The San Francisco Giants have had a quiet offseason, aside of course from acquiring new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi from the rival and six-time defending division champion Dodgers and challenging him with getting this franchise back into contention.
Or, as Zaidi emphasized, competing night in and night out.
San Francisco will be younger, with fewer big names, for sure. And some of those big names — take Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Madison Bumgarner — are eager for fresh starts after injury-shortened years in 2018.
Returning to respectability will be the first chore: The Giants finished 73-89 last season while trading away Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees in late August in a lost year. San Francisco struggled to score runs and went a majors-worst 5-21 in September but improved on its last-place 2017 finish of 64-98 by nine wins.
Zaidi brought back left-hander Derek Holland for $7 million over one year and signed lefty Drew Pomeranz to a $1.5 million, one-year contract.
They will add depth for a starting staff that in 2018 missed Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija for significant stretches in a second straight season.
Here are some things to know about the Giants:
POSEY’S PROGRESS: Posey underwent season-ending hip surgery in August.
At the December winter meetings in Las Vegas, Zaidi said he absolutely still considers Posey the face of the franchise and a feared hitter in the middle of the batting order. That’s after Posey hit .284 with five home runs and 41 RBIs.
The hip did limit the catcher at the plate.
INJURED PITCHERS: Manager Bruce Bochy has said he expects Bumgarner to bounce back like his old self — the dominant southpaw who captured 2014 World Series MVP honors.
Bumgarner broke the pinkie on his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive from Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield in his final 2018 spring training start, then had surgery to insert pins into the finger.
He returned and wound up 6-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts and 129 2/3 innings. The lefty ace missed nearly three months last year following a dirt bike accident during an off day in Colorado.
Cueto had Tommy John surgery in August.
Samardzija “is pretty much on schedule,” according to Zaidi, after the right-hander dealt with shoulder issues that limited him to 10 starts and just 44 2/3 innings as he went 1-5 with a 4.17 ERA.
NEW LOOK: Gone are fan favorite Hunter Pence, hothead Hunter Strickland and reliable outfielders Gregor Blanco and Gorkys Hernandez.
Pomeranz is familiar with the Bay Area — he spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons with Oakland — and the NL West, having pitched for Colorado and San Diego. He spent the past three years with Boston.
Pomeranz won a career-high 17 games for the Red Sox in 2017. But he went 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA last season and was limited to 11 starts and 26 appearances for the World Series champions because of two stints on the disabled list — first with a strained left forearm followed by biceps tendinitis in his pitching arm.
He did not pitch in the World Series but was on the roster.
“My big thing is getting back on track to doing what I can do and just being myself again because it’s very frustrating when you have to fight through a year where you know this isn’t me, how do I fix this, what can I do to make sure this never happen again?” he said. “In that regard, this just felt like a great fit for me.”
ROOKIES TO WATCH: Catcher Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft last year, got an invitation to big league spring training and will give the Giants a glimpse of the future. Bart is the team’s top prospect after hitting 13 homers and 14 doubles in 45 games in Class-A last year and will get the chance to work alongside Posey. Bart figures to be a big part of the team’s plans in 2020.
THEY’RE NOT: The Giants have plenty of uncertainty in the outfield following the departures of Pence and Blanco. The most experienced outfielder on the roster is Mac Williamson, who has played only 120 games in his career.
PITCHING ANALYST: The Giants hired pitching analyst Matt Daniels to join Zaidi’s staff. Daniels left his position in Seattle as pitching coordinator of driveline baseball to join San Francisco.