SAN FRANCISCO — If the American League Wild Card Game had gone differently in 2014, Farhan Zaidi could have been across the way from the Giants in that year’s World Series.
Instead, Zaidi was in an airport on Oct. 29, 2014, waiting for a flight that was part of the interview process to become general manager of the Dodgers.
He watched as Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to clinch a title, and on Wednesday, his first official day as president of baseball operations for the Giants, he remembered that effort as “superhuman.”
“I remember at the time thinking that I’m working with the A’s and going to the Dodgers, two rivals, and I can’t help it as a baseball fan but to have appreciation for what this guy has done,” Zaidi said. “He has been a seminal pillar of this franchise for a long time. That carries a lot of weight.”
But will Bumgarner still be a pillar on Opening Day?
That’s the biggest question of this offseason for the Giants, and Zaidi will be the man making the final decision. He talked Wednesday of building the entire 25-man roster, and Bumgarner could bring in two to three legitimate prospects to help the Giants do that. The left-hander has one year left on his contract, and rival executives predicted this week that Zaidi would not shy away from the public-relations hit that would come with trading the franchise’s ace.
On Wednesday, he indicated that was true.
“Where we are,” Zaidi said, “Everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward.”
The Giants made their easiest decision of the offseason while waiting to interview Zaidi, picking up Bumgarner’s $12 million option for 2019. He is 11 months from becoming a free agent, and there have been no contract extension discussions. Zaidi was given a five-year deal, and if he were to make the move, he would be here long enough to outlast the initial hit. If he can win, after two wildly disappointing seasons for the Giants, all eventually will be forgiven.
On the surface, it seems a given that Zaidi will aggressively explore a deal. But he’s not totally unfamiliar with this kind of decision, and Zaidi’s former team, the Dodgers, recently reached an agreement to keep Clayton Kershaw around. The Dodgers ace was in a different situation, with an opt-out clause that could make him a free agent. The Dodgers tacked on one year to the two existing years, and Kershaw did not opt out, choosing to stay on a three-year, $93 million contract.
The situations are different in ways, but just as the Dodgers want Kershaw to retire in blue, the Giants have hoped to have Bumgarner around for years to come in orange and black. In an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area following his press conference, Zaidi acknowledged there are off-the-field concerns that come into play anytime you're thinking about parting ways with a player like Bumgarner or Kershaw.
“You’re running an organization that has ties and a connection to the community and certain players’ value to the organization, and the community goes beyond the numbers they put up on the field,” Zaidi said. “You take a guy like Madison Bumgarner — he’s the definition of that for everything he’s brought to the city over the years, and really him and a couple of other guys, with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, really (have been) the heart and soul of a team that achieved so much.
“The next World Series team for the San Francisco Giants is probably going to look a little bit different than the team that won in 2014, so as we start thinking about moves, we’re going to have to at least consider it through that lens.”