I walked past a Giants team store the other day while doing some last-minute shopping and wasn't all that surprised when I looked inside. There was nobody there.
It would be hard to find many Giants fans right now who are excited about gifting someone a jersey or game-used bat after the year the organization just had. It probably doesn't help that there's a rack of No. 40 shirseys prominently displayed near the front door. It's been a rough year in just about every respect, but it'll soon be 2020, and a new year brings some new hope. At the very least, it gets you a bit closer to 2021, which is a more realistic goal for any fans hoping to see a competitive product.
To put a bow on 2019, I asked my Instagram followers for their questions about the team, the offseason and the future. Thanks to everyone who reached out. There were so many good ones that I'm splitting this mailbag into two parts, with Friday's version focusing on prospects and minor leaguers. Here's a run through some of the better ones about this offseason and the state of the franchise ...
I'm confused, they haven't done anything but to dismantle. Anything expected? -- @giantroby
As I wrote after Madison Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks, this is what a rebuild looks like. The Giants will never come out and say it, but they spent most of 2019 taking a step back and focusing on future rosters, and they're doing even more of that next year.
Every decision should be viewed this way: How does this help the Giants in 2021 or 2022? This is why Kevin Pillar, a free agent after next season, is gone in favor of younger outfielders. It's why Kevin Gausman will get the opportunity to turn into a good July trade chip. I do expect the Giants to be active in January, but I don't think those moves will make them all that much better next season.
Do the Giants know how discouraged and worried the fans are? -- @romareb
What's the Giants management reaction to the discontent among their fans? -- @woodiewoodf14
Does the Giants management care the fans didn't want Kapler as the manager? -- @berto613
I grouped these together because a lot of people asked similar questions. Since Gabe Kapler was hired, I've spent a lot of time chatting with people at just about every level of the organization. Ownership. Front office. Coaching staff. Players. Marketing. They are all very, very aware of how discouraged and upset the fan base is, and I can tell you that team executives truly do care.
But they also believe that the best way out of this is to let Farhan Zaidi do whatever he feels is necessary to build a sustainable winner, which includes hiring Kapler. They believe that the fans will return when the team wins, and I actually agree with them there.
I don't think the Giants are putting a great product out there for their fans right now, and I disagree with some of their recent moves (you can rebuild and spend money, for instance). But if they're winning in two years, fans will flood back. Think about how popular guys like Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa still are in this town. It's because they helped the Giants win.
[RELATED: What Kapler has learned during first month with Giants]
Do you predict a free agent signing or a big trade? -- @rltuckjr
The prices haven't really come down -- $80 million for Hyun-Jin Ryu feels particularly aggressive -- so it's hard to predict a big signing. But I do think the Giants will swing a noteworthy trade in January. There are too many big-market teams out there with a stated desire to cut payroll -- the Cubs and Red Sox are at the top of the list -- and the Giants have made it clear they're willing to take on your bad contracts if you sweeten the pot enough.
Will the Giants sign Castellanos? -- @haileyllanez
Nicholas Castellanos is one of the few impact players still out there this late, and it's clear there's mutual interest. He's only 27, so he would certainly fill a need and also the timetable for this franchise. Bryce Harper's age was a big part of the appeal earlier this year.
But ... I still don't get the sense the Giants are ready to give someone a massive four- or five-year deal, and Castellanos reportedly still has some big-market teams chasing him. I think the Giants like the player, but sources say their status as the frontrunner is overblown. I wouldn't bet money on them signing any big free agent this offseason.
What will the payroll look like going into 2022? -- @stayathomebuzz
This is the most fascinating question for me going forward.
The Giants are currently around $150 million in CBT payroll, which is nearly $50 million less than what we grew accustomed to for most of the decade. They're cutting back because there are so many bad contracts on the books, but by 2022, Evan Longoria will be the only veteran under contract.
Will they spend more as the Samardzijas, Cuetos, Brandons, etc. come off the books? That, I think, is the biggest question to be answered. It's worth noting that the Dodgers only have $16 million committed to their 2022 roster, and Zaidi will aim to have that same flexibility as he builds. But at some point, you also need to overpay to bring in the best players. The Dodgers have been unwilling to take that final leap, so the hope for Giants fans should be that this team takes a slightly different approach.
Who do you see the Giants looking (at) for starting pitching? -- @elizlk
I ran through some of the familiar names after Bumgarner departed. All of the marquee free agents are off the board, but I would expect the Giants to find another veteran or two looking for a soft landing spot (Alex Wood, in particular, makes a lot of sense). Remember, they signed Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz last January. There are similar players still out there. Hell, Holland himself is still out there.
Samardzija and Cueto are still on the roster and should lead the way (although I do think Samardzija could be a decent trade chip right now), but after that you'll see a lot of veterans on one-year deals and younger pitchers like Tyler Beede and Logan Webb.
Will MadBum ever return in some way? (Veteran FA or player development position) -- @daniel_rmills
The days of bringing #ForeverGiants back are over, so you can cross out the first option. Bumgarner would be a fantastic pitching coach or instructor if he wanted that life, but he's much more in the Tim Lincecum mold than the Ryan Vogelsong one. I don't think you'll see Bumgarner that often once he retires.
Are the Giants gonna be worse next year? -- @johan_kia
Late in the season, a pre-mustache Kerry Crowley made a fantastic point as we were discussing the future. The 2019 Giants went 13-3 in extra-inning games and an MLB-best 38-16 in one-run games. Can you really see a young team with an inexperienced bullpen coming even close to matching that next year?
Even if the Giants find ways to improve the roster, they're going to lose a lot more of those coin-flip games. There's variance there year-to-year anyway. So yeah, it may be really tough for them to get back to last year's 77-win mark.
What do you think the starting outfield will be 2020 opening day? -- @kfitz023
The Giants started Connor Joe and Michael Reed on opening day last year, so it's a bad idea to try to predict what the outfield will look like in three months.
Move Buster to 1B, trade Belt? -- @haroldstuart
Ahhh, our first Trade Belt question. Long live the #BeltWars.
I'll just say this, Brandon Belt has a lot of fans in the revamped front office/coaching staff. You would also be selling low right now. I think the newcomers are eager to work with him, and perhaps they can unlock some production that's been missing the last couple of years. The new ballpark dimensions should help, too.
Basically, Belt isn't nearly as obvious a trade candidate as most fans might think.
[RELATED: What it was like covering 2012, 2014 Giants]
What are you most excited about the 2020 MLB season -- @mattynorris
More ballpark food!
In all seriousness, if you understand that the Giants are rebuilding, I think 2020 might actually be really enjoyable sometimes. You'll see Joey Bart's debut and should see Heliot Ramos and Sean Hjelle and other prospects. Beede and Webb have a ton of potential, and I really do want to see what Shaun Anderson can do as a full-time reliever. Maybe Jaylin Davis breaks through? Maybe Steven Duggar stays healthy? Maybe Mauricio Dubon becomes a versatile, energetic fan favorite like Matt Duffy was?
Young players won't win right away, but they bring hope and they can be exciting. If you embrace all of that, you'll have a lot more fun next season.