Brian Sabean, the long-time top baseball operations executive for the Giants, tells Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic (subscription link) that he “will be more involved” at the major-league level during the coming season. There’s no substitute for reading the piece in its entirety, but we’ll cover some of the broad strokes of the story here as well.
Sabean, the organization’s president of baseball operations, had largely turned over regular management of MLB affairs to GM Bobby Evans when both received new titles at the start of the 2015 campaign. While that first campaign ended with a title, the ensuing years — and, in particular, the past season and a half — have fallen well shy of expectations.
According to the report, the new direction was established by the upper echelons of the organization’s leadership. In his comments to Baggarly, Sabean largely seems to confirm what had become apparent to an extent with his increasingly visible role over the offseason: the architect of the Giants’ three World Series rosters is back in the control room. That said, Evans is going to continue in his GM role while “retain[ing] wide authority,” as Baggarly puts it.
Notably, Sabean emphasized collective decisionmaking in his comments. And he seemed to suggest that he’ll be focused in large part on working with manager Bruce Bochy and reestablishing a winning culture that seemed to wane in 2017. Just how things will work out in practicality remains to be seen, but Sabean says he anticipates a smooth transition and certainly has plenty of experience working regularly with this familiar leadership group.
Still, he also left little doubt as to his marching orders:
“I’ll pay respect to how [Evans has] operated the last three years, but my experience has been called upon and ownership and [CEO Larry Baer] want this as an initiative starting with me and we’re going to carry it out as best we can on an everyday basis.”
It will be difficult, no doubt, to suss out the practical impact of the Giants’ tinkering. Still, there’s no denying that the organization has sought a variety of avenues this winter to turn things around after losing 98 games in 2017.
True, the major names remain the same at all levels. Along with Sabean’s move back downstairs, though, the coaching staff underwent a broad overhaul. And the MLB roster now features two notable, highly-respected veterans in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria who will surely be expected not only to contribute on the field but also to bring some gravitas to the clubhouse.
As he has previously, Sabean expressed satisfaction with the moves the club was able to make while still staying shy of the luxury tax line. Thus far, the organization has also steered clear of denting its ability to put together a compelling draft class this summer, when it holds second overall position as a consolation prize for the dreadful 2017 season.
Whether the team’s bets from this winter work out remain to be seen, of course. McCutchen and Longoria have shown signs of being past their primes. Giving up young talent such as Christian Arroyo could sting. There are benefits to staying beneath the luxury line and maximizing the draft resources, but prioritizing those factors surely also carries the risk of not doing quite enough — particularly with strong competition in the rest of the NL West.
It does seem clear that the team has positioned itself to win if things break right and has done so without fully mortgaging the future. But tough questions could still arise with a tepid start (is a sell-off warranted?) or a solid one (should the team add and go over the luxury tax line?). No matter how it unfolds, Sabean will again have a primary role in the everyday process.