO -- There was something that stood out right away Monday afternoon when Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris sat down behind a podium at Oracle Park, and it wasn't the fact that the new general manager is 32 years old. It was that Zaidi, sitting to his left, was wearing an orange tie. 

"I'm so excited I'm even wearing a tie," Giants president of baseball operations Zaidi said, laughing. "I didn't wear a tie to my own press conference."

Zaidi sat at the same podium one year and three days ago and got introduced by Larry Baer. On Monday it was Zaidi's turn to make the introduction, and it was clear throughout a 30-minute press conference how much this hire means to the president of baseball operations. 

Zaidi talked of Harris' character, creativity and thought process. Then he leaned back in his chair and watched Harris outline his vision, a proud smile on his face as he listened to every answer. Zaidi had a year to think about this hire, one that will shape the future of Giants baseball. 

"I really view it as a partnership, a partnership leading our baseball operations group together," Zaidi said. "I don't necessarily see us dividing up departments or reporting lines. I think it's going to be a really collaborative effort. It's obviously a buzzword in the industry and it's certainly a buzzword for us -- wanting people to collaborate and work together, and I'm very confident that Scott will be a huge contributor in that area."

Harris, in his seven years in Chicago, learned that the buzzword is vitally important. He said the thing he took away from the Cubs was the culture that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer built and cultivated, and he's looking forward to having the same kind of approach in San Francisco. 

This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Harris, who grew up a few miles from Oracle Park, but he said it's one he didn't expect. He was sitting in his office on a Sunday in October when Hoyer, the GM of the Cubs, called him and said Zaidi wanted to speak to him. The two soon got together for an initial meeting that lasted five hours. 

Harris had met Zaidi just once before, so he called contacts around the game to see what it was like working for him. Zaidi did the same, and the two formed a bond that they believe will lead to the collaboration Zaidi has sought. Harris said the Cubs had the same culture, noting that Epstein and Hoyer "really believe that four opinions is better than three, five is better than four, six is better than five."

"During the interview, we talked about what the reporting structure would look like and we both expressed an interest in keeping it nebulous," Harris said. "That's what he had in L.A. and that's what we had in Chicago. I think that's really important because I see this relationship as being a close collaborative relationship full of debate, full of challenging each other, full of trying to put the Giants first.

"We should have the opportunity to free each other up to work on some of the bigger ideas, some of the concepts and philosophies that will push the Giants forward, which is really hard when it's only one person in the job. I know Farhan expressed that was a little bit of a challenge for him."

The Cubs famously had a "Pitch Lab" that would help their pitchers work on grips and spin, and Harris certainly has the background to implement similar approaches with the Giants. He oversaw research and development with the Cubs, but he had his hand in just about everything, from international prospects to the day-to-day operations of the big league roster.

Harris is known for being easy to work with, but also for having a remarkable work ethic. He spoke several times Monday of how important it is to get along with coworkers because of how many 17-hour days there are. That kind of energy will be needed, because the Giants still have a long way to go. Harris left a contender to come help rebuild his hometown team, but as he thought about the situation he would be entering, he said a few things stood out. 

Part of the job in Chicago was tracking minor leaguers for other teams, and Harris said he noticed how some Giants prospects took huge leaps in their development in the first season under a new regime. He noted that the Cubs had interest in several prospects the Giants acquired at the deadline and pointed to one transaction that caught his eye. 

"We had a very busy final moments (before) the trade deadline," Harris said. "I remember going back to my office once the dust settled and trying to get up to speed on what happened around the industry. One of the trades I was struck by was the (Mark) Melancon one. I thought (Zaidi) did an excellent job."

Zaidi shocked many in the industry by getting out from under the final year of Melancon's massive contract and acquiring a decent pitching prospect in the process. That's the kind of move the Giants will need to replicate over and over again, but Harris has seen it done before.

[RELATED: Giants can give into free agency with no tax concerns]

The Cubs lost 89 games in 2014. Two years later, Harris had a ring on his finger. 

"It can happen really fast," Harris said. "That's certainly the goal for us."

Fantasy baseball 2020: Rankings, sleepers for Giants, A's this season

Fantasy baseball 2020: Rankings, sleepers for Giants, A's this season

Baseball is back, with MLB's Opening Day scheduled for July 23 and 24. Before we know it, bat flips will make everyone furious in a fanless ballpark. Even better, countless amounts of people are about to spend way too much money on a game they have no control over. 

We're of course talking about fantasy baseball, which will be much different this year. 

Everything about the game changes this season. Instead of a 162-game marathon, this will be a 60-game sprint. Instead of pitchers embarrassing themselves in the batter's box, the NL has adopted the DH this year. That could have a big impact on both the Giants and A's. 

So, what does this mean for Giants and A's players? First and foremost, the experts like the A's a lot more, a whole lot more. The A's have 11 players ranked ahead of the Giants' top player when it comes to fantasy baseball going into the season.

We looked at both Yahoo and ESPN's fantasy rankings for the top 250 players ahead of the upcoming season. Here's where the Bay Area's best rank, sleepers for each team and more. 

A's top-ranked players 

Matt Olson: (ESPN 51, Yahoo 89)
Matt Chapman: (ESPN 53, Yahoo 71)
Marcus Semien: (ESPN 57, Yahoo 72)
Liam Hendriks: (ESPN 89, Yahoo 91)
Ramon Laureano: (ESPN 98, Yahoo 92)
Khris Davis: (ESPN 103, Yahoo 150)
Sean Manaea: (ESPN 165, Yahoo 173)
Frankie Montas: (ESPN 198, Yahoo 111)
Stephen Piscotty: (ESPN 214, Yahoo N/A)
Mark Canha: (ESPN 226, Yahoo N/A)
Mike Fiers: (ESPN 250, Yahoo N/A)
Jesus Luzardo: (Yahoo 149, ESPN N/A)
A.J Puk: (Yahoo 165, ESPN N/A)

Giants top-ranked players

Jeff Samardzija: (Yahoo 249)

That's it ... 

Brandon Belt (299) ranks in ESPN's top 300, and Tony Watson (257) and Mike Yastrzemski (261) both made Yahoo's top 300.

A's sleeper

All the hype on the A's pitching staff is around Luzardo and Puk, and understandably so. They are two of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, and should be AL Rookie of the Year candidates. 

If Luzardo and Puk can stay healthy, they quickly can become Oakland's aces. But Luzardo still hasn't joined the A's after testing positive for the coronavirus. That brings us to perhaps the A's current ace. 

Montas at 111 and 198 feels low. The 27-year-old went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA over 16 starts last season. He was suspended 80 games, but when on the field, he was dominant. The big right-hander struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings, and has been praised for the shape he showed up to Summer Camp in. 

There's a real chance Montas establishes himself as a star this season, and can finish the year ranked much higher than he currently is. 

Giants sleeper

Evan Longoria couldn't have started off last season much worse. He hit just .212 in March/April and .215 in May. That number rose to .241 in June, but between July and August, he was back to his All-Star self. 

Longoria hit .400 with six homers and 12 RBI in just nine games in July. Then in August, he hit .345 with four homers, 20 RBI and a .901 OPS. Over 31 games combined in July and August, the Giants' third baseman hit .359 with 10 home runs, 32 RBI and a 1.065 OPS. 

With Buster Posey out, Longoria will be relied upon as a veteran leader. Gabe Kapler will platoon his lineup nearly every game, and Longoria should be one of the only everyday players. If he's the player he was last summer, the Giants have a star.

Division foes

This is your reminder the Los Angeles Dodgers really did trade for Mookie Betts. Along with Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers might have two of the top five fantasy players in the game.

Nolan Arrenado and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies might be in the top 15 as well, and San Diego Padres infielders Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado could find themselves in the top 25 or 30. That doesn't even bring us to Madison Bumgarner. 

The former Giants ace, now in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. ESPN ranks MadBum as their 110th-best fantasy player, and Yahoo has him lower at 136. 

Oakland will face plenty of star power in the AL West, too. Mike Trout always will be near the top of rankings, fellow two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani is a fantasy anomaly. The Angels also added Anthony Rendon, who could be in the top five. 

Love them or hate them, the Houston Astros are full of stars, with a long list of highly ranked fantasy players. Joey Gallo will hit dingers for the Texas Rangers, and maybe a healthy Kyle Lewis will live up to his potential for the Seattle Mariners. 

No matter what, though, it's hard to find a team with as many fantasy stars as the A's.

MLB rumors: Yasiel Puig signing with Braves, not Giants, as free agent

MLB rumors: Yasiel Puig signing with Braves, not Giants, as free agent

Yasiel Puig reportedly will not be wearing orange and black next season and will be joining the Atlanta Braves.’s Mark Feinsand was first with the news on Tuesday.

The Giants, in the beginning, reportedly were one of the teams in the running for the free-agent outfielder, and despite his knowledge of the NL West having spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- he will be going elsewhere.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said on the Tim Kawakami Show that they weren’t “really having any active conversations with anyone outside the organization,” when asked about possibly acquiring Puig.

Puig to the Braves makes perfect sense as outfielder Nick Markakis has opted out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. He felt uneasy about playing without fans and was swayed a bit with Braves’ All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman testing positive for the coronavirus.

[RELATED: Buster Posey's leadership will be missed, but not forgotten]

This will put Puig in the outfield with Ender Inciarte, Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuña Jr. which shapes to be a rather strong outfield. 

For now, Puig still needs to pass a physical and a COVID-19 test before the deal becomes official. 

Puig enters his eighth season in 2020 and earned one All-Star selection in 2014. Across seven seasons and three teams, Puig accumulated a .277/.348/.475 average with 132 home runs and 415 RBI which is good for a career .823 OPS.