What the San Francisco Giants Can Learn From the Dodgers
Farhan Zaidi had accomplished what he set out to do. He slashed their payroll by like a third? Almost half? I don’t know. I’m not a math person. But he did all of this while getting the Dodgers further and further into Postseason runs. Now, what does that mean for the Giants?
Zaidi has inherited another mess in the Giants and the Giants are in worse shape than the Dodgers were when Zaidi took over as general manager in Los Angeles. The Giants payroll is bloated with players who are harder to move based on contracts vs. performance, no trade clauses, no team options, and a pretty depleted minor league system. What makes it worse is the Giants are also coming off of two losing seasons, where the Dodgers had previously won two NL West crowns.
Although Zaidi inherited a messy situation in Los Angeles, he inherited a very talent-rich team. A lot of Zaidi’s success in Los Angeles can be contributed to Ned Coletti. Coletti is responsible for identifying and signing Justin Turner, working out Clayton Kershaw‘s extension, and he drafted Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. Ned Coletti left a lot for Zaidi to work with.
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Now, that Zaidi is in place as the President of Baseball Operations for the Giants, there is a lot more work to be done with a lot less to work with. Turning the Giants around will take a lot of work, and if they get turned around, having the talent to get to the next level will be another challenge. It will be important to exercise patience with the new Giants regime as they try to cobble enough wins together to be competitive again.
Zaidi’s talent is finding ways to save money on wins. For example, the trades Farhan Zaidi made in 2015 where he traded away Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Matt Kemp in the same week. From 2015-2018 Dee Gordon posted the highest bWAR of all of the players Zaidi traded away that year at 9.6. Over that same span, Yasmani Grandal also posted a 9.6 bWAR at a fraction of the price of Dee Gordon’s wins.
This is Zaidi’s brilliance. He knows how to replace wins and he knows how to utilize players to put them in positions to make meaningful contributions. That may also be his Achilles heel. Sure, he’s a genius at finding players that can get wins at a great value and that works great in the regular season. But having two or three cheap options contributing to the output of one superior player is not the same when you get into the playoffs.
On the other hand, maybe the Dodgers just had bad luck. Would the 2010, 2012 or 2014 Giants beat the 2018 Red Sox? I don’t know. Inversely would the 2017 or 2018 Dodgers beat the 2014 Kansas City Royals? That’s very possible. But this is the current make up of Major League Baseball. The previous three championship teams had bonafide stars all over the diamond and weren’t as match up dependent because they could just roll their best guys out there and those guys could get the job done.
Although, Zaidi was able to succeed and reach two World Series in his run as Dodgers GM he did so with some deeply flawed teams. If anything, his defeats to the 2016 Cubs, 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox reveal that taking a match-up dependent team into short series’ against teams loaded with talent doesn’t usually end well.
At the end of it all, if the Giants are a good, but match-up dependent team without the star power to get them over the top, they’re likely to live the same fate as the Dodgers if they even get that far. The Giants are a long way away from having that problem, but when they get there, this is the challenge they face. Like they always say, “Don’t bring a match-up to a star fight”. Or something.
Special shout out to Baseball Reference and Spotrac!