Every year since 2009, I’ve spent some time before the season starts trying to find out what fanbases are thinking about their team. It’s so easy to get myopic, especially with Twitter, so it’s a good chance for us (and by us, I mean me) to take a step back and remember there are 29 other Major League Baseball teams. We’ve got current bloggers, former bloggers that indulge me still, and this year a few media folks chiming in as well. Get out the bat, ball, and glove: it’s time once again to play some pepper.
Remember when the even years were magic for the Giants? 2010, 2012, 2014. We thought it would last forever. Then 2016 came around and the Giants finished second in their division and lost in the playoffs. 2018? It definitely didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Now we’re rolling into an odd numbered year and, even though San Francisco made a play for a big name or two, the outlook isn’t as bright as it could be. We’ve got three Giants bloggers here to fill you in on the orange and black.
|Michael Saltzman||Around the Foghorn||RoundTheFoghorn|
|Richard Dyer||The Giants Cove|
|Craig Vaughn||THE San Francisco Giants Blog||1flapdown77|
C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?
Michael: I think the Giants did exactly what they set out to do, which is to find players who could compete for 25 man roster spots while strengthening their 40 man roster. The last two years, the Giants roster from 26-40 was about as bad as any team in baseball and their lack of depth showed. Farhan Zaidi hasn’t spent money this off-season on players like Bobby Evans did, but he also added immense talent off the field with the additions of pitching analyst Matt Daniels from Driveline Baseball, J.P. Riccardi as a senior advisor, Zack Minasian as the new director of pro scouting and Michael Holmes as director of amateur scouting. Whether the Giants add Bryce Harper remains to be seen (EDIT: Michael obviously got his answers in before Harper signed with the Phillies), but with what Zaidi has to work with, he added talent everywhere he could.
Richard: Giant fans and bloggers are complaining about how slow San Francisco’s off-season has been. But they’re missing a critically important point. This is one of the most historically significant moments the Giants have had since they moved from the Polo Grounds in New York City sixty years ago.
For San Francisco, the 2018-19 off-season is not about the usual hype and clichés around player moves and pre-Spring Training media flimflam. Because on November 11, 2018 the San Francisco Giants finally joined 21st century baseball with the hiring of Dodger General Manager Farhan Zaidi to be the franchise’s new President of Baseball Operations. When former GM and Baseball Ops executive Brian Sabean was relieved of duty to make room for Zaidi, the Giants said goodbye to 1970s old school baseball and hello to modern advanced analytics. I understand Sabean is now assigned to overseeing the water cooler delivery schedule for the front office and scouting the North Dakota Winter League. Sabean’s #1 pupil, former GM Bobby Evans, had previously been fired on September 22, 2018. Evans’ four years of utter ineptitude as GM put the Giants into a spiral of anti-analytic idiocy, while assembling a series of terrible contracts with aging players for a great deal of money.
The tectonic shift moving forward is not just to win a couple of World Series Championships here and there, but to build a championship organization which will contend every year. To get that done, Baseball Ops President Zaidi is faced with a massive toxic clean-up from the destructive results of Sabean and Evans ignoring the farm system, conducting a series of terrible annual first year player drafts, and offering huge contracts and contract extensions to less-than-talented aging players.
For the San Francisco Giants, the 2018-19 off-season is all about turning this damaged franchise around. It’s a huge undertaking that will take years. But the good news is that Farhan Zaidi is one of the few people in baseball today who can get that done.
Craig: The off season unfolded rather predictably. Zaidi, hamstrung with absurd deals and immovable aged vets, signed the scraps that he could find. We were also used by Boras to jack up the price Philly would ultimately pay for Harper.
C70: Madison Bumgarner is a free agent at the end of the season. Will he get traded before the deadline or will the Giants work out an extension (or, I suppose, neither)?
Michael: I expect the Giants to sign Bumgarner to an extension after the 2019 season, but we need to see how the season plays out. Several players had down years last year. Posey, Belt, Panik, Longoria, Crawford, Samardzija and Melancon were all playing hurt or missed time from injuries. Cueto is out until September. If the Giants were to be healthy, a huge if, than the first half could easily be above .500. With the news that it’s Bochy’s last season, the veteran players will want him to go out a winner. All of that could lead to the Giants being competitive in 2019 and ownership will not move Bumgarner if that happens. If the team struggles for a third straight season, I think it’s unlikely Bumgarner pitches for the Giants in August.
Richard: If Zaidi could have gotten a decent return for Madison Bumgarner this off-season, he would already be gone. But when the Giants dangled Bumgarner’s name in trade talks this off-season, his declining performance the past two years meant that potential trade returns were disappointing. Understand that had nothing to do with Bumgarner’s injuries the past several years. Player injuries, which every MLB team deals with every season, had nothing to do with Bumgarner’s decline in velocity, spin rate and negative fly ball/ground ball ratio. The hope is Bumgarner has a semi-solid first half of 2019 so he can be moved for some value at the July non-waiver deadline. Can anyone really imagine the Giants offering Bumgarner even a four-year, $80 million extension this season this year?
Craig: Bumgarner’s value is artificially inflated due to being a post season legend. Pitching for the team, he’s worthless to the Giants who are years away from making the Fall Classic. Therefore, he should be traded immediately to any team still hoodwinked by his past.
C70: The other team icon, Buster Posey, had injuries and possibly the worst season of his career. A blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?
Michael: I expect it to be a blip only because he was severely injured and he is healthy now. His power numbers dropped significantly the last couple of years, which is not uncommon for a catcher, but being healthy could give him the legs he needs to drive the ball again. With a Hall of Fame talent like Posey, I expect him to be elite once again in 2019.
Richard: Buster Posey will be 32 on Opening Day. Like Bumgarner, at this point it would be hard for the Giants to get enough of a significant return for Posey in a trade. Currently, Posey’s main value is being the face of the San Francisco Giants. The team’s low-rated farm system has not produced a replacement “face of the franchise”, and the game’s most talented run-producers (see Harper, Bryce) aren’t anxious to play in spacious Oracle Park.
Few Giants fans know that Posey has only hit twenty or more home runs twice in his ten-year San Francisco career (24 HR in 2012, and 22 HR in 2014). So the idea that he should be moved to first base would only make things worse—his offensive numbers just don’t measure up to the power production expected at first base. Going forward, the biggest value Buster Posey brings to the Giants is to catch as many games as he can over the next several seasons.
Craig: Posey has had his hip repaired over the Winter and that has given me hope that he can now hit the ball to the wall, something he couldn’t do the last few months of his season until he was finally shut down. Occasionally hitting the ball over the wall this year would classify as a major victory. His contract is an albatross. He’ll be kept around to remind fans of what once was…..
C70: What is your general outlook for 2019? Where will they finish in the division?
Michael: I would assume that even if they have a winning record, they could finish third in the West behind the Dodgers and Rockies. That being said, this is a team that could win 90 if everything goes right, 80 if they struggle, and 75 if everything collapses. After the last two seasons, it’s hard to say 90 is likely, but I would put my money around 85 wins in Bochy’s last season.
Richard: As the San Diego Padres amp up their impressively talented group of young players and super prospects, it looks like the Giants will likely finish in last place in the NL West this season. And again in 2020.
Really, the big question is this: which National League team will lose more games in 2019: the Giants or the Miami Marlins?
Craig: Last place. Guaranteed.
C70: What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?
Michael: The biggest question is which veterans will be here in 2020 and the answer is I have no idea. This core won multiple championships together, but after the past two seasons, there is no guarantee they will stay together. Bumgarner, Belt, Panik and others could be traded. Guys like Samardzija, Melancon and Longoria may get moved as salary dumps if the team struggles. Posey and Crawford might decide they don’t want to be a part of a full rebuild and ask to be traded. While that might not seem likely, neither did all of the veterans struggling at the same time.
Richard: It goes way beyond this season. Can the Giants’ fanbase be patient enough for a much-needed long-haul turnaround? Will San Francisco’s anti-analytic sports media continue to wage a guerilla war against Farhan Zaidi because they long for a return to “old school” baseball?
Bottom line– rebooting this damaged franchise will take a significant amount of time. Zaidi’s mission isn’t to accidentally squeak back into contention. His mission is to build a championship organization that will be self-sustaining and not dependent on old school concepts like having “a window”, or “a core” of players.
Craig: After Larry Baer get caught in an altercation with his wife and Cameron Maybin got busted for a DUI I am hoping they can answer the question of how to stop embarrassing the franchise in public. If they can stop doing that I will consider this season a win.
C70: What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?
Michael: Knowing Posey is healthy will be first and foremost. He is a Hall of Fame catcher. There are only 18 in the history of the game. If Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina were to both get in, Posey would still be one of only 21 catchers in baseball history to enter the Hall of Fame. Watching him play on a day to day basis has been an absolute joy ever since he came through the minor league system. It will also be bittersweet to say goodbye all season to Bruce Bochy. Giants fans had to say goodbye to a lot of champions over the years, and said goodbye to Matt Cain and Hunter Pence the last two years. Saying goodbye to Bochy will feel like saying goodbye to a relative. He has become ingrained in the Giants family and knowing in Spring that this is his last season will allow us to cherish his final months as our manager.
Richard: Same as always. Good friends, craft cocktails, expensive California wines, and Chicago-style pizza.
Craig: I’m going to be playing a lot of fantasy baseball this season at DraftKings. That will bring me the most joy and there will be bonus joy in that I can focus on building my fantasy teams and not being solely tied to watching and rooting for my favorite team, the Giants.
Appreciate all the points of view expressed here by the guys. At least flags fly forever, right, and there are three current ones flapping in the San Francisco breeze!