Giants

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made a multitude of personnel moves since taking over control of San Francisco’s roster. 

A handful of holdovers remain from the previous regime, many of whom were part of the organization’s three World Series trophies in five years.

Guys like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and others are facing increasing competition for innings after several rough seasons in a row for the Giants.

Zaidi wants to continue the team’s rebuild but isn’t going to just jettison every guy who’s not in their prime.

“Sometimes I think the change does not mean a change in personnel,” Zaidi told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on “The TK Show” podcast. “But a change in outlook and perspective.

“Baseball is a game where development should never stop, whether you’re a 22-year-old rookie or a 33-year-old veteran.”

Zaidi is hoping that the infusion of fresh blood into the Giants clubhouse should give every returning player an opportunity to re-evaluate their own roles and abilities.

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“As I view it, being a change agent doesn’t mean just turning over the roster,” Zaidi said. “But it means everybody reassessing where they are in their careers, what they do well, what their roles are, and trying to progress further for the betterment of the team.”

Expect to see some familiar faces on the Giants next season. But Zaidi and his new general manager Scott Harris likely will continue making moves throughout the offseason and even in-season, as we saw frequently in 2019.

Should Giants explore signing nemesis Yasiel Puig in free agency?

Should Giants explore signing nemesis Yasiel Puig in free agency?

The Giants replaced franchise icon Bruce Bochy with Gabe Kapler as their new manager this offseason, and reportedly have "shown no inclination" in keeping Madison Bumgarner. 

Now imagine if they signed one of the most despised opposing players in franchise history. Glasses of IPA would be shattered, beanies would be burned, even Patagonia jackets might be on the wrong side of angry fans. 

The Athletic's Jim Bowden made one move for all 30 MLB teams at the Winter Meetings, and here's his wish for the Giants: Sign outfielder Yasiel Puig to a four-year, $48 million contract. 

Slow down, hold on to your garlic fries. Everything is going to be OK. There's no reason to spit out your Philz coffee. 

Bowden, who served as the Reds general manager from 1992 to 2003 and Expos/Nationals GM from 2005-08, links Puig to the Giants with his ties to Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Kapler was the Dodgers' director of player development for three of Puig's seasons in Los Angeles, while Zaidi was L.A.'s GM for five of those years.

Puig became an instant Giants nemesis with the Dodgers immediately after debuting with San Francisco's rivals in 2013. He found himself in multiple scuffles with Bumgarner, and sparked a brawl in 2018 after fighting former Giants catcher Nick Hundley. 

Zaidi and the rest of the front office aren't worried about the past, though. This is a new era of Giants baseball, where nostalgia -- and apparently PR -- aren't top priorities. In a bubble, Puig makes some sense for the Giants. 

The Giants badly need right-handed power hitters and already have been linked to free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Puig would give them a big boost offensively, one that fans have been clamoring to get for years. 

Puig, who turns 29 on Dec. 7, hit 24 homers, drove in 84 runs and had a .785 OPS between the Reds and Indians last season. He also had a 1.2 fWAR, and FanGraphs has him worth at least one win above replacement in every season of his seven-year career. 

Puig has hit at least 20 homers in three straight seasons and has averaged 19 long balls in his major league career. The Giants ranked 26th in all of baseball last season with only 167 homers as a team. They also ranked 28th in slugging percentage (.392) and runs scored (678).

It's safe to say this team could use a slugger. They also need a right-handed bat to complement left-handed outfielders Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson. The most intriguing part of Puig's game, however, is his ability to hit in San Francisco. 

Puig hit .417 with two homers in three games at Oracle Park in 2019. That wasn't an outlier, either. In 45 road games against the Giants, Puig is hitting .299 with five homers, 17 RBI and an .838 OPS. 

Of Puig's 132 career home runs, 74 have been hit in NL West stadiums. 

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Take a deep breath. Now grab your Anchor Steam beer and carne asada burrito. Yes, Yasiel Puig on the Giants very well could make sense.

As Giants make some big changes, where do their core players stand?

As Giants make some big changes, where do their core players stand?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans have watched Will Smith and Stephen Vogt find new homes. With Kevin Pillar getting sent out to the open market and Madison Bumgarner potentially the next to say goodbye to orange and black, it understandably feels like a changing of the guard, but the reality is that there are still plenty of familiar faces in that clubhouse.

Mauricio Dubon may start at second base, but the rest of the infield still includes three homegrown Giants and a veteran who has been here two years. The rotation, even without Bumgarner, is led by two veterans who signed for a combined $220 million after the 2015 season. 

Times have changed, yes, but the real heavy lifting with the roster has not begun. Joe Panik is the only member of the so-called "core" to have been sent off so far, and as much as Pillar and Vogt resonated with the fan base, neither was on the opening day roster in 2019.

The bigger changes are still to come, and that work may kick into a higher gear at the Winter Meetings next week in San Diego. Here's a look at where the veteran Giants, including that core of #ForeverGiants, stand after the first month of the offseason

Buster Posey

For all the talk of Posey's decline, he still provides plenty of value every night with his work defensively and leading a pitching staff. Posey remains the face of the franchise, and while his offensive numbers hit career lows in 2019, the Giants are somewhat bullish on his future. 

A few of Posey's teammates and coaches expressed regret near the end of the season that he didn't get more time to rehab from major hip surgery. Posey sailed through the rehab process and was ready by the end of the spring, but perhaps the strength wasn't all the way back. Did he push to return on time because it was Bruce Bochy's last season? Was it just the competitor in him? Only Posey could tell you, but the Giants are hopeful that a healthy offseason will bring back some of his old form. 

"One of the things I said to him is, 'I know you're disappointed with the season that you had, but I think we all need to take a step back and realize how far you came over the course of the season,'" Farhan Zaidi said earlier this offseason. "Sitting here a year ago, I didn't know when he was going to be ready to play, if he was going to be ready to play, and certainly Opening Day seemed like a stretch coming off the surgery he did.

"I just feel like in cases like that, players of that stature coming back from major surgeries, we move quickly from 'If he is going to be ready, is he going to play?' to having the same incredibly high expectations that we have of that player."

Joey Bart is coming fast, but 2021 is a more realistic timeframe for a major role. Posey will be behind the dish on Opening Day and should be in line for another 100 starts or so behind the plate, just with a different backup this time. 

Brandon Belt

The Belt Wars figure to pick back up in the coming months. Belt is coming off a disappointing season, but Gabe Kapler already has paid him compliments and Zaidi said on the Giants Insider Podcast that he felt Belt had an unlucky season.

"Hitting balls hard right at guys, hitting balls in this ballpark that might have been extra-base hits or home runs elsewhere, and that's reflected in the data," Zaidi said. "As we went through his season, one of the things that he really managed this year was locking in on the strike zone even more. One of the things that's been talked about with him is some vulnerability to velocity up in the zone and he actually cut back on his chase (percentage) significantly."

Belt's slugging percentage was 54 points below his expected slugging percentage based on quality of contact, and he should benefit more than any Giant from the fences coming in as the bullpens are moved. Even in a down year, Belt reached base at a .339 clip, something that's important to an organization preaching patience at the plate throughout every level. 

The Giants don't have many spots where they realistically can add more power, and perhaps they'll view first base as the best option. But Belt still has $32 million left on his deal and the Giants would be selling low and possibly chipping in money. Throw in his 10-team no-trade clause and Belt isn't nearly as likely to be dealt as most think.

Brandon Crawford

While the Giants acquired Dubon to play second base last season, team officials repeatedly pointed out that he's a natural shortstop. Crawford, to his credit, has taken Dubon under his wing, and the two could form one of the better defensive tandems in the National League. 

But, this also could turn into a platoon of sorts. Crawford had a .277 on-base percentage and .321 slugging percentage against lefties last season and the Giants already brought back Donovan Solano, a middle infielder who hits from the right side. They appear poised to go with Dubon and Solano quite a bit against left-handed pitchers, and they continue to look for even more infield depth. 

Crawford will go down as one of the most popular Giants ever and one of the best defensive shortstops of his generation, but right now he's the core Giant who might be under the most pressure to get off to a good start next season. 

Evan Longoria

In his second full season with the Giants, Longoria was quietly pretty productive. He was one of the better defensive third basemen in the NL and hit 20 homers despite missing significant time with a foot injury. 

This is one area where the Giants expect to add, though. Longoria had a .852 OPS against lefties last year but it was just .722 against righties, and Pablo Sandoval siphoned away a lot of those starts when he was healthy. Sandoval is a free agent and recovering from elbow surgery, but expect the Giants to try and find a left-handed backup for Longoria, who has been extremely durable in his career but turned 34 in October. 

Longoria is signed through 2022 and the contract will be extremely difficult to move, even for the executive who got out from under Mark Melancon's deal, so there won't be much drama at third base this offseason or next spring. 

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Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto

You can bet some eyes widened in the Giants' front office when 35-year-old Cole Hamels signed for $18 million Wednesday morning. Not because that's a crazy price, but because it could set the Giants up to shop one of their own veterans. 

Samardzija had a 3.52 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 181 1/3 innings last year. Hamels was at 3.81 and 1.39 in 142 2/3 innings. The lefty had an edge in FIP and strikeout rate, but still, it's not crazy for the Giants to sell Samardzija as a stopgap option for a contender in need of reliable pitching. Samardzija, coincidentally, is due $18 million next season.

Cueto still has $47 million left on his deal (assuming his 2022 option doesn't get picked up) and is coming off Tommy John surgery. The Giants are excited about his rehab process and believe a big year could be coming, but others might feel the same way. At least one American League club sniffed around before the deadline while Cueto still was rehabbing, and Zaidi might get some calls on him as big-name starters sign elsewhere. 

The odds are good that Samardzija and Cueto will both be at Scottsdale Stadium next spring, but when looking at the veterans who remain with the Giants, these two might be the most likely to get moved. Samardzija can block trades to eight teams of his choosing but Cueto does not have a no-trade clause.