Zaidi sees Giants' 2020 as 'sign of progress' 

October 1st, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants’ 2020 season ended on a bitter note, with the club dropping three consecutive games to the Padres to seal its elimination from the expanded playoff field on the final day of the 60-game regular season.

One more win would have secured the Giants’ first playoff berth since 2016 and a first-round matchup with the rival Dodgers in Los Angeles, but they instead finished 29-31, with a tiebreaker advantage going to the Brewers. Despite the sting of a fourth consecutive losing season, the results still marked a step forward for the organization in its second year under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

“We're really proud of the fact that we played wire-to-wire meaningful games this year,” Zaidi said Wednesday during an end-of-season Zoom call with reporters. “In some ways, that pain and disappointment that we feel is a good thing. It's a sign of progress because we were right at the brink. That's how we want to feel. We want to create a sense of expectation that we're going to be competitive, we're going to be a team that’s in the playoffs. I think that feeling that we have is a great motivation for us going forward.”

While they ultimately fell short of their goal to make the postseason, Zaidi said the Giants’ ability to exceed expectations in Gabe Kapler’s first season as manager, coupled with breakthroughs from players like Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt and Austin Slater, still amounted to a successful season for San Francisco.

Since joining the Giants’ front office in November 2018, Zaidi has stated that his objective is to play meaningful baseball as deep into the season as possible, but the gains of this past year emboldened him to set a more ambitious target for '21.

“It’s certainly going to be a goal of ours to be a playoff team next year,” Zaidi said.

Here’s a look at the holes the Giants will need to plug to get there, as well as other topics covered by Zaidi on Wednesday:

Needs for the offseason
Pitching depth will be a priority for the Giants this offseason, as Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, Jeff Samardzija, Trevor Cahill and Tony Watson will be free agents. The rotation is a bigger concern, though Gausman and Smyly, who emerged as the club’s best starters this year, have both expressed interest in returning. Zaidi said the Giants are open to a potential reunion with the veterans this offseason.

“I think it's fair to say we're going to be shopping for some starting pitching this offseason,” Zaidi said. “Having guys who were excited to be here and have an interest in coming back, you would imagine that'd be at the top of our list.”

Johnny Cueto, Logan Webb and Tyler Anderson are the only current rotation holdovers, but the Giants are expecting to get Tyler Beede back from Tommy John surgery next year and could also receive contributions from pitching prospects Sean Hjelle and Seth Corry in 2021.

The Giants’ bullpen endured a rough start to the season, but the group coalesced over the final month behind key cogs like Watson, Tyler Rogers, Caleb Baragar, Sam Selman, Jarlín García and Wandy Peralta. San Francisco will have promising pieces to build around, though Zaidi said he would like to bring in another veteran reliever like Watson to help lead the unit next year.

Another item on Zaidi’s shopping list will be a left-handed bat to help give the offense more punch against righties. The Giants hoped Pablo Sandoval would fill that role in 2020, but he struggled to find his rhythm at the plate and was released. His replacement, Justin Smoak, logged only six at-bats before he was let go as well.

“There are certainly times when we faced a tough righty that it felt like we're maybe one left-handed bat short,” Zaidi said. “So I think on the offensive side, that's going to be something that we look at.”

Behind the plate
The Giants seem to be heading into 2021 with a talented catching tandem following the arrival of top prospect Joey Bart and the expected return of Buster Posey, but Zaidi said he will consider adding another backstop to potentially allow Bart to get more seasoning in the Minors next year. Bart, 23, struck out 41 times and drew only three walks while slashing .233/.288/.320 over 33 games as a rookie.

“There's some development left there,” Zaidi said. “We're going to have Aramis Garcia coming back [from hip surgery]. We’ve still got [Tyler] Heineman and [Chadwick] Tromp in our catching depth chart. I wouldn't even rule out going outside the organization and getting some help to enable Joey to get a little bit more of that development. We're super high on him going forward. I think we saw a lot of why he was the second overall pick in the Draft a couple years ago. But again, everything we do is going to be about setting him up for success in the long term.”