What happened in 2019?
The franchise said goodbye to their manager of 13 years, Bruce Bochy. He oversaw as many wins as he did defeats, but guiding the Giants to three World Series Championships in the 2010s surely cements his place in the Hall of Fame.
Another iconic figure to depart from the Bay Area is country-strong pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Despite a bit of a down year in 2019, the 30-year-old left San Francisco with a career 3.13 ERA in 286 starts.
2019 was the first season under the guidance of Farhan Zaidi. He became the first Muslim general manager of any American professional sports franchise when he was appointed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and helped steer them to two World Series appearances. He is widely regarded as one of the smartest brains in baseball and has already made several fantastic deals. However, not all of his decisions are making him popular with the fan base.
Zaidi’s rebuilding plans were hit in the summer when the Giants found themselves inexplicably second in the division at the trade deadline, stymying ideas of shipping out high-salary players like Bumgarner or Brandon Crawford or Brandon Belt.
34 defeats in their final 54 games put pay to any playoff aspirations and the Giants settled for third place in the NL West. Although, their Pythagorean record and MLB-best 38 one-run wins, suggests that last place might have been a fairer reflection on their season.
The contentious appointment of Gabe Kapler threatens to undermine the good work by the Giants’ front office. He is a polarising figure with plenty of baggage. Some things are just plain weird, like ordering 40 chicken McNuggets and peeling off the coating before eating them. And some things are just plain wrong, like his botched handling of the sexual assault allegation against Dodgers’ minor leaguers while he was their director of player development.
The 29-year-old outfielder will definitely be one to watch. Designated for assignment by the Padres in June, the Giants snapped him up, and he rewarded them with 56 games and .880 OPS. Health has always been an issue, so it will be interesting to see how Dickerson performs after his first “normal” offseason for five years.
Acquiring a much-needed power-hitting left fielder for next to nothing and signing him for 2020 at less than $1 million is why Zaidi is paid the big bucks.
Five reasons for optimism in 2020
(1) “My boy is wicked smart”
Zaidi is not afraid to think outside of the box and is one of the main reasons for optimism for Giants’ fans. Kevin Pillar led the team in home runs, RBI and stolen bases, yet he didn’t fit into the 2020 plan, so no contract was tendered.
In a savvy move, the Giants acquired Zack Cozart and the Los Angeles Angels’ 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson for “cash considerations” aka nothing. The Giants promptly dumped Cozart, ate his $12.7 million contract and inserted Wilson fifth in their prospect list.
And of course, no discussion about Zaidi’s shrewdness is complete without mentioning Mike Yastrzemski, who the Giants acquired from fellow rebuilders in Baltimore. The pre-arbitration eligible outfielder hit 21 homers and led the team with .852 OPS
(2) Six-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, MVP, three-time silver slugger, owner of three World Series rings and all-round nice guy, Buster Posey, has been everything, and much, more than the Giants could have wished for when they took him fifth in the 2008 draft. He was still recovering from the after-effects of hip surgery last season, but don’t bet against him having a Hunter Pence-style bounceback this year.
(3) Joey Bart – the second overall pick in the 2018 draft is primed to be the Giants’ face of the franchise when Buster Posey relinquishes the position. He posted 1.209 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. That’ll work from behind the plate.
(4) Alyssa Nakken became the first full-time female coach in MLB history. It’s 2020, and if you want to win, you need the best people possible, regardless of gender. I’m sure the Giants’ PR department could have done without contributions from a publicity-seeking former first baseman.
(5) There is really not much to choose from between the Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies in the NL West. San Francisco showed last season, that even without trying, playoff contention is a possibility.
Photo courtesy of Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire, Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Gavin is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @_tramps
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