Rumors, Sources, and the Horse’s Mouth

by DrLefty

Another week and still no Giants news. Well, that’s not exactly true. As Greek Giant informed us, the Giants suddenly announced that they’d changed the name of their home park from AT & T to Oracle, effective immediately. Now we know how they could afford that $10 million video board upgrade.

But that’s not the news we care about. It’s January, we’re less than a month away from Fan Fest and barely a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to camp, and all we’ve gotten so far is some non-tenders, some Rule 5 and waiver picks, and…drum roll…Pat Venditte for $585,000.

While there wasn’t any player-related news involving the Giants, there were rumors (Giants trading Joe Panik and signing DJ LeMahieu! Giants haggling with the Brewers over a package for Bumgarner!), sources (Andrew Baggarly speculating in a fulsome column for The Athletic about possible trades and signings for the Giants, Henry Schulman on KNBR with Gary and Larry giving his $0.02), and horses–as in the horse’s mouth, as in Farhan Zaidi on with Murph and Mac on KNBR yesterday.

We can dispose of a couple of these fairly quickly. LeMahieu signed with the Yankees yesterday, so he’s not coming to the Giants. The Brewers signed Yasmani Grandal to a one-year $18.25 million deal, which might make Bumgarner’s $12 million contract a nonstarter for them (more on Bumgarner in a minute). Russell Martin, Baggarly’s leading idea for backup catcher, was traded to the Dodgers instead.  So where does that leave us?

 

Schulman’s take

Henry Schulman made two fairly specific predictions on KNBR yesterday.

  1. The Giants will trade Will Smith and/or Tony Watson to obtain young starting pitching–either major-league-ready or near the majors.
  2. The Giants will obtain an outfielder(s) from the free agent market.

When pushed further in the interview, he also predicted that the Giants will trade Bumgarner but that it was more likely to happen in July than before the season. He dismissed an extension for Bumgarner as a non-starter. He also said the Giants will not give Bumgarner away just for one prospect–there would need to be an impressive return.  He also agreed with Larry that the Giants will basically return last year’s core because they’re locked in due to high salaries and no-trade clauses.  He described the Giants’ path as a “short-term rebuild.”

 

Baggarly’s ideas

In his piece for The Athletic, published Tuesday, Baggarly took a deep dive into what the Giants need most and how they could get it. His ideas included the following, both in the free agent market and via trade:

Needs (possibilities):

  1. Right-handed hitting backup middle infielder (Marwin Gonzalez, Freddy Galvis, Tim Beckham, Asdrubel Cabrera)
  2. Backup catcher (Nick Hundley, Martin Maldonado, Yasmani Grandal, Matt Wieters, Russell Martin)
  3. Starting pitcher (Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez, Clay Buchholz, Sonny Gray, Alex Cobb)
  4. Right-handed hitting centerfielder (AJ Pollock, Derek Dietrich [not actually a CF], Bryce Harper, Kevin Pillar)
  5. Dump salary (trade Belt and/or Longoria)

We already know that Grandal and Martin have gone elsewhere. Schulman said in so many words “Forget about AJ Pollock”–not happening due to the draft pick and international bonus money losses. And Baggarly referred to an inside front-office label of “pulling a Rowand” with reference to Pollock.  Baggarly also acknowledged that Belt is particularly unlikely to be traded due to his contract (both money and partial no-trade clause).

 

OK, the horse’s mouth

I’m such a dedicated blog author that this morning I spent 19 minutes listening to Farhan Zaidi’s interview with Murph and Mac (and another 13 min for Schulman’s interview).  Here’s the link to the Zaidi interview, which has also been reported by Alex Pavlovic. (In fact, Pavlovic has three separate pieces about the Zaidi remarks.)

In case you don’t want to listen to all 19 minutes of it or read three articles, here’s a summary:

  • Zaidi says the whole market is moving slowly (we knew that, thanks), but that he expects to announce a signing or a trade in 3-4 days.
  • He stressed that the Rule 5/waiver additions are not instead of more substantive additions to the big league club but rather that every organization should be building depth that way. He referenced Dereck Rodriguez from last year as a great example of how significant a minor league free-agent signing can turn out to be.
  • He spoke of wanting to “be competitive in 2019 and win this division.” Murph followed up on that (a bit incredulously), and while Zaidi hedged it a bit when pushed, he said that you “always” want to compete for a division, even though the Dodgers are clearly the big dog in the NL West. Having listened to Zaidi and then Schulman back-to-back, Zaidi is singing a different song than Schulman is–Schulman is saying that Giants fans cannot expect the 2019 team to be competitive. They obviously have different roles and vantage points, but Zaidi sounded sincere when he said it. The “r-word” (rebuild) was not coming out of his mouth.
  • He was quite enthusiastic about Brandon Belt, calling him a “tremendous player” and saying that he was one guy that when Zaidi was on the opposing side, he inspired “fear.” He specifically said he was looking forward to Belt being a big contributor “on the 2019 team.”
  • My take was that he was far less bullish on Joe Panik, and he definitely waffled when asked about the LeMahieu/Panik rumors (this was before LeMahieu’s deal with the Yankees became public).
  • He was quite direct in saying that the Giants are not shopping Bumgarner (“no outgoing calls about him”) but that they “listen” when any team calls about any of their players because that’s the position the organization is in right now. He said that wherever Jon Morosi (who wrote about the Giants negotiating “all winter” with the Brewers about a Bumgarner trade) got his information, it certainly wasn’t from Zaidi. Zaidi also said that he’s spoken both to Bum and his agent and that he knows “how badly [Bumgarner] wants to be here.”
  • Zaidi and his wife are finding the Bay Area real estate market “a treat” (/sarcasm), and in “20/20 hindsight” wishes he’d gotten Larry Baer to throw in a Pacific Heights mansion when he was negotiating his contract. He’s still commuting from LA.
  • The interview was done on the phone from Scottsdale, where the Giants’ prospects are participating in January instructs. Asked about Joey Bart, Zaidi said he’s an imposing physical presence who looks like a major leaguer who will be an impact player and also spoke of Bart’s confidence (“he thinks he’ll be ready for the big leagues by Opening Day”). Zaidi stressed that Bart in particular could move quickly through the system. It’s Zaidi’s view that top prospects shouldn’t be wasting ABs in a specific league if they’ve figured that league out. Time to move up.

The only other piece of news was that the Giants avoided arbitration with Will Smith (yesterday was the deadline for that) and agreed to a $4.25 million deal–a bargain for a team wanting a quality back-end reliever.  Oh, and Pablo Sandoval was part of the annual “Game Changers” ceremony in which Bay Area athletes nominate someone who’s had a big influence on their careers. He honored Bruce Bochy, and Dan Brown (now writing for The Athletic) wrote a fantastic piece about Sandoval’s relationship with Bochy.  (My favorite part was Pablo pointing out that Bochy played winter ball in Venezuela in 1986…and Sandoval was born in August of that year, so maybe Bochy was literally his dad, not just spiritually.) Oh, and this line:

“He lets Pablo be Pablo,’’ Pablo said.

 

So…from the horse’s mouth, “something” will happen before I have to fill up this space next week. Here’s hoping!  Lefty out.