SAN DIEGO — Scott Harris was not heading back to visit friends and family in Chicago or off to Hawaii for a needed vacation.
Following four busy days, the Giants general manager was ready to fly back to his San Francisco office. While no additional trade or signing was imminent, he said, he’d be heading back to work as the Giants try to turn what they deem as a successful Winter Meetings into a successful winter.
The Giants are leaving their Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel suite with more luggage than they lugged in, a roster that now includes starter Kevin Gausman, infielder Zack Cozart and Rule 5 reliever Dany Jimenez, along with a 15th-overall pick this year in middle infielder Will Wilson.
The Giants used a variety of channels to acquire talent: Gausman was a free-agent signing who brings a first-round pedigree and some major league success, though the Giants believe there’s more there to tap into. Cozart, off a second shoulder surgery and set to make nearly $13 million, was brought in because the Angels needed to offload salary and were willing to give San Francisco a sweetener: Wilson, whom the Giants had contemplated five picks earlier in the draft.
Jimenez rounded out their roster, the Blue Jays reliever with a big fastball and slider and a ton of minor league strikeouts representing the latest flier for a team that loves them.
After four days that will test an executive’s mettle, Harris is leaving happy.
“We tried to lay the groundwork early in the offseason in hopes that we could get something done. I think we’ve made two moves that we’re really excited about,” the first-year (and second-month) GM said as the Meetings were closing Thursday. “… Still on the phones all the time. Still talking trades, free agency. Trying to find ways to get better. But I think this is a good start.”
What comes next for a team that is more than $50 million below the unofficial salary cap, a team that has “financial flexibility,” as Harris said again? Nothing soon, it sounds like. And while the Giants are open to more Cozart-esque deals — absorbing other teams’ albatross pacts to essentially buy prospects — Harris did not want to limit their options.
“If we target young talent that becomes acquirable either through a veteran acquisition with a bigger contract, yeah, we’re going to explore that,” Harris said. “But we’re also going to explore other, more-traditional baseball trades. Because at the end of the day, if a trade is going to make us better, we’re going to do it.”
If they go the first route and eat more deals to trade salary for prospects, there are plenty of potential partners.
The Yankees, the winners of the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, will have J.A. Happ’s $17 million salary to sell (and have outfielder Clint Frazier blocked at the major league level). The Red Sox are looking to shrink their salary and have David Price’s three years and $96 million on the books. The Cubs — Harris’ former employers — are believed to want to cut payroll and have Yu Darvish (four years, $81 million) and Jon Lester (one year, $15 million, with a $10 million buyout on 2021’s option and with a no-trade clause) at their disposal. The three years and $60 million owed to Wil Myers, a corner outfielder, could be absorbed from the Padres, who may have the best farm system in baseball.
If the Giants flex their financial might on the free-agent market, Nicholas Castellanos is the most attractive corner outfielder. And there’s this guy named Madison Bumgarner who continues to linger on the market.
The Giants remain in contact with Bumgarner’s camp, which also figures to be in contact with the Dodgers, as the hated rivals reportedly will move in on the Giants lefty after they whiffed on Cole.
It is not expected the Giants will go all-out to keep the 30-year-old, though Farhan Zaidi has pulled bigger surprises.
Speaking of surprises, free agents are actually being signed thus far.
“It’s great for the sport that all this stuff is happening,” Harris said. “… I will caution it’s Dec. 12, so we still have a long way to go in the offseason.”