There wasn’t a live stream or radio broadcast of today’s introductory press conference for the Giants’ new general manager, Scott Harris, so here’s just a quick tweet journal of some of the things that were said:
Zaidi: I know there have been conversations how the relationship might work and how we'll divide responsibilities. I really view it as a partnership leading our baseball operations group." #SFGIants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 11, 2019
Harris on whether he sees #SFGiants turning into winner like #cubs did. "One thing I'll say about my experience in Chicago is, it can happen really fast. It certainly did for us going from 2014 to 2015, and I know it did in places where Farhan worked too."— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 11, 2019
..."That's the kind of relationship Farhan had in LA." Harris said good relationship is to "challenge each other" as well. (2/2).— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 11, 2019
In terms of complementing each other, "It was important to get someone with good hair," Zaidi says. #SFGiants— Mark W. Sanchez (@MarkWSanchez) November 11, 2019
Harris: "My candid assessment from last 12 months is Farhan did an excellent job cobbling depth and being opportunistic in difficult situations. He did excellent job trades they made. We were targeting several of the players they acquired, which was impressive to us from afar."— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 11, 2019
Scott Harris said Cubs were targeting some of prospects Giants got at deadline. Said that when crazy deadline was over, he was "struck by the Melancon deal." Giants shocked a lot of people by being able to trade that contract. Harris: "I thought (Farhan) did an excellent job."— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) November 11, 2019
Harris said his dad was a Cubs fan, mom is from SF and was a Giants fan. “They divided the sons. I was raised a Cubs fan and my brother was raised a Giants fan.”— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) November 11, 2019
New #SFGiants GM Scott Harris told pretty neat story of his long friendship w former Giants GM Al Rosen. “Wish he was here today.” Rosen died in 2015.— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) November 11, 2019
I believe the "excited/excitement" count from Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris: 13. #SFGiants— Mark W. Sanchez (@MarkWSanchez) November 11, 2019
Today is also Farhan Zaidi’s birthday —
Happy Birthday to our President of Baseball Operations! pic.twitter.com/Nxh7fbaZAk— SFGiants (@SFGiants) November 11, 2019
— which might explain why nobody asked Scott Harris about his thoughts on the matter of Addison Russell . . . which is unfortunate, and something to keep in mind going forward, especially if Gabe Kapler is still in the running for manager. The Giants would figure to be in a bit of controversy themselves by virtue of adding so many people to the organization who are already involved in other controversies — to say nothing of the current Giants who have been the subjects of their own.
Harris did take questions, however, and flexed some MBA-level non-answering for a difficult question:
Asked the new GM his candid assessment of the #SFGiants roster when he was with the Cubs. Danced out of it like Gregory Hines. Kid wouldn’t go there.— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) November 11, 2019
Harris rose to the level of Assistant GM just as the Ricketts family enacted their austerity measures. The Cubs haven’t done much to keep open their window of competition, but Harris played a part in what little they’ve done over the past two seasons. Last year’s Cubs Media Guide had this to say:
. . . in his current role, he assists President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer with all potential player acquisitions, contract negotiations, and player evaluations . . . Scott also oversees the research and development department, the salary arbitration process, all baseball operations’ financial strategy and planning, and the high performance department.
Let’s deal with the fact that the Giants are now being run by two people who’ve never played pro ball before or even been scouts in the field another time. For now, let’s take a look at some of the moves where Harris’s financial planning would’ve come in handy and see if we can divine some playbook from it for the Giants’ plans going forward over the next couple of years:
Yu Darvish contract (2018)
This is the biggest move the Cubs have made in the past two seasons. In February 2018, the Cubs gave Yu a 6-year, $126 million deal. The deal gave him more money in 2018 ($25 million) than in 2019 ($20 million), which from a financial planning standpoint helped Chicago fit Kris Bryant and Jose Quintana’s option comfortably under the luxury tax threshold and give the team some extra financial flexibility, which they used to sign Craig Kimbrel after the draft.
The deal also included an opt-out after this season (which was declined) setting up the Cubs to pay him $81 million over the next four years, a savings of $3 million versus the AAV.
We can all agree that signing Yu to a massive contract like that might not have been the wisest decision, but in terms of figuring out a way to make it work, and considering that actual dollars spent matters as much to Cubs’ ownership as the AAV figure for the CBT, this seems like an elegant solution to making it work.
Considering that the Giants will be dealing with big contracts for Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samadzija, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria this year and beyond (in all but Samardzija’s case), having a “cap manager” around who can figure out creative solutions to managing large current and future contracts will be imperative. Say the Giants do decide to DFA Brandon Crawford — they will need to get really creative to work around the $30.4 million owed and annual $12.5 million CBT hit in 2020 and 2021.
Cole Hamels trade (2018)
At last year’s deadline, the Cubs got Cole Hamels from the Rangers for pitchers Eddie Butler, Rollie Lacy and a player to be named later. Hamels’ deal had a $20 million option for 2019 or a $6 million buyout. The terms of the trade meant that the Cubs were only paying $5 million owed to Hamels (his remaining 2018 salary plus that option) and the Rangers were on the hook for the rest.
But the Cubs wanted to keep Hamels for 2019 after his great performance for them (2.36 ERA in 76.1 IP after the trade) and needed a way to fit him into their payroll. Drew Smyly was on the payroll and was owed $7 million for 2019, so the Cubs called the Rangers and offered him to them, meaning the Rangers got another lefty pitcher for just a million dollars more than they would’ve paid Cole Hamels in declining his option. Meanwhile, the Cubs would’ve spent $27 million on both players, one of whom was coming back from Tommy John surgery, so they saved $7 million and uncertainty for a better bet.
Derek Holland trade (2019)
To limit the Cubs’ tax hit for going over the competitive balance threshold of $206 million this year, the Cubs agreed to pay Derek Holland’s 2020 buyout in exchange for the Giants paying a chunk of Holland’s 2019 salary ($6.025 million). Since 2020 buyouts count against the 2019 payroll, this was a way of both giving them a player for very little in 2019 and keeping the books clear for 2020.
These aren’t earth-shattering move and on the surface, they’re not much more complicated than what the Giants did to land Evan Longoria from the Rays or add Tony Watson before the start of 2018 or even land Johnny Cueto; but, if we consider where Zaidi is coming from — Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles — and consider the Giants’ situation (lots of bad, seemingly immovable contracts for players who will probably be a net negative for the Giants) and survey the landscape (lots of bad, seemingly immovable contracts for players who could nonetheless still help the Giants in the next couple of years), then Scott Harris’ role seems to snap into focus pretty quickly here.
The Giants just made it a lot easier for themselves to come up with and executive some circuitous, complex, and confusing trade deals this offseason. From a Fantasy Baseball perspective, that’s exciting — the Giants aren’t usually one of the teams involved in these blockbuster deals — but if you’re a fan of the Brandons on the roster, it’s cause for concern.