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Community projection: Farhan Zaidi

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MLB: 2019 Spring Training Media Days Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I posit in our season preview that the new President of Baseball Operations — the first in team history — has become the new face of the franchise, making Farhan Zaidi the ideal focus of our final community projection of the season.

Zaidi was forged in the fires of Moneyball before learning how to launder bad contracts and trade for or trade away Matt Kemp with the Dodgers. He was the GM of back-to-back National League championship teams, an accomplishment the Giants fan base would love to reach in the very near future. Ultimately, though, we’re probably going to have to wait for that to come about. And wait. And wait.

Farhan Zaidi has made seven trades just this month, and all for back of the roster kind of guys. He and the younger, different-minded new front office he’s spent the offseason assembling don’t figure to approach roster construction like the previous regime did, favoring the top-heavy model in terms of talent and dollars per win.

Not long after his hire, he summarized this philosophy:

No move is too small to not be worth a certain level of effort and detail. You know, waiver claims, minor league free agents... you know, second or third players in trades... there’s a lot of value to be had in identifying talent in those regards. Talent identification is key. There are many ways to do that. Having a strong scouting staff is obviously important. Having a strong analytics important is important. When you’re a franchise like the San Francisco Giants and you’re at that stature, your goal should be to be the best at everything. It shouldn’t be a choice of analytics or scouting or something else.

“Incremental” became the watchword following his introductory press conference — any way of making the team better to stay as competitive as possible for as long as possible guided us through November and December. It wasn’t until we got into the Bryce Harper negotiation season that the driving narrative became something else, but let’s remember that incrementalism is his guiding principle.

Nice job pointing this out, @SFGiantsGuy

The Opening Day roster isn’t quite set, but it’s pretty clear that they’re not starting the season with a new sexy addition on the level of Andrew McCutchen. Zaidi swung and missed on landing Bryce Harper, but a 12-year, $310 million offer proves that the plan isn’t only incrementalism. The short-term plan to supplement to the core talent with league average players may not be sexy, but it’s practical, and it can be effective.

People might argue that anyone can find league average players out there, but that seems to me like an argument that comes from the same place as, “It shouldn’t be that hard to make a decent movie.” It’s incredibly hard to make a decent movie. It’s incredibly hard to make a movie at all. It’s a miracle when one gets made. Baseball teams aren’t much different. The Orioles weren’t trying to have one of the worst seasons in professional sports last season, but it happened anyway.

We’re going to need a strong personality to guide the Giants through this post-Success Era transition and Farhan Zaidi is the perfect person for the job. He’s young enough, personable enough, and aggressive enough to be nimble in thoughts, words, and actions — imperative in a day and age when data and computing power helps organizations make big decisions in a matter of seconds.

Brian Sabean and company won almost by being stubborn. The team never jumped on board the On Base Percentage “bandwagon”, but the team found success by valuing contact hitters when the league wasn’t quite on the scent of that trail. Once the league became more about power pitching, contact became less valuable, because just weakly putting the ball in play doesn’t cut it. The Giants just never adapted to that and they couldn’t be creative enough to leverage their strengths to stay with the times. Expect all that to change now.

The LA media greeted Farhan with skepticism and full diapers, overly critical of something they chose to misunderstand. He “won over” the less whiny piss baby members of the media and fan base by simply building a team that won a lot and flexed its financial muscles when necessary. The Giants are more than capable of competing on that level — they have been since they moved into Whatever You Want To Call It Park — and now they have the right mind to take full advantage of what’s possible.

Brian Sabean’s tenure began with “I am not an idiot.” We can only hope Farhan Zaidi is just as quotable after the Giants go winless through the first four months of the season (kidding) or after whatever happens with Madison Bumgarner happens. He’s also still house hunting, and we wish him well. Bay Area real estate being what it is, the on-field product might not be the only disappointment despite his best efforts that he might have to endure this calendar year.

All of these factors are a part of my season projection for the new face of the franchise:

Projection:

Giants W-L: 76-86
In-Season Trades: 4
Memorable Media Quotes: 2
Will find a house in: San Leandro

Traded?

No, but I’m very interested in seeing how the drama of this offseason affects his view of the organization. Will he make a quick exit after his five-year deal expires or figure out a way to leave before the time is up? Or will he stick it out and be here for the next 20 years?

What’s your projection?

Giants W-L:
In-Season Trades:
Memorable Media Quotes:
Will find a house in: