SAN FRANCISCO -- When Farhan Zaidi said he wanted to give new Giants a "runway" to establish themselves as big leaguers, it was unclear what kind of length he was thinking about.
Was this like the absurdly long runway that hosted the fight scene in Fast & Furious 6? Was he imagining SFO or LAX? Was he talking about something closer to a private strip of dirt on a secluded island?
The answer came over the past week. Michael Reed was let go after just eight plate appearances, Connor Joe after 16. It turns out they aren't -- at least yet -- the next Max Muncy and Chris Taylor, but the search will go on, and it's clear now that while the new-look front office wants to give players opportunities, there also is a need for production, or at least a strong hint that it's coming.
That's a lesson Taylor learned two years ago when he was the breakout star for an already-loaded Dodgers team. Taylor was 26 when called up to replace an injured Logan Forsythe that April and he had already made more than 100 plate appearances for the Mariners and Dodgers, failing to secure a job. But he ran with that opportunity in 2017.
Taylor had two doubles in his first game back in the big leagues, a pinch-hit homer in his next game, and two hits and a walk the night after that. He had been called up primarily to play second base against lefties, but by the time Forsythe returned a month later, Taylor had carved out a role with a .326 average and OPS over 1.000.
"It is a very short leash in this game, but it's crazy how quickly the perspective on you can change," Taylor said recently. "Guys can go from being an everyday player to all of a sudden they're a platoon guy, or a four-A player can be an everyday player. It can go in either direction real quick."
Taylor ended up getting 568 plate appearances that season and hitting 21 homers. A year later, he played in 155 games, once again moving all over the field for a division champion. Muncy's breakthrough last season was slower, but he benefited from being on a team in a much better situation than the 2019 Giants. The Dodgers could afford to be patient, something the Giants no longer felt they could do with Reed and Joe, who combined for one hit.
"When you have a Rule 5 guy or an out-of-options guy, you kind of need one of three things to keep the situation live," Zaidi said Monday. "You need either immediate performance and immediate returns, or you need your team playing well, where you can buy that player a bit more time. Or if you're in a full rebuilding mode and you're willing to kind of work your way through that, that's another scenario.
"Unfortunately none of those applied in this case. You'll always have to ask if Connor had gotten three or four more balls to drop in and he's 5-for-15 instead of 1-for-15, are you looking at it different? Or if we were firing on more cylinders offensively, would we be in a situation to get him more rope?"
Looking back on those first couple of weeks where he hit his way into a role, Taylor said he feels fortunate that he got hot right away.
"I got some more opportunity from there and more looks," he said. "It was a combination of good timing and then also them being open to throwing me out there a little bit more."
Zaidi certainly is open to the unorthodox. He picked up two outfielders over the final week of the spring and threw both in the Opening Day lineup. Both were then gone before the second home series of the year. From the outside, that can look like a cold set of moves. But the decisions to designate Reed and Joe for assignment weighed on Zaidi.
Last week, Zaidi said it was "tough and unfair" to judge Reed on eight at-bats. He liked Reed enough that he re-signed him to a minor league deal a few days later.
"I take responsibility for putting him in a tough spot coming into camp so late," Zaidi said. "There were a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure on him."
On Monday, Zaidi took on a serious tone while talking about how much he wanted Joe to succeed. He said he was disappointed that the team, 3-7 at the time of the move, was not in a position to give Joe a longer look.
"I've seen people refer to this as the Connor Joe Experiment, which sounds all well and good, but he's not an experiment," Zaidi said. "He's a real person who worked his ass off to get here."
Both Reed and Joe should take comfort in the fact that the players who made it for Zaidi in Los Angeles did so after failing to take advantage of earlier opportunities. Perhaps one or both will be back, or perhaps someone else will break through. With Reed and Joe gone, Tyler Austin will get the next opportunity to prove he belongs.
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Zaidi has had success with this kind of move before, and he's counting on finding a hidden gem or two to speed up the rebuilding process for an organization with a poor farm system and bloated big league payroll. There will be more runways built, and Taylor said anyone in that spot should just do his best to try and stay loose between the lines.
"I think the best thing to do is to not think about it at all, control what you can control, don't worry about playing time," Taylor said. "And whenever you do get your opportunity, play your best and hope for the best."