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Giants’ Chairman On Zaidi, Offseason Plans

Giants chairman Greg Johnson recently spoke to reporters, including Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle, regarding the contract status of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi as well as the club’s plans heading into the home stretch of the offseason.

On Zaidi, Johnson revealed that the extension the club announced back in October that would keep Zaidi in San Francisco through the 2026 season has not yet been finalized. That’s something of a surprise, given Johnson said at the time of the announcement that the deal had been “agreed [upon] in principle” and would be formally announced in the near future. That, of course, didn’t come to pass, though Johnson nonetheless noted that the extension is a “done deal.”

“It’s effectively done,” Johnson said (as relayed by Kroichick). “He probably has signed it; I’m probably the one who hasn’t because I haven’t been around enough. But we’re done.”

The extension for Zaidi, whose current deal runs through the end of the 2024 campaign, came as something of a surprise given the club’s inconsistency during his tenure in San Francisco. The Giants posted losing seasons in his first two campaigns with the club before mustering a phenomenal 107-win 2021 season that propelled the club to its first NL West title since 2012. Since that strong showing, however, the club has been marred by middling performances. The club finished the 2022 season with a .500 record before slipping back underwater in 2023 with a 79-83 season that resulted in the club swapping out Gabe Kapler in favor of Bob Melvin in the manager’s chair.

Beyond the comments on Zaidi’s contract status, Johnson also spoke about the club’s ability to make further additions to the roster via free agency after spending on outfielder Jung Hoo Lee, catcher Tom Murphy and right-hander Jordan Hicks earlier this winter while also picking up southpaw Robbie Ray in a trade with the Mariners last month. Johnson was quick to emphasize that the club still has the capacity to continue improving the club via free agency, noting that “there are a lot of good players out there” who the club remains “very interested in.”

While Johnson didn’t specify any particular targets, previous reporting has indicated that the Giants view third baseman Matt Chapman as their top target on the positional market. Chapman, 31 in April, would substantially improve the club’s defense as a four-time Gold Glove award winner at third base who leads all big leaguers with +92 Defensive Runs Saved at the hot corner since he first debuted back in 2017. Chapman would also provide the club a substantial boost in terms of power. While he veteran hit just 17 home runs last season, his .203 isolated slugging since the start of the 2020 season could nonetheless provide a dramatic boost to a Giants lineup that posted an anemic .149 ISO last year, good for just 23rd in the majors. Among all Giants with at least 100 plate appearances last season, only Wilmer Flores and Mike Yastrzemski posted an ISO of .200 or more.

By contrast, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that comments from Zaidi in the wake of the Hicks signing last month indicated the club may not pursue further starting rotation additions. Johnson somewhat backed that notion up, with Shea quoting Johnson as having said that he thinks the club is “going to have to rely on some younger pitching” headed into the season with veterans Alex Cobb and Ray both expected to start the season on the shelf. Those signals from both the front office and ownership seemingly cast doubt on the likelihood of San Francisco making a splash at the top of the rotation market, where southpaws Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are the consensus best arms remaining.
If the Giants truly are unlikely to make a run at further rotation upgrades, it would be something of a surprise. After all, after trading away both Anthony DeSclafani and Ross Stripling while watching Alex Wood and Sean Manaea depart via free agency, the Giants have seen their starting pitching depth take a major hit this winter. While both Cobb and Ray could provide reinforcements later in the season, the club currently figures to go with rookies Keaton Winn and Kyle Harrison, youngster Tristan Beck, and Hicks to round out the club’s rotation alongside Logan Webb.

Only Hicks debuted in the majors prior to the 2023 campaign among that quartet, and the righty has made just eight starts in the majors to this point in his career. Adding a reliable arm to the mix alongside Webb would give the club a significantly deeper and more stable rotation mix to open the season with while lessening the club’s need to rely on speedy returns from Cobb and Ray as they rehab from their respective surgeries. If the club doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to stomach a nine-figure commitment to Snell or Montgomery, a handful of decent mid-to-back of the rotation arms such as Mike Clevinger and Michael Lorenzen also remain available.

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