This morning, Farhan Zaidi gave a season-ending press conference (you can watch it on the team’s YouTube channel). Usually, these events feature a panel of team representatives — the team president, the general manager, and maybe even the manager — but because of the open positions, it was just Zaidi against the press.
The question I was most interested in came towards the end: Do you feel good about the team’s progress over the course of the year? His answer: “. . . would say we feel good about our progress over the last year.”
That wasn’t quite the answer I was hoping for, but his expansion proved to be interesting and, when applied retroactively to the beginning of the Q&A, explanatory. He followed up “we feel good” with the notion that 2019 involved “juggling objectives”, mainly, keeping the team competitive, saying goodbye to Bochy, and surrounding the veterans with younger talent.
“Regenerate talent” was the phrase he used and when you consider that the Giants finished 77-85 and were clearly outclassed by the Dodgers, that figures to be the theme going into 2020, too. But the Giants don’t plan to jump the free agent mark as Brian Sabean used to do. They’re going to slow play it and see what develops over the course of the offseason.
That doesn’t mean the team is out on Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. Zaidi said the team has interest in bringing back all of their free agents, but followed that with recognition that those free agents might prefer to explore free agency. He was firm in saying the team had interest — which I presumed to mean “varying levels of” — in all of them, which means Pablo Sandoval would be on their radar along with Bumgarner, Smith, Stephen Vogt, and (likely) Tony Watson.
He said Madison Bumgarner did “a really nice job for us this year” before pivoting into a talk about how the team will be relying on the younger arms — Beede, Webb, and Dereck Rodriguez — to continue their development and pick up some of the slack which, combined with Bumgarner’s late scratch and helmet doffing really does paint a picture of a departure versus a return for the Giants once and former ace.
But you’re here about the other stuff: the new field dimensions and the manager search. Zaidi said we’d be hearing about ballpark changes soon, adding that the current plan(s) under review aren’t design to radically reinvent Oracle.
The Giants always level the bullpen mounds after the season, but the process will be permanent this time. Groundskeepers are removing the hard clay and steel plates below the mounds as well. Bullpens will be in CF/RCF next year, and the dimensions will change as a result. pic.twitter.com/88eW2AtdVm— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) October 1, 2019
They intend to be “conservative on any potential changes”, preferring to keep it more neutral to slightly pitcher friendly, while at the same time making it a bit easier for hitters.
Along that line, he mentioned that the team would be looking to add power to the lineup along with hitters who have profiles or “track records” of hitting in this park. That suggests an interesting list of names, which I’ll explore in a separate article. Zaidi didn’t shy away from the notion of making trades from the farm system to add pitching or hitting, which doesn’t contradict the idea of slow playing the offseason, but instead pointed a bit towards my creeping suspicion that there will be massive changes throughout the organization.
That doesn’t start with the next manager, although that hire and the hire of a new GM, will be of a kind with the other roster moves on the horizon. Zaidi wants a manager whose number one quality is “relationship-building”, primarily with players but also with the front office. He wants a manager who will get along with the GM and vice versa.
Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus will be interviewing for Bruce Bochy’s old job this week, two of the 8-10 candidates total the Giants plan to interview. I’ve conducted extensive searches before and it’s always tough for the first couple of prospects to leave lasting impressions. It’s not impossible, of course, but by virtue of being the first guys in they serve more as test subjects for the interviewers and process itself than as actual candidates.
The main guys the Giants want are probably not available at the moment, either, so it’s easy to feel as though these are courtesy interviews. At the same time, unless this was a condition of his hiring last November, Farhan Zaidi doesn’t strike me as an exec who suffers fools and if he was genuinely out on either guy then I don’t think he’d interview them just to do it.
The Giants won’t hire either guy as their next manager just to make Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt happy — in fact, the next manager should be someone who has their eye on the future. Either man could make a strong enough impression to advance, but that might actually make it difficult to remake the organization with a different vision.
The other part of the managerial search is that the team is both comfortable hiring someone who has never done it before (Zaidi name-dropped Dave Roberts more than once) and someone with experience. Bob Geren jumped to mind given the way Zaidi expounded on the idea: “guys who better and have more traction the second time around because of all the lessons they’ve learned.”
Of course, Bruce Bochy was the Giants’ second team, but he was never fired. Geren was fired in 2011 and hasn’t been a manager since, but has been Dave Roberts’ bench coach from the very beginning. It’s hard not to read into the situation, given all the obvious links.
The multiple vacancies will present a challenge in their managerial search, and Zaidi confessed they were doubly inconvenienced by not having a GM, either. Two very difficult searches, but two the team seems determined to get right since 2020 will be another losing season where they’re just trying to right the ship.