Will Smith

Giants' Farhan Zaidi reflects on difficult decision at trade deadline

Giants' Farhan Zaidi reflects on difficult decision at trade deadline

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants used 64 players at the big league level, DFA'd plenty from the Opening Day roster and said goodbye to longtime second baseman Joe Panik late in the year. This was a season of transition, and there were dozens upon dozens of decisions to analyze. 

But as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi looks back, there's one that stands out from his first year. Asked about regrets earlier this week, Zaidi took a long pause and noted that he's constantly auditing every decision. 

"The thing that I spend a lot of time thinking about is just going back to July 31 and the way the trade deadline unfolded," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "I feel like I alternate nights losing sleep about not potentially buying at the deadline and trying to improve our chances this year, or selling more at the deadline and setting ourselves up better for 2020 and going forward."

The Giants ultimately played it somewhat down the middle. A stunning July run put them back over .500 and in a crowded wild-card pack, so Zaidi held Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith -- two of the bigger pieces on the market -- to give retiring manager Bruce Bochy a chance down the stretch. At the same time, he shockingly got the Atlanta Braves to take on Mark Melancon's salary and turned a couple of solid Drew Pomeranz performances into Mauricio Dubon. Sam Dyson was also dealt for prospects.  

Looking back on that decision-making, Zaidi noted that the Giants couldn't count on beating out all the other teams in the NL Wild Card chase at the time. But this season wasn't about getting a high draft pick and loading up on prospects at any cost. Team officials repeatedly said that they wanted to compete as long as possible. 

"I do think there are two separate goals between actually making the playoffs and being involved in the playoff chase," Zaidi said during a season-ending press conference. "If we had been basically in the wild-card race until the last weekend of the season and things hadn't gone well, I still would have felt like we achieved a lot of our goals of playing meaningful baseball as deep into the season as possible.

"I feel like we made some trades that are going to set us up better for 2020 and beyond, but we also kept a lot of the ingredients that had gotten our team to the point of being in contention in place."

[RELATED: Bart, Ramos could start 2020 season in Triple-A]

The fear within the organization was that the July bubble would burst, and that did happen. But the Giants were still at .500 on Aug. 26 and hanging around in the race after sweeping a weekend series with the A's. 

"On August 26, I was really happy we still had Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith on our team and felt like those guys gave us a chance," Zaidi said. "It didn't turn out the way we wanted and we didn't have the September we wanted, but I think we owed it to our fans and to Boch and to the players to keep those guys and give us a shot to continue what we had accomplished in July leading up to the deadline."

How Farhan Zaidi views Madison Bumgarner, Giants in MLB free agency

How Farhan Zaidi views Madison Bumgarner, Giants in MLB free agency

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi spent 32 minutes Tuesday talking about his first season as the Giants' president of baseball operations and his plans for his first full offseason. Many of the questions focused on three topics: The ballpark, the search for a new manager, and the need to hire a general manager. 

All three of those issues might be resolved before the Giants get to the one that may be most important to the fan base: What's going to happen with Madison Bumgarner?

Zaidi expects another long offseason for marquee free agents, and that could include Bumgarner, who is a month from hitting the open market for the first time. The left-hander is excited about seeing what's out there, but if you're waiting for the Giants to publicly court him, you'll be waiting a long time. 

Zaidi, as a rule, does not talk about his interest in free agents. Asked about his own players Tuesday, he gave a general answer. 

"We have a certain level of interest in bringing all those guys back," Zaidi said. "We anticipate those guys will want to see what's out there in free agency. Some of them publicly commented on it, which is their right, and it's exactly what we'd expect them to do."

In addition to Bumgarner, closer Will Smith and catcher Stephen Vogt are scheduled to be free agents. Left-handed reliever Tony Watson can opt out of the third year of his deal, although he's believed to be strongly considering a return. With incentives, he could make $7 million next season. 

Bumgarner and Smith will be due much more than that, though both could be hampered by qualifying offers. It is a lock that one will be placed on Bumgarner, and the Giants are strongly considering giving one to Smith. They would either recoup a draft pick or get an All-Star closer on a one-year deal worth a bit more than $18 million. 

"I will say kind of at the outset of free agency, we have interest in at least having discussions about those guys coming back," Zaidi said of his free agents. 

Asked about Bumgarner, Zaidi noted the "tremendous track record" and the reliability that "every team in baseball could use." It's unclear what the market will look like, but the 30-year-old Bumgarner has always been confident that it will be there and be healthy. At the very least, the Atlanta Braves, the closest franchise to Bumgarner's North Carolina home, figure to give the Giants a run for their money.

[RELATED: What main trait Zaidi is looking for in next Giants manager] 

With Bumgarner a free agent, the Giants will enter the offseason with Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto atop their rotation and Logan Webb, Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson and Dereck Rodriguez (who will play Winter Ball) filling things out. No matter what happens with Bumgarner, it's clear some veteran help will be brought in. 

"It's going to be a necessity for us and it's a priority for us to continue developing our young pitchers," Zaidi said. "But certainly, having veteran pitchers around them is valuable from a competitiveness standpoint and also valuable from a developmental standpoint."

Dodgers relish Giants ace Madison Bumgarner's at-bat off Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers relish Giants ace Madison Bumgarner's at-bat off Clayton Kershaw

The day belonged to Bruce Bochy. The Giants manager's 162-game farewell tour finally came to an end Sunday, but in the middle of it all, another Giants goodbye might have taken place in a 9-0 loss to the Dodgers.

Madison Bumgarner walked up the steps of the Giants dugout at Oracle Park on Sunday for the perhaps one last time. Fittingly, the longtime staff ace was here to prove once again that pitchers can rake. 

With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Bumgarner put on his one batting glove and strapped both an elbow and leg guard on. He was here to face Clayton Kershaw, a rival who has become a friend over the years while the two have become the top left-handed pitchers in the NL West. 

“I actually made a joke about it before the game," Kershaw said. "I was like, ‘He’s probably gonna pinch-hit against me,’ and yeah, it happened.” 

Bumgarner pinch-hit for shortstop Brandon Crawford. Kershaw threw him seven straight fastballs until the Giants star pitcher lined out on a 3-2 count to third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

As he walked off the mound, Kershaw pointed to Bumgarner and tipped his cap to Bochy. 

Plenty of credit should go to Dodgers rookie catcher Will Smith. From the moment Smith saw Bumgarner walk towards the plate, he made sure to go to the mound and give Giants fans as much time as they wanted to give MadBum a standing ovation. 

Giants fans stood on their feet, relishing every moment of MadBum tipping his cap with Smith and Kershaw standing on the mound. 

“Clayton called me out to make sure he got a little time for a standing ovation," Smith said. "That’s the kind of respect they have for each other. It’s pretty cool to be a part of it.” 

Even though this was the first time the 24-year-old Smith found himself in the middle of a Bumgarner-Kershaw battle, he certainly knew what it means to the rivalry and all of baseball.

“There’s a lot of history between those two," Smith said. "Two dominant lefties in the game. It’s just cool to see them face off.”

And while the day belonged to the man who's hanging up his spikes as the Giants' manager, the man leading his team in the opposing dugout played a big role. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts played two seasons under Bochy as a Giant in 2007 and '08. Roberts managed against Bochy the last four seasons, but more than anything, two great baseball minds became friends after many years on the field. 

Roberts says he didn't know Bumgarner would find his way into the game, though the Dodgers skipper admits he's happy Bochy told his ace to grab a bat.

"I think the timing was perfect to get Bum an at-bat," Roberts said. "Moments in sports … that was a good moment.”

[RELATED: Bonds throws Roberts' Dodgers hat during Bochy ceremony]

Giants fans honored Bochy all day, and deservedly so. After 10 years together, though, Bumgarner might have had his final moment in a Giants jersey the same day Bochy did. 

Maybe that's how it should be, too.