SAN FRANCISCO -- When Derek Holland spoke up Saturday night and said he didn't know what the front office was doing, he wasn't just speaking for himself. There has been confusion this season, more than in past ones, from the players, coaches, support staff and fans.
This is not what the #ForeverGiant organization has gotten used to. The roster moves have come quickly, young players are cut loose after a dozen at-bats and veterans are gone in a month. The process has led to some grumbling, and perhaps one day Farhan Zaidi will look back on this season and feel he wasn't clear enough from the start about what the goals would be.
But in Denver last week, after Yangervis Solarte and Pat Venditte were let go, Zaidi did very clearly lay out his plan.
"A key for us, I think, is going to be adaptability and looking at different guys. We're trying to compete, but we're also trying to find guys who could be keepers for this organization, who are going to be here for a few years," he said. "We're kind of trying to walk that balance and part of it is giving guys opportunities but sometimes having to pull the plug before you get what really amounts to an appropriate sample look.
"That's part of the tightrope that we're walking with some of these guys. With that set of goals, I guess it's not that surprising that we moved on quickly from some guys."
That is not the kind of sexy message you put on billboards on Third Street or convey to season ticket holders, but it is a very clear one, and if you just read that one quote, you can see what this season is all about.
But is it working? A quarter of the way through, let's take a look at those two goals:
"We're Trying to Compete"
Yeah, uhh, they're not competitive.
At 18-24, the Giants have the sixth-worst winning percentage in the Majors. They are 9 1/2 games behind the Dodgers already, and there's no known universe where you could make a realistic argument that they'll get anywhere close to catching them. With a six-game winning streak maybe you could start dreaming of a Wild Card, but the Giants have been outscored by 39 runs already, so there's no real reason to believe they can turn it around.
The moves made to compete -- Gerardo Parra, Yangervis, Holland, Drew Pomeranz, etc. -- mostly have backfired. Kevin Pillar has worked out well, but with so much of the core taking a step back, his addition didn't ultimately move the needle much.
This, most likely, is a 90-plus loss team that will be torn apart at the trade deadline and will end up with another top 10 draft pick. That's good news for the long term!
But it's a major bummer when you remember that this is Bruce Bochy's last season, and the odds are good that he'll be eliminated in mid-September while penciling in a lineup full of prospects.
"We're Also Trying to Find Guys Who Could Be Keepers"
A big part of the appeal of Connor Joe and Michael Reed was that they are 26 years old. If the front office hit on one of those guys, he could be around for the next Giants team to make the postseason. Alas ...
The jury is still out on most of the "guys who could be keepers."
Steven Duggar has had a disappointing season at the plate, but the defense -- in any outfield spot -- is elite, and he should be part of the outfield mix for years to come. Tyler Austin, 27, has a .831 OPS and looks like a future bench bat or member of a left field platoon. Mac Williamson is getting his audition, but he's batting just .185 thus far. Mike Gerber did not run with a job. At some point we'll see Aaron Altherr.
The Giants have plenty of guys in the minors -- Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski (who has 11 homers), Chris Shaw (who has made huge strides with plate discipline -- who could get a look, but here in May, you can't say they have any idea what a 2020 outfield will look like.
There certainly is concern in the infield, where Pablo Sandoval, 32 years old and about to hit free agency, has been the most consistent hitter. After years of hitting on draft picks, the Giants have gone through a drought in this department, although Jalen Miller has a .802 OPS in the tough Eastern League and the 22-year-old could get a look in the second half.
On the pitching side, 26-year-old Trevor Gott and 25-year-old Travis Bergen have a chance to be part of future bullpens. But Reyes Moronta has regressed a bit, Dereck Rodriguez was demoted, Tyler Beede has been unable to translate his Triple-A success to the big leagues, Andrew Suarez and Ray Black got hurt, and Logan Webb was suspended.
Shaun Anderson's debut was promising, and he'll get another shot next week to try to lock down a rotation spot. But the Giants need to find a lot more over the next four-and-a-half months. They'll send Beede back out to see if it clicks, and Rodriguez and Suarez will be back.
Ultimately, the pitching staff is now in the same position as the lineup. How many guys in either group can you guarantee will be a contributor in 2021? Zaidi had a clear goal, but he'll have to shift.
To find guys who can be keepers, he will have to officially give up on "trying to compete," trading the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and others for prospects and young pre-arbitration players. We always knew that was coming at some point, but the poor start should accelerate the teardown.