SF Giants: Grading Farhan Zaidi's Free Agent Strategy

MLB free agency is perhaps the most influential changing of hands and shuffling of cards that occurs in the MLB calendar. This places a massive emphasis on making prudent and intelligent signings that help your team in the short and long term. There is no doubt that the most recent free agent signings by Farhan Zaidi and the SF Giants front office have been, to put it kindly, a mixed bag. Is this one year a continuance of a pattern or a blip on the radar? Today, we will be grading Farhan Zaidi's free agent strategy since his tenure began as the head of the proverbial table. The methodology is simple. Farhan Zaidi was hired on November 6th, 2018 therefore the 18-19 off-season will be disregarded as he was not hired until after free agency had begun. Furthermore, extensions and minor league contracts will not affect the grading while qualifying offers will be counted as one-year contracts.
San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves
San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves / Alex Slitz/GettyImages
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Since taking over as SF Giants president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi has had a much different approach to free agency than the prior regime. How has that approach done so far? We broke it down by year.

SF Giants: Grading Farhan Zaidi's Free Agent Strategy

The Giants have committed approximately $220.1 million against the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) in 2023. The CBT is set at $233 million, so the Giants will comfortably fall below the tax threshold.

Nevertheless, the Giants have quietly been building payroll back up in recent seasons. When Zaidi took over, he inherited a roster of underperforming, lucrative contracts. All of those contracts are off of the books now, so he is accountable for the current roster. Without further adieu, let's take a look at how he has performed.

2019 - 2020 FA Class

Wilmer Flores: 2 yr $6.25 million. 2020 55 G, .268/.315/.515, 124 OPS+, 1.3 WAR. 2021 139 G .262/.335/.447, 111 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR. Given a 3-year extension prior to the 2022 season.

Hunter Pence: 1 yr $3 million. 2020 17 G, .096/.161/.250, 11 OPS+, -.6 bWAR. Released on August 25th. Retired that off-season.

Drew Smyly: 1 yr $4 million. 26.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 126 ERA+, .5 bWAR. Signed 1 yr $11 million deal with ATL.

Kevin Gausman: 1 yr $9 million. 59.2 IP, 3.62 ERA, 118 ERA+, 1.3 WAR. Given a qualifying offer in 2021.

Summary: There is no doubt this class should be considered a massive success. The 2020 season ended in heartbreak as the SF Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season.

That said, the only true failure of this free agent class is Hunter Pence, who was awful for 17 games before being released. Other than that, both Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly vastly outperformed their contracts. This helped the Giants be 8th out of 15 NL teams in ERA despite Johnny Cueto's 63.1 IP of 5.40 ERA and Logan Webb's 54.1 IP of 5.47 ERA.

On the hitting side, Wilmer Flores had the 5th highest OPS+ on the Giants in 2020 and 2021, providing a steady presence in the middle of the lineup. The Hunter Pence acquisition likely cost the Giants a playoff spot in 2020 but every other signing smashed its value considering the production for the cost.

Grade: A