SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- No team has had more success with minor league free agents over the past decade than the Giants, who put together a priority list every season and then go hard when players are let go by their previous organizations in the fall.
The front office has generally had success selling minor league free agents on their ballpark, their culture, their coaching staff and, for pitchers, their catcher. But for one of last offseason's biggest targets, the most important factor wasn't even part of the organization until Nov. 6.
"When Zaidi came on, that was pretty much my decision-maker," right-hander Kieran Lovegrove said. "I was very interested in following him wherever he went."
Lovegrove had a lot of qualities that put him right near the top of the wish list for the team officials who kept everything running smoothly as Larry Baer looked for Bobby Evans' replacement. He's just 24 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.73 ERA at three minor league levels, struck out 10 batters per nine innings, and pitched in the Futures Game. Lovegrove has a mid-90s fastball that ticks higher at times, and the Giants' analytics people and scouts felt there were tweaks he could make to his pitch mix to break through.
When the Indians failed to put Lovegrove on their 40-man roster, the Giants were aggressive. They felt they had a good shot at landing the California product regardless, but the addition of Farhan Zaidi put Lovegrove over the top.
"I had kind of heard what he had done in Oakland and then I got to see what he did in L.A. as I followed the way that they helped to develop players and find players that had been told, 'Here's your ceiling and you can't go above that,'" he said. "He took them and it seemed like he would just say, 'Look, I believe you can do more so go out there and do more.'"
Lovegrove had a chance to pass that message along earlier in camp when he met with Zaidi, Bruce Bochy, Curt Young and Matt Herges. He already has made adjustments, leaning on Michael Schwartze, an analyst who was hired a year ago and travels with the team, to alter the way he attacks hitters.
Lovegrove talked about those adjustments on this week's Giants Insider Podcast, along with a lot more. We touched on mental health, what he has learned from Trevor Bauer, fastball spin efficiency, supporting causes that are not usually affiliated with baseball players, minor league pay issues and much more.
You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.