This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
One of Farhan Zaidi’s first goals after taking over as the Giants’ president of baseball operations in November 2018 was to improve the club’s organizational depth. He left no stone unturned in the process, bringing in players through waiver claims, Minor League deals, the Rule 5 Draft and free agency.
Over the last year, a new player-acquisition strategy has begun to emerge for Zaidi and the rest of the Giants’ front office: Adding injured players, helping them rehab and bringing them into the fold once they’re healthy.
The Giants took that route with reliever John Brebbia, who signed a one-year, $800,000 deal in December 2020, even though he wasn’t expected to be ready for the start of the 2021 campaign as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. Brebbia wasn’t quite himself immediately after returning from injury — he posted a 5.89 ERA over 18 appearances last season — but he’s emerged as a key bullpen piece this year, entering Wednesday with a 1.80 ERA with nine strikeouts over 10 innings.
“In theory, you have the ability to acquire an elevated level of talent if you’re willing to hang in there through injury risk through the rehab process,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “That’s why you’re able to have guys like that in your organization. Because they’re talented, they were hurt and they’re coming back from injury.”
San Francisco’s patience is also paying off with outfielder Luis González, who was acquired from the White Sox despite undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder last summer.
The Giants happened to have an open spot on their 40-man roster after designating Aaron Sanchez for assignment, so they claimed González off release waivers and then transferred him to the 60-day IL shortly thereafter. The Giants continued to pay González the Major League minimum while he rehabbed his shoulder, a courtesy the White Sox were unwilling to extend to their former 2017 third-round Draft pick.
“Talking to my agent, for them to put me on the 60 after claiming me — it’s something that the White Sox didn’t do, so it shows that the interest is there,” González said.
González was outrighted off the 40-man roster over the offseason, but he re-signed with the Giants on a Minor League deal and impressed with a strong showing during Spring Training. He earned his first callup with the Giants last month and has helped fill the void left by the injuries to fellow left-handed-hitting outfielders LaMonte Wade Jr. and Steven Duggar, entering Wednesday batting .300 with a .766 OPS and eight RBIs over 10 games and delivering a go-ahead home run against the Brewers on April 25.
González said he drew interest from other teams over the offseason, but he decided to stick with the Giants, just like they stuck with him.
“It was always come back here,” González said. “There were obviously other teams, but my eyes were set on the Giants.”
Brebbia and González might not be the only players who are coming off injuries and could have a chance at impacting the Giants this year. San Francisco also gave $5.2 million to starter Matthew Boyd, who is targeting a June return as he works his way back from left flexor tendon surgery. Reliever Sam Delaplane, who was also stashed on the 60-day IL after being acquired from the Mariners last year, could factor into the bullpen mix once he completes his rehab from Tommy John surgery, as well.