You know, I worked especially hard on last week’s Out of Left Field. I started it on Thursday and put extra hours into it, finally publishing on Saturday morning. It seemed important to mark what looked like a “transformational moment” for the Giants’ organization, worth some additional time and thought.
What a difference a week makes. If I knew how to go back and delete the damn thing, I absolutely would. But maybe it’s good for the historical record. Or something.
Today, December 23, is Festivus, and as Frank Costanza said on the “Seinfeld” episode that created this holiday, “The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances.”
So…here come some grievances. Over the last few days, since the Carlos Correa press conference was postponed and then we all woke up Wednesday morning to the shocking news that he was signing with the Mets and NOT the Giants, I’ve read many local and national articles and listened to various interviews and podcasts to try to make sense of it all. The picture of what happened is becoming clearer, so let’s review what we know.
- This was not a case of Carlos Correa having a change of heart. He had his whole family in San Francisco for the press conference and celebration. He went house-hunting. By all accounts, he was enthusiastic and excited about becoming a Giant. The Giants’ change of heart was a dismaying shock to him and his family.
- Scott Boras did what a good agent should do in the best interests of his client. Within a few hours, he turned what could have been a disaster for Correa into a very acceptable soft landing. I tip my cap to him.
- We can’t be mad at the Mets, either. The Giants released Correa from the letter of intent they had with him on Tuesday afternoon, and he was free to negotiate with other teams. If the Mets were ready to assume the medical risks and extend themselves financially to add what they believe is the final piece of a championship-caliber team, they are to be commended. I wish our ownership was like them.
- Though it first seemed that the Giants simply had buyer’s remorse and so grabbed at a flimsy excuse to get out of the deal at the last minute, it now appears more likely that the team had what it believes are serious medical concerns about Correa. The point of disagreement is whether the Giants were being wise or excessively risk-averse. We will not know the answer to that for a long time.
- From what I’ve heard and read this week, there is consensus around the industry that the Giants handled the whole matter with a mind-numbing level of incompetence, callousness, or both. Some specifics: (a) Teams don’t typically schedule a press conference, let alone start using a player’s image on marketing materials, until the deal is absolutely done. (b) All teams have access to free agents’ medical records before the free agency period even opens. Particularly in the case of a nine-year-old injury, there should have been no surprises in Correa’s file that just “cropped up for the first time” in his physical in San Francisco on Monday. (c) Pete Putila, the new GM of the Giants, was working for the Astros when Correa sustained the ankle injury in 2014, and for seven subsequent seasons, watching Correa blossom into a star and a postseason hero. With Putila in-house, the Giants were uniquely positioned to understand, better than anyone else, what risks and rewards they might experience with Correa.
- Because of the way that this whole matter was bungled, every major free agent was signed by the time the deal fell apart with Correa. Unlike when they missed out on Aaron Judge a few weeks earlier, there was no path left to pivot and salvage the offseason or the 2023 season.
- Fans and even the beat writers are bewildered by the complete radio silence from the Giants. As Andrew Baggarly said a couple days ago: two emails totaling 39 words, and that’s it. Oh, and plenty of emails about buying game tickets. The silence is deafening and tone-deaf. They did, according to Alex Pavlovic, have a Zoom meeting yesterday with players and coaches and other staff. Reportedly even the players are quite upset both by this week’s turn of events and by the team’s lack of communication with them, with Brandon Crawford being the most notable example, of course.
So that’s what we know. There are a bunch of things we don’t know, but the two most important questions are these: (1) Who is responsible for this fiasco–ownership, Zaidi, or all of them together? and (2) Where do the Giants go from here?
Here are my thoughts about those two questions; take them for what they’re worth (two cents?).
Farhan Zaidi Needs to Go
One of two narratives is true. One is that ownership called the shots and completely undermined Zaidi, leaving him to be the face of a humiliating debacle and setting him up for failure in 2023. The other is that Zaidi, who has shown over and over how risk-averse he is, is actually to blame for this mess–he suggested as much when he told the players and coaches that he “takes responsibility” for what happened with Correa. Either explanation argues for Zaidi already being doomed to failure. The first suggests that ownership doesn’t have confidence in Zaidi and will not give him the resources or freedom to be successful. The second suggests that he is completely inept and awful at communication and consideration for the principals involved (including but not limited to Correa, Crawford, and his own new GM, Putila, who certainly must have vouched and argued for the signing).
I’ve seen the argument here that the “industry” values and respects Zaidi…but to what extent is that still true? Obviously the Correa disaster is the worst of it, but there’s also the failed pursuit of Judge, which wasted time and again painted the Giants as bridesmaids and losers. Judge’s comments at his press conference yesterday made it clear that it was always New York for him, meaning either that Zaidi lied when he said that Judge’s side engaged with the Giants “in good faith” or that he was completely duped by Judge and his agent, who clearly played the Giants to get the best offer from the Yankees. I’m not sure which version–lying or duped–I feel worse about. And then he failed to get any other top free agents to sign with the Giants, resorting instead to second- and third-tier guys with injury warts (oh, the irony!) and team-unfriendly opt-out deals. Greg Johnson and Zaidi himself set the expectations for this offseason–and they failed, spectacularly and very publicly. Everyone around MLB knows this. Is Zaidi still some genius boy wonder in the view of others? I have my doubts.
But honestly, I don’t care. If it’s true that “some other team would hire Zaidi in five minutes”–well, good. Let them. And whom would we get instead? Well, that part’s easy. Just promote the guy you already have under contract, Putila. Or hire the unemployed GM who just helped the Astros win the World Series. The important thing is that Zaidi needs to go. The organization will not be able to make productive changes and attract free agents with him at the helm. This is known already–we’ve just watched it all unfold in gruesome detail this week.
The Organization Needs a Change of Direction
Ideally, Zaidi would quit or be fired before the holidays are over so that someone (Putila?) could actually get a running head start on 2023 and beyond. Get rid of the stupid roster churning and dumpster diving and actually commit to your own minor leaguers rather than just grabbing and promoting everyone else’s cast-offs. Cases in point: David Villar was having a great season in AAA, and the Giants dragged their heels on promoting him, instead churning through the Kevin Padlos, Mike Fords, and Donnie Waltons of the world (plus about 27 other guys I’ve forgotten already). Isan Diaz was raking in Sacramento all summer, but when both Crawford and Thairo Estrada went down with injuries, they went and got some guy from the Cubs’ AAA team (I’ve forgotten his name, but it had an “x” in it) instead of promoting Diaz–and then dumped the random guy a week or two later. We’ve seen this over and over and over in the last few years.
Well, here we are. There is no quick fix from free agency, and even the “sorta” fixes they got have opt-outs, so…more churning. The only hope for this floundering organization is to commit and invest in the farm system and in their own prospects. I want to see David Villar playing third base on Opening Day. I want Casey Schmitt and Kyle Harrison to be aggressively promoted; same with Vaun Brown, Grant McCray, Mason Black, and Carson Whisenhunt. Marco Luciano and Luis Matos are on the 40-man roster, so tick, tick, tick. Don’t be wimpy about moving them along, either.
So invest in and commit to our own prospects. And get more of them. Come July, I want to see the Giants trading everything not nailed down for more prospects. The whole rotation except for Webb. Pederson and Conforto. Anyone who’s having a good year, especially if they’re a rental, should be out the door before my birthday on August 1.
Oh, and EXTEND LOGAN WEBB. They can certainly afford to do so. That would show some good faith both to the players and the fans. The Giants have always been known for rewarding their own homegrown stars. At least they used to be. It’s Webb’s turn and there’s no excuse not to get that done.
So–new leadership, hopefully from a guy who’s built his career in an organization full of homegrown stars. A new philosophy that prioritizes player development and not waiver claims and platooning. Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff might be a great fit with Putila, given Kapler’s shared background in player development. Get Zaidi out and shake things up, including the scouting and drafting departments.
OK, Some Minor Good News
A few days ago, when we still thought Correa was going to be the new face of the franchise, we were talking about how Michael Conforto and Taylor Rogers could be good additions to round out the offseason. I don’t know what it is with the Giants only doing things, good or bad, in the middle of the night, but I woke up today to the Conforto news, and the Taylor Rogers news followed shortly thereafter. I’m fine with these signings, but they’re cold “comfort” (what “conforto” means in English) after the cataclysmic shock of this week’s events.
Conforto is a corner outfielder (can play CF but probably shouldn’t) who hits lefty. He’s a good hitter (career OPS+ of 124) with an excellent career OBP (.356) and a lot of pop (three straight seasons of 27+ homers with a high of 33 in 2019). He was an All-Star with the Mets in 2017. Despite a disappointing 2021 season, the Mets gave him a qualifying offer, which he declined, and that made teams skittish about signing him before last year’s lockout…and then he injured his shoulder in January and never played at all after having surgery. His bat should help the Giants; his defense is somewhat better than what the Giants had last year. (MrLefty asked me if the Giants’ outfield defense would be better with Conforto and Haniger, and I paused and said, “Well, it should be…less bad.” That’s not the same as “good,” though.)
I’d be more excited about landing Conforto if it weren’t for the opt-out after one year. If you’ve lost track, that means four of the five free agents the Giants have signed have opt-outs in their contracts (everyone but Rogers, and Haniger’s is after two years, not one). But this means that this time next year, the Giants may be trying to replace Conforto, Manaea, Stripling, and Pederson, not to mention other contracts (Wood, Crawford) that end after next season. In other words, these free agent signings mean that the Giants are just flailing around to field a team for 2023, not that they’re trying to build anything of substance that will last. It’s just marking time.
In contrast, the Taylor Rogers signing is a feel-good story that not only reunites twin brothers but also is a really good fit. The Giants wanted an experienced closer to share duties with Camilo Doval, a prized young arm who was used heavily last year. Rogers is a lefty with lots of closing experience; he was an All-Star with the Twins in 2021. And, thankfully, there’s no word of an opt-out in his three-year contract, so as of right now, Taylor Rogers is the only player under contract for 2025.
Little did I know when I wrote last week’s column that the Giants’ epic disaster with Carlos Correa would indeed be a “transformational moment”–one that changed a good offseason to a terrible one, hope to despair, and worst of all completely decimated the Giants’ reputation as a class organization that treats people right.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.–Warren Buffett
As I see it, the only path forward, the only way back to being a respectable organization again and not an embarrassment involves a housecleaning and some new ideas. We will see if, how, and when that happens.
Until then, Happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa–or just have a nice weekend, and go Niners (or “9ers,” in honor of the late great Reno Jim)! Lefty out.