Why the Joe Panik Move Was Different Than All the Previous Ones

SAN FRANCISCO -- The next player the Giants use will be their 50th, and with the way this season has gone, it shouldn't be more than a few days before that player arrives. 

Farhan Zaidi has tried to look for an edge at every turn, and for the most part it has worked. The Giants are, somewhat surprisingly, still in contention for a postseason spot, but this season has certainly been an adjustment for a veteran clubhouse. 

Just when it seemed guys had gotten used to the churn, Joe Panik, a longtime member of the core, was designated for assignment. Zaidi has DFA'd or optioned plenty of familiar names, but Panik was by far the biggest to be let go by the new regime. It caught players by surprise a bit, even if they knew the reality of the situation when Scooter Gennett was acquired last week. 

"He's the player I've played with in the most games who was just suddenly designated," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. 

Crawford said he had given some thought to other noteworthy moves and the only comparison he could make was George Kontos being DFA'd in August two years ago. Kontos was a longtime member of the bullpen and a friend to many in the clubhouse, but Panik was at another level, having been a starter since 2014. It was just a week ago that he took the infield in Philadelphia with Brandon Belt, Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. Those five were starters back in 2014, too. 

But this season has been about change, and more is on the way. Already, the Giants have turned over the majority of their roster. 

Including starting pitcher Conner Menez, five of Tuesday's nine starters were not on the Opening Day roster. Of the 25 active players Tuesday, 13 were not with the team for Opening Day. 

Still, this move was different, and Zaidi nodded when asked if it felt like a bigger deal to part ways with Panik. He mentioned his "personal fondness for the player."

"I probably have less license to say that than some of the other people -- Boch and some of the other people -- but anytime you're dealing with that caliber of person and a player that always puts the team first -- which he does -- I think it makes it harder," Zaidi said. "I think a lot of the fans' affection for him has been that he's been a winning player. It's not what's on the back of his baseball card, but what he helped this organization and this team accomplish." 

For Zaidi to get this roster where it needs to be, more difficult decisions will have to be made. He already has proven with the Mark Melancon deal that he's adept at shedding big contracts. The Panik move was the first to subtract from the core, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see plenty more action involving marquee names this offseason. 

Those next moments will be just as tough on the clubhouse. This has been mostly the same group for years, and it was jarring to see a member of the championship era walk out the door. 

"The longer you're in it, the more you're going to see stuff like that," Crawford said. "But it's definitely tough to lose somebody like Joe."

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