For the first time since the Giants backed out of their deal with shortstop Carlos Correa on Dec. 20 because of a difference in opinion during the medical review process, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi spoke publicly.
On a Zoom call with local reporters, Zaidi clarified the Correa situation — though there are still many limitations on what he can disclose.
Shortly after the Correa deal fell through, Zaidi released a brief statement confirming the reason for not executing the contract.
“It’s been a frustrating situation for the organization, for me personally, for a lot of the people in the organization,” Zaidi said Friday. “Because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, we just haven’t been able to comment.”
Now, Zaidi has commented.
First, Zaidi explained information about the standard medical process teams go through. Every player, Zaidi said, has a medical record coordinated at the MLB level that their team’s training staff is responsible for keeping updated. For free agents, interested teams request and review that record before negotiating.
“We don’t engage in any discussions with any free agents who our training staff has not medically cleared based on the review of those records,” Zaidi said.
In Correa’s case, that medical record was clean enough for the Giants to strike a 13-year, $350 million deal. That contract, as is standard practice, is subject to a physical examination that must meet the club’s satisfaction.
Correa’s exam with the Giants raised concerns. Zaidi can’t comment specifically about Correa’s medicals, but multiple reports have pointed to an ankle and leg injury Correa suffered in 2014 as the crux of alarm.
Correa took his physical on Monday, Dec. 19. The Giants had scheduled an introductory press conference for the two-time All-Star at Oracle Park for 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Between Correa’s physical and Tuesday, Zaidi said he was in contact with the shortstop’s agent, Scott Boras. He insisted the Giants have a good working relationship with Boras, a fact evidenced by them signing Michael Conforto, another Boras client, afterwards.
“I stand by our communication with them,” Zaidi said. “Any suggestion that this was an 11th hour thing is just not accurate. As soon as we had information, we shared it.”
The Giants expressed concern, and Boras quickly pivoted on behalf of his client. Before the end of the day Tuesday, Correa had a deal in place with the Mets — again pending a physical.
San Francisco’s decision to not execute the landmark 13-year deal, Zaidi said, was made collectively.
“One thing that I would want to make clear, and I think it’s really important for us as an organization that our fans hear it from me — and hopefully believe it — is our organization was totally unified every step of the way as this unfolded,” Zaidi said. “In the initial pursuit, in the negotiation, and unfortunately what happened subsequently. There was complete alignment from ownership, to the baseball group, to the business side. There was 100% alignment. Any suggestion to the contrary, that certain factions were more concerned than others, is simply untrue.”
Zaidi said he believes there was a “good-faith effort” by all parties to get a deal done, and that he never got the sense that Correa was “anything other than 100% in on the idea of joining our organization.”
Entering his fifth year running the Giants — the final of a five-year deal he signed in 2018 — Zaidi positioned this winter as a potential inflection point for the franchise.
There was a clear need for a new superstar. Zaidi had worked to build payroll flexibility in the short and long term. The front office openly described the winter as a big one.
With less than two months until spring training, the Giants re-signed Joc Pederson on the qualifying offer and added Mitch Haniger, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Taylor Rogers and Michael Conforto (pending physical). Several of those players agreed to short-term contracts that could put them back on the market after a season, in keeping with several Zaidi-era contract structures.
“In a lot of ways, this offseason is an endorsement of the fact that there are a lot of players who want to play for the Giants,” Zaidi said. “That want to be in California, that want to be in the Bay Area, that want to play for Kap, that want to be part of the organization.”
Carlos Rodón, an All-Star in 2022, left for a massive deal with the Yankees. Aaron Judge chose to keep his pinstripes over San Francisco and Correa, after agreeing to his Giants deal, won’t wear orange and black.
In the past, the Giants have tried unsuccessfully to acquire stars like Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.
Correa is bound to join that list of Almost Giants. Although his deal with New York has still yet to be finalized as the Mets have reportedly expressed similar concerns as San Francisco, much would have to change for the Giants to swoop back in.
“Our understanding, as has been reported elsewhere, is they’re focused on a deal elsewhere at this point,” Zaidi said. “Chances of a deal with us at this point are pretty unlikely based on their position.”
Zaidi hopes that the collective focus shifts to the players San Francisco signed and away from the ones that didn’t.
With improved starting pitcher depth, the Giants have options that could aid a bullpen that’s improved with Taylor Rogers. Zaidi mentioned the possibility of a six-man rotation or taking down games with two starters.
With Haniger and Conforto, the Giants improved their outfield defense, which was arguably their biggest weakness in their 81-81 campaign last year. If they stay healthy, the outfield duo could also bolster the middle of the lineup that lacked the thump of 2021.
With Pederson back in more of a full-time designated hitter role, they could have a motivated, focused slugger at his best.
With Correa elsewhere, Brandon Crawford will get a chance to ride out the last year of his contract at the only position he’s known on a high note.
Zaidi is optimistic and expects the Giants to make the postseason. That doesn’t mean the twists and turns that led here didn’t make his winter easy.
He’d log into Twitter to find his name trending — “generally not a good thing,” he joked. He knows there are fans, some of whom have vowed to cancel their season tickets, upset with the direction of the franchise. He hopes they’ll remain invested despite the drama.
And there’s no guarantee, with 56 days remaining until spring training, that more moves aren’t coming.
“Part of the fun is getting off the mat and living to fight another day,” Zaidi said. “I still believe in this team and this organization. I’m still excited about the moves we can still make. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this team looks like come spring training.”