Shohei Ohtani

Why Giants were ‘very invested' in Ohtani at trade deadline

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Washington Nationals changed course last July and put Juan Soto on the market, the Giants learned a difficult lesson.

Soto was the perfect hitter to add to their lineup and could finally end the pursuit for a superstar. Farhan Zaidi called about Soto, but the rival San Diego Padres ultimately had a much better package to offer. While the Giants felt even last year that their farm system was headed in a good direction, most of their best prospects temporarily stalled, particularly in the months before the deadline. 

There was no better example of that than Luis Matos, who might have been the centerpiece of an offer had he broken out last spring instead of this one. The 21-year-old is now part of a young core that's already in the big leagues, and the farm system is flourishing, particularly on the pitching side. The calls Zaidi had with rival execs before this year's deadline were much different. 

"I had a number of conversations with other GMs that gave hints like, 'We really like your system, we like your players,'" Zaidi said on a recent episode of the Giants Talk Podcast. "I know you do that sometimes just to butter up a potential trade partner and just sort of flatter them that way, but I think it was genuine, and I do think if those types of players were out there that we felt strongly about pursuing, guys who were impact players who could be here for a long time, we could have a seat at the table and put together a package that was as competitive as any team out there. That's a really good statement on the progress of our farm system."

There was no Soto on the market this summer, but for a few weeks, there was nonstop speculation that a better player could find a new home. The Los Angeles Angels reportedly were open to trading Shohei Ohtani at one point, but they pulled him back after a winning streak briefly got them right back in the AL Wild Card race. The Angels actually went the other way, trading for right-hander Lucas Giolito, one of the best available arms. Giolito beat the Giants on Tuesday night. 

In the series finale, the Giants will face Ohtani as a pitcher for just the second time. Just a few weeks ago, they were spending a lot of time discussing him internally, until the Angels pulled him off the market for good. 

"It was interesting. The timing, in some ways, was helpful that they kind of chose a direction with a few days left," Zaidi said. "It wasn't teams waiting until (deadline day) and hearing, 'Hey, we're going to hold onto him.' I think this is a sign of the health of the league, that there are a lot of teams in it and a team like that could reverse course. 

"A player of that magnitude, I just always bet against something happening with them until it does. That was sort of our expectation and you sort of plan accordingly, but it was definitely an interesting storyline. We were very invested in it like a lot of teams were, and not surprised by how it wound up."

The decision, meant to get Ohtani into the postseason for the only team he has ever known, has backfired. The Angels lost seven in a row before beating the Giants on Tuesday and are now seven games back of a postseason spot. 

The Giants are in a much better spot and hope that helps this offseason, with Ohtani said to be prioritizing winning over all else. Perhaps it's a good thing, then, that Matos, Patrick Bailey and others are still around. They'll have a chance Wednesday to show the game's best player that the future has started to arrive in San Francisco. 

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast

Contact Us