With it becoming increasingly apparent that the Giants won’t be mounting a late run at the postseason, the team’s top organizational figures have spent some time giving their impressions of the current season and the future outlook. CEO Larry Baer chatted with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic (audio/subscription link), while president of baseball operations Brian Sabean spoke with John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Both men made clear that they don’t see the ballclub as being in the midst of a massive transition. “I don’t characterize it as a rebuild,” said Baer. Sabean, the club’s top baseball decisionmaker, said much the same: “We’re used to winning. We don’t feel we’re in a position, as a result of that, to have, quote, a complete face-lift.”
At the same time, there was certainly an acknowledgement that change will be needed. Sabean noted that the front office will “have to probably be ready to make some tough decisions.” And Baer acknowledged that, in applying what he described as Sabean’s “win and develop” approach to staying competitive while building for the future, it may be necessary to “”lean more toward the development” side of the fence.
If there’s a clear plan, it’s not clear from these interviews just what it is and how it’ll be implemented. When asked whether he expects to acquire a big-money player — which Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle argued today could be pursued even if the club otherwise doesn’t really expect to contend — Baer said it’s just too soon to know. His top baseball ops mean, though, said the club “still want[s] to put the most productive product on the field that we can,” which seems to keep the door open.
Certainly, it’s tough to see how the Giants would manage to embark upon anything like a true rebuilding effort with so many hard-to-move obligations on the books. That wasn’t necessarily the case last winter, when several veterans on long-term deals held greater trade value than they do now.
While the decision to push for a return to contention in 2018 hasn’t resulted in a postseason trajectory, that doesn’t mean the organization regrets it. Sabean says there was value in having “distanced ourselves from how last year went.” Both men suggested that the organization is pleased with having unearthed some young talent, too.
Of course, expectations were that this roster would struggle to keep pace in the division, just as has occurred. Some might have been higher on the Giants heading into 2018 had the team landed Giancarlo Stanton. In Baer’s estimation, the organization failed to convince the slugger to waive his no-trade protection to come to San Francisco mostly because Stanton was already frustrated with “the process” the Marlins undertook to try to deal him. Anyway, Baer says, the near-term payroll space that would have been locked up by Stanton was “re-expressed” in veterans Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Tony Watson — a fact that actually left the club “very content” this spring, Baer says.
Longoria’s contract now looks to be another underperforming asset, further clogging the future balance sheets after the club so diligently stayed below the luxury tax line this year. But those are the risks it takes to acquire or keep established veterans. And the Giants obviously believe in their approach, having seen it result in three recent World Series titles.
It seems that, most broadly, the organization will back off the throttle in some respects — McCutchen could certainly be traded in the coming days, for example — but will otherwise push forward with its tried and true methods of roster building. Certainly, there’s every indication that Sabean and skipper Bruce Bochy will remain in their posts, with Baer telling Kawakami that the pair has an unmatched pedigree and expressing confidence in them with one more season left on their most recent extensions.