SAN FRANCISCO -- Everything that Farhan Zaidi does or doesn't do on behalf of the Giants at next week's Winter Meetings, which being Monday, will receive extra scrutiny.
After all, everybody who cares about the ballclub wants to know how a "great baseball mind" operates. Those were the words team president Larry Baer used to describe the person who would become the Giants' president of baseball operations, the role that Zaidi received last month.
In fairness to Zaidi, the building blocks for greatness don't appear to be at his disposal. He inherited a punchless Major League club that finished 73-89 in 2018, a Minor League system that possesses scant talent and a payroll that's saddled with eight players -- Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Mark Melancon and Madison Bumgarner -- slated to earn nearly $135 million combined next season.
Since "rebuilding" is a word that isn't part of the Giants' vocabulary, it's up to Zaidi to assemble as competitive a team as possible. Ironically, that might mean trading one of the finest competitors ever: Bumgarner, the postseason hero and four-time All-Star who is probably the only player Zaidi can offer in a potential deal who would bring back a package of skilled players to deepen the Giants' roster.
So far, Zaidi's most significant moves involved declining to tender contracts to right-hander Hunter Strickland and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. That in itself signaled a change in direction, since one or both players might have been tendered a contract under previous regimes.
The Giants don't have a single proven outfielder on their roster, so that's a good place to start. Having led the Majors with 30 blown saves in 2018, they could use relief help. And they'll also need a starter or two if they trade Bumgarner and aren't able to re-sign free agent Derek Holland.
Whom might they trade?
Bumgarner, for one. Given Bumgarner's immense popularity among the fan base, including him in a deal will prompt more debate than any Giants trade since Orlando Cepeda for Ray Sadecki in 1966. Avoiding salary arbitration with second baseman Joe Panik and right-hander Sam Dyson establishes their contractual value and makes them easier to trade.
Prospects to know
Catcher Joey Bart, outfielder Heliot Ramos, right-hander Melvin Adon, outfielder Chris Shaw, right-hander Shaun Anderson and infielder Marco Luciano represent the Giants' hopes for the future. There's no way any of them will be dealt, with the possible exception of the strikeout-prone Shaw.
Rule 5 Draft
Zaidi is known for his expertise in the Draft room in June, so he might use this as a test run to grab the type of intriguing performer that Rule 5 Drafts often yield. Minor League infielder C.J. Hinojosa is one prospect the Giants could lose in the draft.
Despite the imbalance mentioned above, the Giants have some financial flexibility. They probably can add a second-tier free agent or two, though entering the Bryce Harper sweepstakes is probably far-fetched.