Zaidi’s decision to hire Kapler was controversial. The two were front office mates with the Dodgers, so there’s a history there, but Kapler did not have a successful run with the Phillies, and there are red flags in his history. The Giants did name Alyssa Nakken an assistant coach over the winter. She is the first female member of an MLB coaching staff.
A veteran Giants team getting hot for 60 games and making a run at a postseason berth is entirely possible — the Giants went 37-23 during a 60-game stretch last year (June 11 to August 17) — but would be unexpected. The more realistic goal this season is advancing the rebuild by a) acquiring more prospects, and b) continuing to develop the prospects already in the organization into future big-league players. That’s the goal in 2020.
Three straight losing seasons, an aging and expensive roster, and the free agent defection of Madison Bumgarner would suggest the Giants are a team in turmoil. They don’t see it that way though. They view the mad dash 60-game season as an opportunity to contend ahead of schedule, or at least have a little fun during a rebuilding year. Either way, the Giants will continue to focus on their rebuild this season. Their poor finish last year — the Giants went 22-32 in their final 54 games — wiped away any thought that their midseason surge could carry over into 2020 and put San Francisco in position to contend. Payroll is currently tied down by bad contracts for aging legacy players. That won’t be the case in a little more than a year. Soon the club will be in position to spend more freely.
Win total projection, odds
- 2020 Sportsline projection: 27-33
- World Series odds (via William Hill Sportsbook): 125/1
- 2019 record: 77-85
- RF Mike Yastrzemski
- 3B Evan Longoria
- 1B Brandon Belt
- DH Hunter Pence
- LF Alex Dickerson
- SS Brandon Crawford
- 2B Mauricio Dubon
- C Rob Brantly
- CF Steven Duggar
Bench: C Tyler Heineman, IF Donovan Solano, IF Wilmer Flores, IF Pablo Sandoval, IF/OF Austin Slater
As for trading veterans for prospects, it’s doable, but it won’t be easy. Guys like Gott and Watson are obvious traded candidates. If the Giants are willing to eat money — and they absolutely should be — they’d find takers for Samardzija and Cueto. The return may not be great, but whatever they can get is better than carrying those two on the roster during a rebuilding year.
San Francisco was scheduled to begin the season with a 6 million payroll. That’s down from 0 million last year and 1 million the year before. The club still has million on the books next season, though the biggest contracts will expire soon thereafter. Here’s what the Giants can look forward to shedding in the coming years:
Bart has more raw power than most catchers, the product of bat speed, strength and leverage in his 6-foot-3 frame. Though most of the righty-hitting slugger’s homers come to his pull side, he has legitimate pop to all fields. While he doesn’t get caught up swinging for the fences, he’ll need to be more selective at the plate in order to hit for average.
|Date||OPP||Time / TV||Venue|
|Jul 23, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||10:08 pm ESPN||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 24, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 25, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||4:10 pm FOX||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 26, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||10:08 pm ESPN||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 28, 2020||vs San Diego||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Jul 29, 2020||vs San Diego||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Jul 30, 2020||vs San Diego||9:45 pm FS1||Oracle Park|
|Jul 31, 2020||vs Texas||9:10 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 1, 2020||vs Texas||9:10 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 2, 2020||vs Texas||4:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 3, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 4, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 5, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 6, 2020||@ Colorado||3:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 7, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 8, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 9, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||4:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 10, 2020||@ Houston||9:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Aug 11, 2020||@ Houston||9:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Aug 12, 2020||@ Houston||7:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Aug 14, 2020||vs Oakland||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 15, 2020||vs Oakland||7:07 pm FOX||Oracle Park|
|Aug 16, 2020||vs Oakland||4:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 17, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Aug 18, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||4:10 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Aug 19, 2020||vs L.A. Angels||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 20, 2020||vs L.A. Angels||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 21, 2020||vs Arizona||9:45 pm FS1||Oracle Park|
|Aug 22, 2020||vs Arizona||9:15 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 23, 2020||vs Arizona||4:10 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 25, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:45 pm FS1||Oracle Park|
|Aug 26, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 27, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||8:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 28, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 29, 2020||@ Arizona||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 30, 2020||@ Arizona||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 1, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 2, 2020||@ Colorado||3:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 4, 2020||vs Arizona||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 5, 2020||vs Arizona||9:15 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 6, 2020||vs Arizona||4:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 7, 2020||vs Arizona||8:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 8, 2020||vs Seattle||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 9, 2020||vs Seattle||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 10, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 11, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 12, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 13, 2020||@ San Diego||4:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 15, 2020||@ Seattle||9:40 pm||T-Mobile Park|
|Sep 16, 2020||@ Seattle||9:40 pm||T-Mobile Park|
|Sep 18, 2020||@ Oakland||9:40 pm||RingCentral Coliseum|
|Sep 19, 2020||@ Oakland||4:10 pm||RingCentral Coliseum|
|Sep 20, 2020||@ Oakland||4:10 pm||RingCentral Coliseum|
|Sep 21, 2020||vs Colorado||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 22, 2020||vs Colorado||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 23, 2020||vs Colorado||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 24, 2020||vs Colorado||3:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 25, 2020||vs San Diego||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 26, 2020||vs San Diego||9:15 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 27, 2020||vs San Diego||3:05 pm||Oracle Park|
Does Posey’s opt out open the door for Bart?
“The cool thing about this is we’re going to start this 2020 campaign in a pennant race,” Kapler said during a conference call at the start of summer camp. “So every game takes on an added level of importance. We’re going to treat Game 1 like it’s really, really important, and do the same thing every night through the end of the season.”
The lack of a minor-league season means there’s no great place for Bart this year. The Giants can either start his service time clock and send him right to the big leagues, where he might be overmatched (at the plate and behind it) by the best pitchers he’s ever shared a field with, or he can go to the alternate site and catch intrasquad games and whatnot. Rock and a hard place. Because of that, I can’t help but wonder whether San Francisco will be opportunistic in a depressed free agent market this winter. They know they have payroll flexibility coming and they need upgrades all over the roster. Could they make a run at Mookie Betts, a prime-aged superstar who would fit their spacious ballpark perfectly? Betts is still going to get paid very well this offseason, though perhaps not as well as he would have pre-pandemic. The Giants may see that as an opportunity to get something of a bargain.
Handing the reins over to Bart during the short season will be awfully tempting. At the same time, he was good rather than great last season (.278/.328/.495), and he’s only played 22 games at Double-A. Is it smart to jump him from basically High Class-A to the big leagues in what figures to be a rebuilding year, and start his service time clock in the process? Eh.
Speedster Billy Hamilton is currently away from the Giants for undisclosed reasons but, if he’s able to return at some point, he is expected to see considerable time in center field. Oracle Park is massive and Hamilton is a very good defender. Until then, Duggar is the man in center. Infielders Abiatal Avelino and Yolmer Sanchez, and outfielders Jaylin Davis and Joey Rickard, are part of the available player pool and candidates to see time this season. Second base, center field, and catcher have the potential to be a revolving door in 2020. The other spots are pretty well set.
“It’s just going to open up opportunity for all of the catchers in camp,” Zaidi said during a conference call this past weekend. “Buster was obviously slated to be our starting catcher. There are more reps, there’s more opportunity, and that goes for all the guys in camp.”
MLB.com ranks Bart as the 14th best prospect in baseball and their scouting report describes him as a worthy heir to Posey’s throne:
“Financial flexibility” is a popular buzzword in baseball and it usually means “we have money but don’t want to spend it.” Financial flexibility will actually be important following the shutdown, however. Teams have lost billions in revenue and it will lead to lower payrolls in the future. The free agent market and arbitration are going to be depressed this winter. Possibly longer.
The middle point may be the most important. Dubon has some skills and can be a high contact middle infielder going forward. Duggar is still only 26. Some of the 20-somethings on the pitching staff (Anderson, Menez, etc.) can be useful pieces. The short 60-game season won’t tell us as much as a full-time 162-game season, but it is an opportunity to learn. The Giants want to know whether these players are part of the future, or part of the group that needs to be replaced.
Payroll relief is coming
Those six players combined for 7.5 WAR and over 0 million in salary in 2020. It was a lot — a lot — of money for not much production. Right now, the Giants are running out the clock on those contracts. Longoria is the only player on the roster under contract beyond 2021. Zaidi & Co. will have close to a clean slate financially within 18 months.
So then what qualifies as a successful season by the Bay? This would be a good start:
- After 2020: Jeff Samardzija ($19.8 million)
- After 2021: Buster Posey ($22.2 million), Johnny Cueto ($21 million), Brandon Belt ($17.2 million), Brandon Crawford ($15.2 million)
- After 2022: Evan Longoria ($17.5 million)
The San Francisco Giants are a team in transition. The early 2010s dynasty era is over and the club has a relatively new front office and a brand new manager leading the way. Gabe Kapler was brought in to replace iconic skipper Bruce Bochy and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is entering Year 2 at the helm. Let’s preview the upcoming 2020 season at Oracle Park.
My hunch is the Giants will have Bart start the season at the alternate site. If he performs well down there and they are pleased with his development, they could summon him to San Francisco late in the season to get his feel wet. The Opening Day roster would be pushing it. Posey opting out does not make Bart more MLB ready. Expect the Giants to stick to the plan.
What qualifies as a successful season?
Last week Buster Posey, an all-time Giants great, . He and his wife are adopting prematurely born twin girls and Buster’s focus is on them and their well-being. No player needs to explain his decision to opt out in these adverse times, but Posey has as good a reason as anyone. The Giants have an aging roster — even Yastrzemski, last year’s impressive rookie, will turn 30 in August — and not a ton of near-MLB ready talent. Dubon, maybe Bart, a few arms, and that’s about it. How many players on the 2020 Giants will be part of the next Giants team that goes to the postseason? The answer might be in the single digits, truly.
If nothing else, the Giants have a lot of candidates for the back of the rotation. Lefty Tyler Anderson and righties Shaun Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Dereck Rodriguez could all see time as starters, if necessary. Righty Logan Webb is in that mix as well. The Giants have options and will be able to cycle guys in and out as necessary to cover for injuries or poor performance. This is Cueto’s first full (“full”) season back from Tommy John surgery and he could play his way into trade chip territory with a good year.
- Flip some veterans for prospects.
- Young big leaguers emerge as full-time players.
- Prospect development goes smoothly.
That last point is tough. There will be no proper minor-league season this year, so prospects like Bart, infield wunderkind Marco Luciano, outfielder Heliot Ramos, and 2020 first round pick Patrick Bailey will have to get their reps at the alternate site. Intrasquad games are as good as it gets this year. The Giants will try to make the best of a bad situation. On the field, Posey’s absence creates a big hole behind the plate. Incumbent backup catcher Aramis Garcia will miss the season following hip surgery, so the Giants are down to their third- and fourth-string catchers. At this point it’s only fair to wonder whether San Francisco will turn to Joey Bart, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and their top prospect, during this 60-game season.
The Giants won only 214 games the last three seasons, a .440 winning percentage that represents the franchise’s worst three-year stretch since they posted a .435 winning percentage from 1984-86. This is their third worst three-year stretch since moving to San Francisco, better than only 1984-86 and 1983-85 (.426). Dark times, these are.
There were questions about Bart’s ability to stay behind the plate when he was in high school, but he continually has improved and now has Gold Glove upside. He has worked diligently to become a quality receiver, possesses a strong and accurate arm and blocks balls well. He also has a knack for calling pitches and the leadership qualities desired at his position.