On Friday, San Francisco Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi met with the media for his end-of-season press conference.
My bad, y’all. Draymond’s bad, too.
Anyway, Zaidi met with the media, uttered a few generic platitudes, made a few non-committal remarks, and, as always, was also transparent with some things. Here’s what we learned.
Expect a Kyle Harrison debut in 2023
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Giants are preparing for Kyle Harrison to make the Majors in 2023, but it’s still noteworthy.
Farhan Zaidi said he expects Kyle Harrison to be in the Giants' rotation next year.— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) October 7, 2022
"Could even be relatively early in the season."
It’s not always entirely clear where the Giants are with their prospects. Some move more quickly than their numbers would indicate; others more slowly. So it’s nice to hear it spelled out that the Giants believe Harrison, the top pitching prospect in the organization by a country mile, is nearly ready.
Harrison dominated High-A in 2022, and earned a quick promotion to AA, where his run prevention was less dominant, but his strikeout totals were downright gaudy. He set a modern record for strikeouts per nine innings when all was said and done.
He looks nearly ready. The Minor League coaches around him sound like he’s nearly ready. And apparently the team’s biggest decision-maker also thinks he’s nearly ready.
Still expect a starter to be signed
The Giants have a solid rotation already in place for next year, with Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani all under contract. And that’s without mentioning Jakob Junis and Sean Hjelle, who both did well as spot starters and long relievers this year.
Carlos Rodón will enter free agency after opting out of his contract, and the Giants could presumably leave him unreplaced. Webb/Cobb/Wood/DeSclafani/Junis is a solid rotation, especially if you assume Harrison will enter the fold in May or June.
But, understandably, the Giants are targeting more.
"We fully expect Carlos to opt out," Zaidi says of Rodón. "I would anticipate us being in the market for at least one starter."— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) October 7, 2022
Of Junis, Zaidi says, "in a perfect world we view him as a swing man."
Between Rodón this year and Kevin Gausman last year, the Giants are more than aware of the value of sticking another frontline starter next to Webb. Re-signing Rodón would be huge. Throwing a ton of money at a two or three-year deal for Jacob deGrom would be excellent.
The Giants like having more than five starters, and this year’s injuries reminded them of why. The impending arrival of Harrison might make the Giants feel better if they strike out on the top pitchers on the market, but it won’t keep them from adding talent.
Longo is probably back
The Giants will likely buy out Evan Longoria for $5 million rather than pick up his option for $13 million. But assuming they do the former, expect Longoria to be back in the Bay Area next year.
Longo has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Giants, and Zaidi made it almost equally clear that the feeling is mutual.
Whether the Giants pick up Evan Longoria's option or not, Farhan Zaidi said, "There's certainly a role for Longo on our team in 2023."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) October 7, 2022
Now is where we start dissecting words. Because obviously Zaidi isn’t going to say anything bad about a player, especially one who spent the last five years with the team.
But there’s a difference between a generic nicety and an insight into organizational thinking, and Zaidi’s comment about Longoria is emphatically the latter.
We saw the former last year when Kris Bryant entered free agency. No one could have possibly listened to Zaidi talk about Bryant at season’s end and think, “Oh yeah, that guy is coming back.”
Instead, it was the usual stuff: “we think he’s good,” “he’s a great player in this league,” “he’d make our team better,” etc. etc. ... I made up all of those quotes, but if I said I didn’t, you’d believe me.
“There’s certainly a role for him on our team” is different. It’s not a compliment so much as a statement. Zaidi didn’t say something about Longoria; he said something about the Giants. There’s a role on the team for him.
Longoria seems to have no interest in testing the market to see if he can find a bigger contract. And I see no reason to expect him anywhere else next year.
BB9 is also probably back ... if he’s healthy (and that’s a big “if”)
Zaidi was not quite as clear about the team’s intentions with Brandon Belt, but he did drop a very notable nugget.
Farhan Zaidi on Brandon Belt: "He's everything we want in an offensive player. ... We'll certainly stay in touch."— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) October 7, 2022
“Everything we want in an offensive player.” That’s quite a compliment!
It is just a compliment, not a quote about the team, and we just went over the importance of that distinction. So don’t assume that Belt is back.
But still. When everything you want in an offensive player is available for a low price tag, at a position where you have nobody, and comes with fan sentimentality and marketability, I’d say you should sign that person if you think they’re healthy.
Buster has some hands in all this
A lot of people, myself included, expected Buster Posey’s jaunt into Giants ownership to be mostly ceremonial. A cool opportunity for a franchise legend. A chance for one of our favorite players to stay connected, and for the team to celebrate him at every chance.
But it seems like he’ll actually have an active role.
Farhan Zaidi, on end of season Zoom call, said Giants could hire a new general manager "relatively quickly." He said it'll be great to have some fresh perspectives given how big this offseason is and noted Buster Posey is one person who will help bring new thoughts and ideas.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) October 7, 2022
This brings me so much joy.
Get ready for activity
Zaidi made it clear that the Giants will be quite active this offseason.
#SFGiants' Zaidi: "I expect us to be really active this offseason."— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) October 7, 2022
It’s unclear what he means by that. They have 13 arbitration-eligible players, and a handful of free agents. They have Rule 5 Draft-eligible prospects to make decisions about. They have the standard churn of Minor League relievers.
But I do expect it to be something more. Zaidi stressed his disappointment in the .500 season, and claimed that they believe they should be in the postseason every year. It was arguably easy to excuse this rough season as a natural part of the rebuild that merely looked worse because of what happened in 2021, but it’s clear the Giants don’t feel that way. They expect better. They believe they should be better.
Which means I don’t think they’ll just run it back and hope for better luck and more favorable variance.
Does that mean that Aaron Judge and Trea Turner will be rocking black and gold next year? Well, maybe not.
Zaidi is a man of his word
If you’re wanting to take all of these quotes with a grain of salt, I won’t stop you.
But Zaidi also said that they hoped to hire a GM to replace Scott Harris “relatively quickly.”
Zaidi says #SFGiants hope to hire a GM to replace Scott Harris "relatively quickly," says a target date is before GM meetings— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) October 7, 2022
One business day later — or zero business days later if the Giants celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day — the Giants had hired Pete Putila.
He’s a man of his word, y’all.