I will admit that this is a moot point from the start as the SF Giants already committed to retaining Farhan Zaidi through the 2024 season. With that being said, is it the right move to bring him back?
Is it the right move for the SF Giants to bring back Farhan Zaidi for 2024?
During my senior year in high school, I turned in a book report for a book that we read in English class when I was a sophomore. Like most of my classmates, I waited until the last second, scrambled to put something together, and turned it in at the last moment. I am not sure if kids these days still do that, but we did back then.
Of course, my teacher knew that the book I "read" was part of the book list for sophomores. I confessed to it and she gave me an incomplete on the assignment. It was my final semester in high school, so not the most important assignment ever.
If you were to write a book report titled, "Farhan Zaidi," and turned it in, I have a feeling that you would get a similar result. We are five years into Zaidi's tenure and it feels like his grade would be an incomplete. It would not necessarily be a failing or a passing grade. I suppose it is just too hard to assess his impact.
He inherited a roster full of underperforming, aging veterans. Most of them had several years remaining on their respective deals. For example, Evan Longoria's contract will officially be off of the books this offseason after he received a $5 million buyout from the Giants last winter.
There were a lot of those contracts that were both costly and spanned multiple years. So, the Giants had little flexibility to make any improvements to the roster in the first couple of seasons. It would be easy to say that he should have just committed to a rebuild, but he inherited a roster where that just might not have been an option. Plus, ownership would seemingly be against that as well.
Since then, Zaidi has created a lot of flexibility with the roster. He has not handed out a deal to a free agent beyond three years yet. And, none of those contracts have been excessively costly. Sure, the Anthony DeSclafani deal is under water at this point, but there is one year and $12 million remaining on the deal. That is a lot of money, but not the type that would prohibit them from making other improvements to the rotation.
Each year, the Giants have set it up to where about one-third of the contracts fall off of the books. Joc Pederson ($19.65 million), Brandon Crawford ($16 million), and Alex Wood ($12.5 million) are just some of the money coming off of the books at the end of this season.
So, Zaidi has done a nice job of not being tied down by a handful of expensive contracts. That was the situation he inherited. That said, that flexibility is only good so long as you use it. The Giants have spent more like a mid-market team than one that is worth more than just about every team in baseball. They have had their fair share of successes with this strategy, but plenty of failures as well.
Free agency is one avenue to rebuild a roster, and oftentimes, a temporary one. When you sign players to two-or-three-year deals, it is tough to get too invested in a player. The Giants signed Carlos Rodón to a two-year, $44 million prior to the 2022 season. This included an opt-out after the first season and we all knew he was going to exercise that opt-out regardless of how much he liked the food.
The other avenues are through trades and the draft. The Giants just have not made a lot of trades unless you count the 421 trades with the Seattle Mariners. It takes time with the draft, but the case could be made that it has taken one season too long for the Giants.
The impact from the 2020 draft and later is too early to be determined. Though, the early returns from the 2020 draft seem promising. The 2019 draft, on the other hand, has not produced anything of value yet and it may not. That draft has been a tough miss and one that seemingly pushed back the rebuild by at least a season. The Giants are slowly getting younger. That has been a goal for years and that trend should continue into the future.
So, has there been enough progress for the organization since Zaidi took over? It feels like he deserves an incomplete grade, but I understand if patience is waning or has disappeared. It would be hard to label his tenure a success at this point.
It has taken five years. Fans hoped that the competitive window would be open by now with a sustainable identity. The Giants remain a fringe playoff team with a group of players who may not even be with the club in two or three years. It is tough to build an identity that way.
Were the Giants right to retain Zaidi? I do not think he has performed poorly enough to be fired, but there is not enough evidence to retain him as well. I suppose giving him one more season is better than bringing in a new front office who might want to punt the ball down another two or three seasons. So, was it the right move or the wrong move? I really do not have a strong opinion one way or the other. The Giants will give him at least one more chance to prove that his plan can lead to better results.