San Francisco Giants: How Farhan Zaidi be Successful in 2019
By Jeff Young
The new San Francisco Giants executive is just getting started on what seems to be a long-term project in terms of rebuilding the franchise. However, 2019 can be a key season in directing the turnaround.
If anything, Farhan Zaidi has proven he likes to make a lot of moves. The San Francisco Giants transaction wire has been a carousel in recent days to demonstrate that point.
Zaidi elected to not commit future dollars in bringing in free agents this offseason. Most players were brought in on minor league contracts, so this might serve as an indicator for what Zaidi expects from the team in 2019. That is to say, the lack of free agent spending and trades may indicate he is quietly pursuing a rebuild.
Despite this, the San Francisco Giants and Farhan Zaidi can measure success in a number of ways. The first win is by the win-loss record. If the Giants happen to remain competitive deep in to the season, then that is great. It would not be completely surprising, but it seems unrealistic at this point in time.
There is another way Zaidi can measure success in his first season as the Giants Vice President of Baseball Operations:
According to Baseball America, the Giants have one of the lowest ranking farm systems in baseball. This is not surprising, especially given the lack of impact talent to come through the system recently.
The Red Sox and Cubs continue to be competitive, which explains why they are ranked so poorly. Their impact talent is already on the major league roster. The same could be said for the Giants in terms of impact talent. However, they have not been a competitive team in recent seasons.
The farm system will be a key area Zaidi oversees. He has tabbed Kyle Haines as the new farm director. Haines is taking over the same role David Bell held last season. Bell agreed to become the new Reds manager this past offseason. Regardless of Haines’ role, the success or failure in the development of the farm system will reflect on Zaidi. The farm system will be a big part in determining if Zaidi can guide the turnaround.
Zaidi has only been in the position for about 6 months, but he can use 2019 as a springboard for the rebuild.
Currently, the Giants have 2 top-100 prospects in Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. Bart appears on all prospect rankings, whereas Ramos’ inclusion in these rankings is a little more scattered. With 30 teams in Major League Baseball, having only 2 top-100 prospects is not great. As a result, their ranking as the 28th best farm system seems fitting and accurate. This is a challenge Zaidi must address head-on. The 2019 season can, at least, get the ball rolling on this challenge.
For starters, the San Francisco Giants hold the #10 overall pick in the upcoming draft in June. In 2006 and 2007, the Giants also held the #10 overall pick and drafted Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, respectively.
It is fair to say that did well on those picks. Or to use a baseball phrase, these were no-doubt grand slams.
The #10 overall pick typically results in drafting a key contributor. Perhaps, their recent success at this draft position might set the expectations a little high. However, this should be a pick that bolsters their farm system, and quickly slots in to the top-5 of their organizational rankings.
This will be the first challenge for Zaidi. The second challenge will be the return he receives from his tradable assets.
If the Giants fall out of contention early, they will have several tradable assets. These assets include, but are not limited to, Madison Bumgarner, Tony Watson, Will Smith, Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz, and Yangervis Solarte. To a lesser extent, Sam Dyson and Gerardo Parra might be in demand as well.
Each of these players are on expiring or short-term contracts. Teams will not be assuming a long-term financial commitment for any one of these players, and that is ideal in finding trade partners. In addition to this, competitive teams seemingly can never have enough left-handed pitchers. And, the Giants have a billion left-handed pitchers at this point.
Similarly, Solarte could be appealing on the trade market. If he returns to his pre-2018 form, there will be a market for his versatile skill set. The San Francisco Giants are not known for going in to “sell” mode. Zaidi is new to the organization, and has full autonomy in guiding the direction of the franchise. This includes potentially selling assets.
Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans rarely completed sell-off trades, but the returns seemed to be quite good. In July of 2017, the Giants traded Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox for Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos. According to MLB.Com, Anderson is the Giants 4th best prospect, whereas Santos comes in at #8.
In August of 2018, the Giants traded Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees for Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. Avelino is ranked as the 17th best Giants prospect, whereas De Paula comes in at #19. These are good returns for rentals. Avelino is the only prospect from these trades to make his major league debut so far, but each prospect offers intriguing tools.
The Giants may be in a position to sell. They will have a few assets to trade. None of these assets will likely net the Giants a top, blue-chip prospect. The exception is Bumgarner if he can can regain his pre-2017 form. However, if the Giants can turn some of these tradable assets into a handful of top-10 or top-20 organizational prospects, then that should be seen as a success for Zaidi. This along with holding the #10 overall pick means the San Francisco Giants should be able to bolster their farm system pretty quickly.
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Zaidi has inherited a low-ranking farm system. Improving this farm system will go a long way in guiding Zaidi’s rebuild. He will have several opportunities to accelerate this rebuild in 2019.
Improving the farm system will not happen overnight. Though, how Zaidi takes advantage of these opportunities in 2019 will be one indicator of whether he is successful in his 1st season as the Giants top executive.