The Giants entered the 2022 campaign with high hopes after winning 107 games last year, but the team’s efforts to compete for a playoff spot fell short. San Francisco finished with a .500 record and now turns its attention to next season. There’s no question the Giants will attempt to reload and make another push for contention this winter.
San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with the media this afternoon to discuss the team’s goals for the upcoming offseason (links via Evan Webeck of the Bay Area News Group and John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle). Zaidi indicated the club would bolster its starting rotation, which could see the departure of ace Carlos Rodón. The star southpaw signed a two-year guarantee last offseason, but he triggered an opt out provision in the deal by exceeding 110 innings this summer.
There’s no question Rodón will bypass the second season of that contract, as he and his representatives at the Boras Corporation are going to search for a longer-term deal. The 29-year-old avoided the injured list and threw 178 innings of 2.88 ERA ball, striking batters out at an elite 33.4% clip. He’s sure to pick up some Cy Young votes for a second straight season and could top the $110MM – $115MM guarantees secured by the likes of Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman last winter.
Zaidi noted he “fully expects” Rodón to opt out but again suggested there’s mutual interest in keeping him in the Bay Area. “I’m sure we’re going to be talking to Scott Boras about bringing him back. The feedback from Carlos and from Scott is he enjoyed being here, he enjoyed pitching in our park,” the Giants president told reporters. Locking up Rodón this time around would certainly require the largest investment the club has made in a free agent hurler since Zaidi took over. San Francisco hasn’t gone beyond the $44MM guarantee they awarded Rodón last winter for any pitcher during his leadership tenure. Anthony DeSclafani, who signed a three-year, $36MM deal last offseason, is the only pitcher to whom this front office has guaranteed three years.
On the issue of contract length, Zaidi indicated he wouldn’t categorically rule out a long-term investment. He generally indicated the front office expects to have some leeway from ownership regarding payroll. If Rodón doesn’t return, then San Francisco is likely to bring in another rotation piece from the outside. “I would anticipate us being in the market for at least one starter. Maybe it is just one. But at least one.”
That pitcher would join Logan Webb, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb and DeSclafani in the season-opening starting five. Webb had a second consecutive very strong season and looks like a top-end starter. Wood and Cobb each look like above-average starters at their best, and Cobb in particular is coming off a strong first year in SF. Each of Wood and Cobb has had a litany of injuries throughout their careers, however, while DeSclafani was limited to just five appearances in 2022 by an ankle injury that necessitated surgery.
San Francisco got solid fill-in work from right-hander Jakob Junis, who took on a larger than expected role in the wake of DeSclafani’s injury. Over 23 appearances (17 starts), Junis posted a 4.42 ERA with a 20.5% strikeout rate and a tiny 5.2% walk percentage. That earned him a spot on next year’s roster for his final season of arbitration eligibility, but Zaidi said today the club prefers him in a long relief role. While he’d certainly be capable of stepping back into the rotation if needed, he won’t be given that job out of the gate.
One pitcher whom Zaidi suggested could get an early rotation look is top prospect Kyle Harrison. The 21-year-old southpaw pitched to a 2.71 ERA with an incredible 39.8% strikeout rate in 113 frames split between High-A and Double-A. Along the way, he cemented himself as one of the most promising minor league arms in the sport. The former third-rounder did walk a higher than ideal 10.5% of opponents, but he’s shown plenty of promise with regards to missing bats. While Harrison doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until the end of the 2023 campaign, Zaidi name-checked him as a potential rotation option “relatively early in the season.” He’s not likely to break camp with the team but could be an option midseason if he shows well in the upper minors.
On the position player side, the Giants have made clear they plan to get younger and look for more athletic players capable of improving a defense that was MLB’s third-worst at turning balls in play into outs. That’d seem to point towards parting ways with the corner infield tandem of Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria. Belt is an impending free agent, while the Giants hold a $13MM option on Longoria’s services versus a $5MM buyout.
Zaidi kept the window open today to retaining both players. He suggested Longoria, in particular, could benefit from a reduced role that didn’t require playing the vast majority of games at third base. While Zaidi didn’t specifically address the option decision, it’s hard to envision San Francisco bringing Longoria back at that price — particularly after they re-signed Wilmer Flores to a two-year deal last month. Still, it seems the front office is open to the possibility of keeping him around on a lower-cost deal in free agency on the heels of a .244/.315/.451 showing across 89 games.
Amidst what’s likely to be a fair bit of roster turnover, Zaidi also plans to tab a new top lieutenant. Previous general manager Scott Harris departed to take over baseball operations with the Tigers. San Francisco has proceeded without a GM for the past few weeks, but Zaidi said today that finding a replacement for Harris is a priority. He expressed his hope a new GM hire will be finalized by the General Manager’s meetings, which typically take place in mid-November. Zaidi will retain overall control of the roster, but the new GM will be his second-in-command and a pivotal piece of the front office.