Farhan Zaidi’s first season as Giants president of baseball operations is in the books, and he’ll now embark on what could very well be a busier offseason than the one he navigated last year. The Giants will need to hire a replacement for longtime manager Bruce Bochy, conduct a search to add a general manager to work under Zaidi and, of course, address a roster that could lose Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith and several other free agents.
Zaidi met with the media today in a postmortem press conference, divulging that he intends to interview roughly six to eight external candidates as part of the club’s managerial search (Twitter links via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle and Maria Guardado of MLB.com). He also confirmed that both bench coach Hensley Meulens and third base coach Ron Wotus will be interviewed as potential successors to Bochy. Prior managerial experience won’t be a necessity, though Zaidi also implied that it’d be important.
As for the rest of the coaching staff, no determinations will be made until a new skipper is in place. As such, the Giants’ coaches are free to interview elsewhere should other teams come calling. As is the case with during any managerial search, it seems safe to bet that there’ll be a fair bit of turnover in the Giants’ dugout. The search for a GM to work alongside Zaidi in heading up the baseball ops department will be conducted “concurrently” with the search for a new manager, Schulman tweets.
With regard to the on-field product, the Giants stand to lose not only Bumgarner and Smith, but also left-hander Tony Watson, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, catcher Stephen Vogt and lefty Fernando Abad. The organization has interest (presumably to varying extents) in retaining each of its free agents, tweets Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, though Zaidi also anticipates that those players will want to explore the open market. There was no mention of qualifying offers, but Bumgarner stands out as a clear and obvious recipient (and rejector) of an eventual QO. Smith, too, could potentially merit consideration in that regard, given the dominant season he had as the team’s closer. Vogt has previously expressed interest in returning to the Giants, although he and the other impending free agents will surely want to see who is eventually tabbed as Bochy’s successor before making a commitment.
How aggressively Zaidi and his staff will pursue reunions with that group and potential matches with other free agents can’t be known at this point. Zaidi, Schulman tweets, voiced a willingness to deal from the farm system and to look at top-end starters, but he also stressed the importance of developing arms internally.
That’s an understandable point of emphasis not only because it’s a mantra for most clubs in the league but also because the Giants’ young arms didn’t perform well in 2019; each of Tyler Beede, Dereck Rodriguez, Shaun Anderson, Logan Webb, Conner Menez and Andrew Suarez struggled in auditions in the MLB rotation this year. Rodriguez and Suarez looked like potential long-term fits when they had unexpectedly strong seasons in 2018, making this year’s steps backward all the more discouraging.
That group, presumably, will have a chance at factoring into next year’s pitching staff, though it seems clear that some winter additions are in the offing. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are the only returning veterans, which should leave the Giants with ample room to supplement the rotation either via trade or free agency.
Augmenting the lineup will also be a point of focus, per Zaidi, who unsurprisingly indicated that adding power to the lineup will be a priority (Twitter link via Schulman). The Giants’ 167 home runs ranked 26th among 30 MLB clubs in 2019, and their .153 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) was tied with the White Sox for third-worst in all of baseball. Alex Dickerson, acquired in a minor trade with the Padres in June, and Mike Yastrzemski, acquired from the Orioles in a minor Spring Training swap, were the team’s most productive hitters in 2019. Both are already 29 years old without any sort of sustained big league track record.
San Francisco carried a payroll north of $186MM in 2019 but only has $109MM in guaranteed money on the books for next season, which should further allow Zaidi to be creative to the extent he deems appropriate. The Giants’ only arbitration-eligible players are Kevin Pillar, Donovan Solano, Kyle Barraclough and Dickerson, so the payroll shouldn’t rise too much even when factoring in arbitration raises (particularly since that group contains some potential non-tender candidates).
While it seems like there’ll be money to play with, it’s also worth recalling that last week’s comments from Giants CEO Larry Baer didn’t exactly sound like a portent for aggressive offseason spending. In discussing the Giants’ 2010-14 run of dominance, Baer spoke of how the club relied on free agency as a complementary means of bolstering a roster that had largely consisted of homegrown pieces; the same, he noted, was true of Zaidi’s teams in Oakland and in Los Angeles. There’s little reason for the organization to tip its hand right now even if a strong run at Bumgarner or other free agents is on the docket, but there’s been no emphatic declaration to this point, either.
Beyond the innumerable personnel decisions the Giants will consider in the coming months, there’s been plenty of talk about changes to the dimensions of Oracle Park. While no final outcome was announced, Zaidi confirmed today that the organization has “made a lot of progress on designs that would have [the bullpens] move out to the outfield,” tweets Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. Exact alterations aren’t yet determined, but Baer indicated last week that the club isn’t looking to turn Oracle Park into a hitter-friendly setting.