SAN FRANCISCO -- After taking over as the Giants’ president of baseball operations in November 2018, Farhan Zaidi has largely refrained from carrying out substantial change within the organization.
He wanted to remain respectful of Bruce Bochy’s final season as manager and give his inherited core of veterans a chance to play meaningful baseball as deep into the 2019 campaign as possible. He focused on improving the roster on the fringes, efforts that yielded Major League contributors Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Trevor Gott and Donovan Solano as well as leading to improved depth throughout the system.
When a July surge briefly thrust the Giants back into contention, Zaidi held onto Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith at the Trade Deadline, but he still dealt from his surplus of relievers, most notably flipping Drew Pomeranz to the Brewers in exchange for infield prospect Mauricio Dubón. The Giants couldn’t sustain their momentum and ultimately finished 77-85 to secure their third consecutive losing season, but there were reasons for optimism, such as the emergence of young players like Tyler Beede, Logan Webb and Dubón, as well as the overall growth of the farm system.
The roster turnover figures to continue in Zaidi’s second year atop the baseball operations department, especially since he’ll be operating with more latitude now that Bochy has sailed into retirement. He bolstered his front-office bandwidth by hiring Scott Harris away from the Cubs and installing him as his new general manager. He put his reputation on the line by selecting Gabe Kapler to succeed Bochy. And he hasn’t been afraid to make unpopular moves, such as non-tendering Kevin Pillar and allowing Bumgarner to depart as a free agent.
With his new brain trust in place, Zaidi now has free rein to oversee the Giants’ rebuild -- even if he won’t directly call it that.
“I just think it's a very loaded term,” Zaidi said at the Winter Meetings in December. “I feel like that label has negative connotations that I don't think are reflective of what we're trying to accomplish.”
What are the Giants trying to accomplish? The short answer is building the organization back into a sustainable winner, a process that will require patience from a fan base accustomed to seeing a competitive product on the field on a yearly basis.
It would be unrealistic to expect the Giants to seriously contend in 2020, but the season could offer plenty of glimpses into a promising future. Player development will be a major theme as Kapler and his new coaching staff attempt to unlock untapped potential in veterans and youngsters alike.
If players like Jaylin Davis, Beede, Dubón and Webb continue to take steps forward, and top prospects like Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Sean Hjelle burst onto the scene at some point this summer, the foundation of the next great Giants teams could begin to come into view.