Farhan Zaidi

Report: Insiders believe Giants ‘damaged' reputation on free-agent market

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The Giants' pitching situation during the 2023 MLB season has been anything but typical, with openers and bulk-inning relievers being a frequent sight on the mound.

And San Francisco, usually viewed as a free-agent destination for pitchers looking to re-prove themselves after injuries or struggles, reportedly has harmed that distinction with how the team has managed its staff this year in the eyes of some.

The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Sunday that some industry insiders believe the Giants have "damaged" their reputation on the free-agent pitching market -- mainly because of how they handled early struggles from Alex Wood, Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling this season by placing them in bulk relief roles.

"... as the line of thinking goes, [the Giants] opened themselves up to doubts from the next crop of free-agent starters," Baggarly wrote. "Would the Giants’ next potential rotation targets be concerned that they’d be subjected to a similar fate if they didn’t get off to a good start?"

Baggarly also noted that "several prominent baseball minds outside the organization" view the Giants' unorthodox usage of both pitchers and hitters -- platoons have become a mainstay in the Bay -- as something that will make it "difficult to cultivate trust with players they attempt to sign this winter."

For example, outfielder Mitch Haniger, who signed a three-year, $43.5 million contract with San Francisco this past offseason, has been relegated to a bench role after struggling since returning from injury three weeks ago.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi responded to industry opinions by telling Baggarly this season's pitching usage isn't a long-term ideology, but rather a reaction to current circumstances.

“This was an unusual year for us from a pitching standpoint in that we had a lot of pitching depth, especially after the emergence of [rookies Tristan] Beck and [Keaton] Winn,” Zaidi told Baggarly. “When we got off to a poor start as a team and in the rotation, that depth probably led to us being more proactive about ways to make the overall staff more effective than if we just had five starters and had no choice but to keep running them out there.

“We still have a good park to pitch in and I am confident that we can sell our pitching infrastructure and overall track record with pitchers.”

While Shohei Ohtani is a given, it remains to be seen what other free agents the Giants will pursue this offseason. And hopefully for the Giants, those free agents still view San Francisco as a favorable landing spot.

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