SF Giants: What we learned from Farhan Zaidi’s season-ending press conference

Zaidi provided updates on the Giants’ managerial search, their future at shortstop, their outlook for this offseason and a player who will undergo surgery

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Oracle Park sat empty on Tuesday, the official start of the postseason, as a half-dozen ballparks radiated with the kind of energy that only playoff baseball can provide. Quiet. The only sign of life was a swarm of reporters and cameras surrounding Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ general manager, who wished his team was gearing up for October rather than kicking off his offseason perched on a dugout bench answering questions for 45 minutes.

“We’re sitting here, with the playoffs starting, talking about the end of our season, finishing under.500, that’s a disappointment,” Zaidi said about a half-hour into his postmortem. “That’s not where we wanted to be.”

Zaidi had recently stated that he needed to “rethink everything.” His team withered down the stretch, revealing deeper issues on a roster and an organizational philosophy that has resulted in only one postseason appearance in five seasons. As far as these things go, the manager, Gabe Kapler, bore the brunt of the blame, but larger changes are in the works, as Zaidi explained further Tuesday.

The search for a manager

Last week, Zaidi stated that a link could be drawn between the Giants’ final road trip, which eliminated them from postseason contention, and the decision to part ways with Kapler. In other words, it was a rare rash decision from a decision maker who values long-term trends.

As a result, Zaidi didn’t even have a list of internal candidates to share on Tuesday, even though it appears that the majority of the search will be conducted externally.

“I imagine we’ll have at least one or two internal interviews,” Zaidi said of the group, which also includes third base coach Mark Hallberg, bench coach Kai Correa, catching coach Craig Albernaz, and special assistant Ron Wotus.

With the goal of hiring a manager by the start of free agency, the Giants will need to move quickly in their search. According to Zaidi, the internal process could begin later this week, while they will begin asking for permission to interview external candidates at the beginning of next week.

Logan Webb has expressed a desire to be involved in the decision-making process, and Zaidi stated that he and other players, as well as Buster Posey and other members of ownership, will have the opportunity to meet with prospective candidates later in the process.

“There’s no template,” Zaidi explained. “I’ve worked with managers with diverse backgrounds and management styles.” I believe we should broaden our search as much as possible. We’re not looking for a manager who is tied to specific strategies in any way.”

Plans for the offseason

Whatever Kapler’s successor is, he will use many of the same tools.

“Even with a lot of turnover, we’re going to have 15-20 of the same players next year,” Zaidi stated. “We must ensure that we get the most out of them.” As we enter free agency and begin to recruit players, we must persuade them that we have the right players around them. I believe that many of the players we have are contributing to the solution.”

When asked about his offseason priorities, Zaidi realizes he sounds like a broken record.

“I think some of these quotes will be compared to what I said last year because they’re going to sound pretty similar,” he stated. “But one of the big things is just gonna be to go into next year with as good of a defensive club as we can have.”

Zaidi singled out the outfield as an area for improvement.

Michael Conforto, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater are among those who must make or be made decisions about their future. Conforto has the option to opt out of a $18 million salary next season, while Slater and Yastrzemski are both eligible for arbitration raises. Joc Pederson, their most vulnerable defensive player, is set to become a free agent.

“Last year, we had a significant problem with our outfield defense. It got better this year, but it wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” Zaidi explained. “I just think being more athletic, having more range in the outfield, we talked about our pitching staff for the second time in three years having the lowest walk rate in baseball, to really get the best out of that, if your pitchers are forcing the action on the opposition, when they get guys to put balls in play, you want to be able to convert them into outs.”

The Giants’ offseason will most likely be focused on position players.

With Webb, Alex Cobb, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, and Tristan Beck (plus Anthony DeSclafani returning from injury, Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling potentially returning if their player options are picked up, and another group of young arms expected to graduate from the minor leagues), Zaidi said, “I don’t imagine us looking to add starting pitching depth,” though he didn’t rule out top-of-the-rotation options.

Aside from Shohei Ohtani (who Zaidi deftly avoided discussing), the free agent market is thin.

The Giants could use their surplus of pitching to acquire an impact bat, and Zaidi stated that “even at the deadline this year, we were open to trading just about anybody, and I imagine we’ll have the same outlook this offseason.”

Shuffle the shortstops

The Giants are almost certain to have a new Opening Day starter at shortstop, a position where they’ve had the same player for the past 12 years.

It was truly a changing of the guard when Marco Luciano replaced Brandon Crawford in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday.

“As we sit here now, we want to give Marco Luciano the chance to be the everyday guy next year,” Zaidi stated. “We would’ve liked to see him up here a little bit more, but he’s worked his way up, earned this opportunity and we’re really excited about it.”

Crawford, 36, is one of six pending free agents for the Giants.

He has not stated whether he intends to retire or continue playing, but Zaidi stated that “it’s a challenging fit.”

“We view Marco as our shortstop next year.”

Slater needs surgery

A notification flashed across reporters’ phones moments before Zaidi took his perch on the dugout bench (in use because quantitative analysts took over the old interview room): Austin Slater will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his elbow on Oct. 11.

Slater’s elbow has been a persistent problem. It kept him out of spring training this year and limited his throwing ability even after he returned.

“The plan will be for him to be ready for Opening Day,” Zaidi stated. “We may have to be careful with his workload in spring training, but he should be ready for Opening Day.”

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