Zaidi addresses Giants rotation questions after Chapman signing

Zaidi addresses Giants rotation questions after Chapman signing originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The general reaction when the Giants agreed to terms with Matt Chapman late Friday went something like this: “That’s a great addition, it was expected, and you got a nice deal … but what are you going to do about the rotation?”

On a Zoom call with reporters Sunday morning, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi reiterated that his plan there hasn’t changed, even with Tristan Beck out at least two months and Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery still looking for homes. Zaidi has maintained that he loves the young pitching depth the Giants have built and that they intend to lean on it.

“We have talked all offseason and been very consistent that our plan was to continue to graduate some of the young pitchers that we’re really high on to the big leagues, particularly in the rotation …” Zaidi said before running through some of the prospects. “Our plan all along has been to give our young pitchers opportunities and to try to create a defense that would support them in their transition and that’s one of the reasons Matt was such a priority.

“I’ll say what I said last time we talked after we signed [Jorge] Soler — the offseason is really over as far as we’re concerned. We’re more in in-season mode, which doesn’t mean you can’t make additions, but it’s a different dynamic because we’re really focused on the players that we have and how they’re all going to fit together.”

It’s here that some obvious caveats should apply. The Giants felt they were mostly done after signing Soler and they ended up with Chapman, whose agent — Scott Boras — represents the two best pitchers left on the market and will be in Giants camp on Monday for Chapman’s media session. The Giants have remained engaged with Boras on Snell at certain points of the spring, and there’s certainly a price point at which adding the reigning Cy Young Award winner would supersede any previous plans.

Zaidi said he can’t rule anything else out. “We don’t feel like anything is imminent there but we’re going to continue to look for ways to improve the team,” he added.

In talking about the rotation options, Zaidi brought up young prospects Mason Black, Kai-Wei Teng, Landen Roupp and Carson Whisenhunt. He didn’t want to put the options in any sort of order, but Black would appear to be the frontrunner.

The Giants felt he was ready for his big league debut coming into camp and he allowed one earned run and struck out three over three innings on Saturday.

Teng finished last season in Triple-A with Black and is getting off a mound Sunday after an oblique strain forced a late start to camp. The same holds true for Keaton Winn, the No. 4 starter who should be ready by Opening Day after an elbow scare. The Giants have slow-played Whisenhunt and Roupp, but those two could end up being the best of the bunch and Zaidi said they are trending in the right direction.

The plan is risky, particularly at a time when someone like Snell is still available and could potentially vault the Giants into the heart of the postseason race. But the front office sees two factors that lead to a bit of extra confidence in going young.

Chapman’s addition will help solidify what should be a vastly improved defense. With Jung Hoo Lee in center, Mike Yastrzemski in right, a full year of Patrick Bailey and some other minor tweaks, the defense actually could be a strength this season.

The Giants also are counting on Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray to contribute in big ways this season. They always have been confident that the young pitchers can bridge the gap while the two veterans rehab, and Zaidi said Cobb is due back “relatively soon in the year.”

The organization has not publicly given a timetable for Cobb’s return from hip surgery, but it’s notable that he hasn’t been placed on the 60-day IL yet, and teammates have marveled at how sharp he looks while throwing in camp. If Cobb can get back by May, there would be an added layer of stability for the rotation.

Ray is viewed as a big part of what is shaping up as a big offseason for the Giants, who now have added Lee, Soler and Chapman to the lineup, signed Jordan Hicks and Tom Murphy, and shed some unwanted contracts. Still, if this is it, the Giants will open the season with real questions about whether the rotation can hold up.

Zaidi, at least publicly, is not among those showing concern.

“We want to elevate our young pitchers,” he said. “There’s uncertainty that comes from the fact that there’s a lack of familiarity. Young pitchers are definitionally not household names, but we think that the more they get a chance to prove themselves, you sort of have to take the leap with them at some point and this is something we’ve been planning for a couple of years, to get younger in our rotation and give these guys the opportunity to win jobs.

“It’s not really a question of whether we’re prepared or comfortable. That’s sort of been the plan all along.”

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