Farhan Zaidi

Buster Posey misses third Giants workout for personal reasons, per Gabe Kapler

Buster Posey misses third Giants workout for personal reasons, per Gabe Kapler

The Giants went through their sixth day of work at Oracle Park on Thursday. For the third time, the longtime franchise star was not in the building. 

Buster Posey again missed the workout Thursday for personal reasons and "is still working through some things," per manager Gabe Kapler. 

"Buster is still working through a personal issue, and I want to respect his privacy," Kapler said. 

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Posey reported to camp Saturday and spoke with reporters, admitting he still had some reservations about playing this season during the coronavirus pandemic. The Poseys have two young children and he noted he would pay attention to how things looked at camp but also around society in general. 

During an appearance on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier Thursday that the Giants would respect any decision Posey makes. 

"I think he's continuing to evaluate things on a day-to-day basis and frankly I think there's a few guys in that boat, certainly guys with young families, and certainly Buster is in that boat," Zaidi said. "It's something else to think about. I don't want to get into other personal things that he may be thinking through. Ultimately we're going to respect the decisions that our players make."

Posey isn't the only player mysteriously missing from camp. Center fielder Billy Hamilton and left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia were both expected to be on the Opening Day roster, but neither has been seen and both were placed on the 10-day Injured List. Kapler has said a couple of times that he cannot reveal more information about the two. 

"That's all I can share on that front," he said Thursday after confirming they were on the IL for medical purposes.

Teams are not allowed to reveal any information related to COVID-19 tests if players do not give permission, although it's not totally clear what the situation is with Hamilton and Garcia. In Posey's case, the initial tests came back negative, and he was a full participant in workouts over the weekend. 

[RELATED: Giants' list of prospects in camp has many intriguing names]

Like Zaidi, Kapler reiterated that the Giants will back any decision Posey makes, regardless of what that means for a team that currently doesn't have a clear favorite to even back up Posey. Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman are fighting for that job

"Because of what we're up against right now, we're going to take a family-first approach to this," he said. "We will take it on as a responsibility to scramble as necessary but we don't want to rush these personal decisions and we want to respect and honor the stresses that people have that we may not be seeing."

How Giants will handle odd MLB trade deadline 36 games into season

How Giants will handle odd MLB trade deadline 36 games into season

In his first year as president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi found himself facing a brutal decision at the trade deadline. 

Should he trust what the statistics and standings said and hold a massive sale, one that included franchise icon Madison Bumgarner and All-Star closer Will Smith? Or should he honor the shocking run the Giants went on in July and the preferences of the clubhouse, giving Bruce Bochy one last shot to try to sneak into the postseason?

Ultimately, Zaidi mostly chose the latter. He was active at the deadline, particularly in dismantling much of his bullpen, but he held his two biggest pieces and instead took the draft pick compensation that brought the Giants two players in June after Bumgarner and Smith walked in the offseason. The team, somewhat predictably, tanked after the deadline. 

That July run was a mirage, but Zaidi never has expressed regret. He wanted Bochy to have a shot down the stretch, and months later the Giants ended up with essentially two additional second-round picks. 

It was a nerve-wracking first deadline for Zaidi. A year later, Scott Harris could be faced with a much tougher decision in his first season as a general manager. Zaidi and Harris will have just 36 games to evaluate the Giants before the August 31 deadline. It sounds like a nightmare for front offices. Harris prefers to view it as a positive. 

"Stepping back from a 10,000-foot view here, I think in an alternative universe, if you offered any GM the choice of playing out the first 102 games of the season and seeing where the team is on July 23, or fast-forwarding to July 23 with a guarantee that the team would be tied for first place, I think 30 of 30 GMs would choose the latter," Harris said on the Giants Insider Podcast. "In some ways, from a competitive standpoint, that's where we're at here. It's paramount that we get off to a fast start, because if we get off to a fast start the trade deadline is only a few weeks away and we have the opportunity through transactions to turn some of our weaknesses into strengths. Farhan and I are certainly going to be eager to do that if the opportunity presents itself."

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The Giants have a tough "first half" schedule, but in an odd way that could help Zaidi and Harris. They believe they have put together a roster that's capable of being more competitive than outsiders think, and they'll have a very good idea on August 31 of whether or not that's true. 

Of the 36 games before the deadline, 10 are against the Los Angeles Dodgers, three are against the Houston Astros and three are against the A's. Those could be three of the five or six best teams in baseball. The schedule also includes 10 games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels in the final two weeks before the deadline, and both of them teams figure to be in the race. Those Diamondbacks games in particular could be swing games. They loom as a likely wild-card contender after a busy offseason. 

If the Giants can survive that August gauntlet and stay within striking distance in the NL West or wild-card races, the September schedule is much, much softer. 

Over 60 games, it might not be hard to be in it on August 31, either. The PECOTA projection system is down on the Giants, predicting that they'll finish as the worst team in the National League. But even their latest projections have the Giants finishing just four games out of second in the NL West and six games out of a postseason spot. It's not a huge gap to be made up:

There's a second benefit to that August schedule. Let's say the Giants can't handle it and can't realistically view themselves as contenders on August 31. With so many teams having a shot, there figure to be few true sellers. Zaidi and Harris would have some pieces to offer, particularly on the pitching side, with Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly all headed for free agency. 

Buying or selling will be complicated by MLB's short-season rules. Only players in the 60-man player pools can be traded, which will be a significant change given that most teams are only carrying 5-10 prospects right now and most of those are in the "untouchable" category, particularly in exchange for a one-month rental. But the rules do seem to allow teams to add players to their pool in late August specifically to trade them; they just need to stay in the new team's pool for the rest of the year. There's little doubt that front offices will find workarounds. 

Last year's deadline also provides a blueprint of sorts. The Giants took advantage of a strong week in the bullpen from Drew Pomeranz and dealt him for Mauricio Dubon. The sample sizes this year will be just as small as Pomeranz's was, and plenty of upper-minors prospects like Dubon are in player pools right now.

[RELATED: Everything you need to know about MLB restart, Giants]

Harris said that one of the first steps for the front office during the restart will be evaluating the new rosters, especially if the Giants are looking to add. 

"I think it's going to be really important for our scouts and analysts to pay close attention to players who might be available at the trade deadline and make sure we refresh our looks at those players," he said. 

This is a year unlike any other, and that extends to the trade deadline. It's coming just five weeks into Harris' first season as general manager, which seems complicated. But for now, he's viewing that as an opportunity. 

"I hope that as a competitor we can look at the standings and realize that we have a shot to win the division," he said. "I know that our players are coming in determined to prove a lot of people wrong out there, and we're excited to do that, too. I always object to the underlying assumption that certain GMs want to be in a position to make transactions at the deadline. That's certainly not us."

Giants planning for 'unknown' in return to Oracle Park for Summer Camp

Giants planning for 'unknown' in return to Oracle Park for Summer Camp

The 2020 Operations Manual sent to MLB teams is 113 pages long and includes a sample questionnaire players will have to fill out about their symptoms and graphics on how cutoff drills should be handled in an age of social distancing. There are sections on testing protocols, the proper way to store batting practice baseballs, and visas for players coming from foreign countries. 

The manual says teams can have mascots this season, but "under no circumstances are mascots permitted on the field of play." It encourages teams to book the lower floors of hotels on the road, not the suites and rooms with a view, so that players can use the stairs instead of elevators. It asks players to tip clubhouse employees through Venmo so cash is not exchanged.

The manual is extremely thorough and clear in most areas, and yet, as the Giants prepare to gather today at Oracle Park, they do so with the knowledge that the new protocols almost are certainly incomplete and flawed in many areas. 

"I think one of the challenges, not just for us interpreting this stuff but for MLB and the Players Association, is that all of this planning has really been kind of done in abstract," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier this week. "To be honest, I think we're all going to have to be willing and able to adjust on the fly. Once teams and travel parties start moving around the country and going on these trips, we may find certain areas that we really need to tighten up."

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That process already has taken place to an extent. The original safety proposal by MLB in mid-May just was 67 pages and many league employees were shocked to find how much was lacking. There was no guidance in that initial document about what a team should do if a player started showing symptoms of COVID-19 during a flight. There was very little information about road trips, which loom as one of the greatest threats to this season. 

A month later, there are more details. But teams are still finding gaps and attempting to adjust health and safety protocols on the fly. 

"Certainly everything we've thought of and everybody involved has thought of, there's been an attempt to cover," Zaidi said. "I think as much as anything, the biggest concern is the unknown. Hopefully we can make adjustments quickly as we think there are areas of exposure."

Exposure might end up being the most important word in the 2020 pennant race. The Giants are trying to limit it, from testing to workouts to day-to-day life. Players and staffers who reported for antibody testing this week were given specific times to show up and reported in groups of four, and they were spread out even as they waited. The Giants will work out at Oracle Park in three different groups throughout the day, with the staff being given breaks when possible.

Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler have talked of ordering heat lamps that can be positioned in outside areas to encourage players to eat their meals away from the indoor clubhouse as often as possible. In the past players might gather around a TV or iPad to look at the specifics of a drill, but those now could be shown on the $10 million scoreboard. Team meetings used to be held by having dozens of players and coaches pull chairs into the center of the clubhouse. Now, they will gather outdoors or on Zoom. 

More ideas will come from the first few days together. In recent days, the Giants have scrambled to complete previous projects. They have been getting both clubhouses ready, and that massive responsibility largely falls on clubhouse staffers and trainers, many of whom are barely sleeping this week.

Because the Giants broke camp in March and spread out across the country, they had to get more than 60 players and coaches to San Francisco in just a few days, and that brings additional concerns. Many of the team's veterans live in the Phoenix area, where there has been an outbreak of the coronavirus in recent weeks. The second-most popular area for players is South Florida, another region with an outbreak. 

All of these players took part in intake screening this week, getting a blood test for antibodies and a saliva test to see if they currently have the coronavirus. During summer camp and the regular season everyone will have their temperature tested twice per day and will be tested for the virus at least every other day. About once a month, players, coaches and staffers will take another antibody test, regardless of how they've been feeling. 

This will all become part of the daily routine for baseball players in 2020, as normal as throwing a bullpen session or getting treatment on a tight hamstring. What will be new is the level of trust teams are asking for off the field. 

As much as the 2020 season might boil down to simple luck in terms of who gets COVID-19 and who doesn't, the Giants also are planning to harp on the fact that the best teams might be the ones who act most responsibly. A positive test result could keep a player out for three or four weeks, which makes it crucial to stay at home as much as possible, wear masks, practice good hygiene, and avoid people who are not going through the same daily routine. That message already has been passed along to players. 

During the season, players and coaches will be asked to forego what has become their norm. Don't go out to get a drink after a game when the Giants visit the Astros this season. Don't go for a group meal in the Gaslamp District after a game in San Diego. Avoid your favorite breakfast spot when the team visits Denver. 

[RELATED: Highest-paid Giant in 2020 won't even play for team]

MLB has not publicly set a fixed threshold of positive tests that would result in play being deemed unsafe, but it's easy to see how a few positives could derail a season. As he prepared to address a team he hasn't seen since March, Kapler noted that all teams are in "uncharted waters" but that the Giants would have clear intentions to "adhere to the protocols Major League Baseball has put in place."

That's all the Giants can do right now. The rest, they hope to figure out as they go. 

"We really don't know what can happen over the course of the next two weeks," Kapler said. "I think COVID has shown us that we need to be prepared for anything."