The Giants did not get Giancarlo Stanton. They didn’t get Shohei Ohtani. They didn’t get Marcell Ozuna, and they probably won’t get J.D. Martinez, Christian Yelich, Domingo Santana, Jackie Bradley, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nuñez, Chem Chalberton, Krispy Waldorf, or Staten Straefe. Most of the front office is either on a plane or home already, and this roster still looks like a 25-part puzzle that fits together in the shape of 98 losses.
And yet there was good news coming out of the Winter Meetings. I promise.
The biggest problem for the Giants right now isn’t their lack of power. No, they won the World Series the last time they hit fewer than 100 home runs in a season. The biggest problem isn’t the bullpen. They have a better foundation than they get credit for and some intriguing arms to work with. The biggest problem isn’t the outfield, even though the outfield was historically terrible last year.
No, the biggest problem right now is the complete and utter lack of help from the farm. It’s why the Giants can’t make an impact trade. It’s why they felt like they had to spend a combined $80 million on outside free agents like Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon, and Denard Span, and it’s why they can’t spend if they want to get under the luxury tax this offseason.
Consider that the Dodgers have a better chance of getting under the luxury tax than the Giants this offseason. The Dodgers. They’re the team that barfed up contracts to every international free agent who would sign one. They once went into spring training with six well-paid starting pitchers because they could. And they’re in better financial shape than the Giants.
This is because the Dodgers took an 18th-overall pick and turned him into one of the best shortstops in baseball. It’s because they took a fourth-round pick and turned him into one of the best power hitters in baseball. The presence, development, and emergence of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger are what allow the Dodgers to get under the luxury tax. That’s the only reason they have a chance to sneak under. Those two players allow the Dodgers to ignore the J.D. Martinezes of the world. J.D.s Martinez. Whatever.
The Giants used to have those players! Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt were brilliantly scouted and developed, and they certainly weren’t wasted. So maybe these things are cyclical. When the Dodgers spend a lot of money to keep their current young stars, maybe they’ll fall into a trap.
I don’t think so, though. They’re probably going to be better than most teams when it comes to a sustainable assembly line of talent, and that includes the Giants.
For now. This brings us to the announcement during the Winter Meetings that the Giants are revamping their player development system. While there hasn’t been an official press release, what I can gather from some of the beat writers is this:
- Each level will have four coaches now, not three
- Sports-science specialist Geoff Head will have a new role, emphasizing nutrition and conditioning across all levels
- David Bell, already hired as the farm director, will also be taking Dick Tidrow’s role when it comes to individual assignments and points of emphasis on the developmental path for each prospect
- The entire system will be staffed with new coaches and roving instructors
Will it work? Like heck if I know. But Bell comes from the Cardinals, which is a franchise that’s been doing a whole lot right for a couple decades now. They have better outfielders on their bench right now than the Giants have slotted to start, and their well-rounded depth allowed them to seal an Ozuna deal quickly. That’s the goal, and if it works, the Giants will be able to pair it with a top-five payroll, which is extra dangerous. Look at the Dodgers and Yankees, who are going to be good until 2094.
The only problem with this late — far, far too late — focus on development is that it won’t make an immediate difference when it comes to trades, and the on-field help will take a lot longer than that. It would have been a lot cooler if the Giants were investing in their international efforts for years, but I have a theory that they were too morally pure to get their hands dirty like the Braves in a market that rewards the impure. I have no way to test that theory, but Bobby Evans seems like a super guy, so this all checks out.
Or maybe the owners had no vision and didn’t like spending money on players who weren’t on the major league roster, but, ha ha, who are you going to believe?
The efforts started with the Felipe Alou Baseball Academy last year, and they’re moving along, with the latest move being an organizational sea change led by David Bell, their new farm director.
In conclusion, mentioning David Bell and the Cardinals in the same article makes me think of this:
Which is probably a good omen. Thank you.