Giant splash of Harper not likely from Zaidi

November 8th, 2018

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Farhan Zaidi has been the Giants' president of baseball operations for all of one day, so it's a little too soon to know if he's ready to spend more than $300 million on .

But a number of clues suggest that he isn't.


• At Wednesday's introductory news conference, Zaidi celebrated the virtue of incremental roster upgrades. He made specific reference to the A's acquisition of before the 2016 season -- when Davis was earning a little more than $500,000 per year.

Since then, Davis has hit 133 home runs -- the most of any Major League player over that span. Thus, Zaidi implied that teams do not need to spend lavishly on free agents in order to land a leading home-run hitter. And that was probably not an accidental reference.

• The Giants already have the fourth largest 2018 payroll of any Major League team, according to Spotrac. If anything, Zaidi is seeking additional maneuverability in salaries and defensive versatility among position players. A signing of Harper would not accomplish either of those objectives.

• Zaidi spent roughly four years as the Dodgers' general manager. During that time, the team's richest free-agent position-player contract belonged to at four years, $64 million.

• Finally, there's this: If Zaidi signs Harper this offseason, the move will define the early years of Zaidi's tenure with the Giants. The way Harper plays would be inextricably linked to the way Zaidi is viewed by an enthusiastic, demanding fan base. That does not sound like the approach favored by Zaidi, an executive known for working strategically and methodically.

Virtually every aspect of Zaidi's baseball background suggests he is predisposed to avoid massive expenditures on star free agents -- especially at the outset of his tenure in a new job. And now that Giants CEO Larry Baer is on record as saying Zaidi has autonomy to implement his own vision -- free from any ownership edict to make a splashy acquisition for 2019 -- we should expect Zaidi to operate as he has before.

At this time last year, the Giants were desperate to win in the short term. (Trades for and resulted.) Now the Giants are intent on winning sustainably in the long term. That is a fundamental shift -- and one that probably does not involve guaranteeing $300 million (or more) to a single player, weeks after taking the job.

In fact, based on Wednesday's news conference, the Giants are more likely to trade an icon (ace ) than sign one (Harper). Bumgarner has only one season left before free agency, and he could appeal to GMs who are reluctant to meet the market price for , the top free-agent starting pitcher.

Harper's agent Scott Boras is said to be very pleased with the initial industry interest in his client, who enviably has a reported $300 million contract offer from the Nationals as a fallback option. Harper is about to become extraordinarily wealthy, but probably not in San Francisco.