Giants waiting for free-agent dominoes to fall

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Giants spent the first day of the Winter Meetings stuck in wait-and-see mode, as they’re among the handful of teams who are anxiously awaiting a resolution to the sweepstakes.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has refrained from discussing specific free agents, but the Giants are believed to be among the finalists for Ohtani, who is expected to sign a record-shattering deal worth upwards of $500 million this offseason.

The Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Braves and Angels have also been linked to Ohtani, though a decision doesn’t appear imminent, as the two-way star is slated to meet with clubs after the Winter Meetings, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

The Giants have needs at center field, shortstop and in their starting rotation, but the bulk of their offseason dealings will likely remain on hold until Ohtani settles on a landing spot.

“It almost feels like this year there’s more of an awareness of some of the bigger dominoes that may fall,” Zaidi said Monday. “My sense is that there’s more patience for some things to play out. In one sense there’s a little bit more of a traffic jam dynamic. But in the other sense, for teams that are sort of hunting at the top of the market, it’s good because you want to feel like there are a lot of options on the board once things start happening.”

Do the Giants view themselves as one of the teams that is hunting at the top of the market?

“Yeah,” Zaidi said. “I would say that.”

No Giants official has commented publicly on the Ohtani pursuit, though a San Francisco Chronicle photographer took a picture of Zaidi, part-owner Buster Posey and manager Bob Melvin outside Oracle Park on Saturday, fueling speculation that the club met with Ohtani over the weekend.

After missing the playoffs in two straight seasons, the Giants appear intent on adding some impact talent to their roster that can energize their discontented fan base and propel the club back into contention next year.

I think we need to build fan excitement, for sure,” Zaidi said. “I think every organization will tell you the ideal way to get fans excited is to bring up players from your system. But we recognize free agency is a big part of it. It just can’t be an end in itself. It can’t be the only thing we do.

“Having a star and then failing to build a team around that star, that would be a real issue. I think for us, it’s not just about that. We’ve got to think about the roster as a whole and making sure we’re competitive. But there’s definitely an element of that. I think we want to create excitement about the fan base. Hopefully it comes through a combination of being in the free agent market, but also continuing to promote and give opportunities to our younger players.”

Does Zaidi feel any extra pressure to land a big star after missing on Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason?

“Pressure is really not the right word,” Zaidi said. “I feel a professional obligation to put a better product, to put a more exciting product out there. The last couple of years have been frustrating, disappointing for a lot of people, myself included. There’s just a determination to do better.”

While there’s been some chatter that Ohtani might be less inclined to sign with the Giants due to their ballpark, which is unfriendly to left-handed power bats, Zaidi noted that the hitting environment at Oracle Park has evolved in recent years.

“Just by looking at the data, you can see that the park has played fairer over the last few years between closing up the wind tunnel in the archways in right field and putting the bullpens out there, bringing the fences in,” Zaidi said. “I think players recognize that. It’s certainly fairer. But I still think as things stand right now, the ballpark is more of an advantage in signing pitchers than position players.”

If that holds true, the Giants could have an edge in pursuing ace right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, another Japanese star who is drawing widespread interest now that he’s officially been posted by the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball. MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi reported Monday that the Giants are gaining "a lot of momentum" in the battle for the 25-year-old Yamamoto, whose posting window will close at 2 p.m. PT on Jan. 4.

“It seems like we’re building towards some things happening in the next week or two,” Zaidi said. “But it’s hard to say. We sort of do the work we can on the players we’re interested in, but agents and players kind of control the cadence of if and when they’re willing to roll up their sleeves.”