SAN FRANCISCO -- When he hasn’t been binge-watching “Squid Game” on Netflix, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has been tuning in to watch the Dodgers face the Braves in the National League Championship Series, though he admits it’s been a weird viewing experience for him thus far.
“It feels like I imagine what an actor feels like if they get beat out for a part, and then they go to the movies and they watch someone else on the screen,” Zaidi said. “That’s kind of what it feels like for us. You’re watching that game and you sort of feel like, ‘That should have been us.’”
In Zaidi’s preferred script, the Giants would have commanded center stage for the rest of October, but they’re no longer in the spotlight after falling to the Dodgers, 2-1, in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.
Still, Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler aren’t spending too much time dwelling on the heartbreaking end to their magical 107-win season. They’re already looking ahead to 2022, when they’ll attempt to sustain their success and assert themselves as perennial contenders in the NL West.
“There was such a feeling of rebirth this season,” Zaidi said. “In terms of the city, in terms of the organization, in terms of having fans back. That was a really cool feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the ability to come to the ballpark, watch a game, see fans in the stands, see fans get excited like we did this year. I hope that carries over next year.”
Here are five takeaways from Zaidi’s and Kapler’s end-of-season press conference at Oracle Park on Monday:
1. The Giants want Buster Posey back next year, but the ball is in his court
One of the first big decisions the Giants will have to make will be whether to pick up Posey’s $22 million club option for 2022, which must be exercised within five days of the final World Series game. Zaidi sounded open to it, though it’s possible the two sides could rework the deal and tack on one or two extra years, similar to the two-year, $32 million extension awarded to shortstop Brandon Crawford earlier this year.
“I thought he was the best catcher in baseball this year,” Zaidi said of Posey. “Obviously, we want to have conversations with Buster and continue to have internal conversations about that, but having him on this team next year is a high priority.”
There is some uncertainty surrounding Posey’s desire to keep playing, though, as he repeatedly said he planned to sit down with his wife, Kristen, after the season to discuss his future.
“I’m definitely just going to take some time with my wife, talk with her and be able to be a full-time dad of four kids for the first time in a while,” Posey said Thursday. “I’m just going to take it slow and see how things progress.”
While Posey remains a bit of an unknown, the Giants are in good shape in terms of their catching depth, as the club’s No. 2 prospect, Joey Bart, is close to big league ready after spending the bulk of the 2021 season at Triple-A Sacramento, and backup Curt Casali still has one year of team control remaining.
2. There is interest in retaining Brandon Belt as well
Belt, another one of the club’s core veterans, will be eligible for free agency for the first time this offseason, but Zaidi said the Giants are also interested in keeping him around. Zaidi indicated San Francisco is considering extending a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer to Belt, who crushed a career-high 29 home runs before suffering a season-ending left thumb fracture on Sept. 26.
The Giants have a few internal options who could help cover first base if Belt were to sign elsewhere, including Darin Ruf, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores, but it’d be hard to replace Belt’s middle-of-the-order production and Gold Glove-caliber defense.
“You could talk about his value, both in how he played down the stretch and how much we missed him once he went down,” Zaidi said. “He’s happy here. I think he feels really appreciated, and we appreciate him. He’s been one of the best hitters in baseball over the last couple of years. He’s a big part of this team, and we’ll certainly hope that those are productive dialogues.”
3. Rebuilding the starting rotation will be the ‘No. 1 priority’
The Giants’ most glaring holes are in the rotation, as budding ace Logan Webb is the only starter who is currently under team control for next year. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood will be eligible for free agency, and Johnny Cueto is expected to join them since the Giants are likely to pay him a $5 million buyout rather than pick up his $22 million club option for 2022.
Zaidi said he plans to continue having conversations with all of them, but he could pursue additions via trade and other avenues as well.
“We have a number of free agents in the rotation, and we have interest in retaining all of those guys, but this is probably the segment of the free-agent market that’s hardest to predict or pin down, because it’s a need that every team has and it’s a need that every team tries to address pretty aggressively,” Zaidi said. “It’s kind of obvious looking at where our roster is going to be on paper, but that’s going to be the No. 1 priority for us.”
4. What about Kris Bryant?
Bryant, 29, looked like the perfect fit for the Giants when they acquired him at the Trade Deadline, but it remains to be seen if the four-time All-Star and 2016 NL MVP will be more than just a rental. The Giants value Bryant’s versatility and his star-level production, but they might not have much of an appetite for a bidding war, particularly since they might feel more comfortable using their resources to retain some of their other pending free agents this offseason.
“For us, the move at the Deadline was really about pushing chips in with this team,” Zaidi said. “But we recognize that he’s a superstar talent and it’s going to be a really competitive market for his services. I’m sure we’ll have conversations there, but he’s going to have a long line of suitors, so we’ll just have to see how that develops.”
5. Coaching staff changes
The Giants will have at least one spot to fill on their coaching staff following the retirement of third-base coach Ron Wotus, though Kapler suggested the vacancy could be filled internally. There’s a chance some members of the club’s highly regarded staff could be poached by other teams this winter, though, particularly given the level of success the Giants enjoyed this year.
“Teams are always going to call and ask about really high-quality coaches,” Kapler said. “It’s kind of been that way as long as I’ve been around the game. We would expect that that would happen with us as well.”