AT&T PARK — There’s a whiteboard hidden inside the San Francisco Giants’ home stadium. It hangs on the wall of Bobby Evan’s office and displays a wish list for 2018.
The club’s senior vice president/general manager smiles wide and chuckles when asked if such a whiteboard — and attendant list — actually exists.
“Yeah,” Evans said. “That’s a good way to describe it.”
If there are any advantages to posting the worst record in baseball, it’s that such unrelenting futility allows an exec like Evans to get an early start on the giant offseason that awaits the entire front office.
“Right now, you’re thinking about 2018,” Evans explained, as he stood inside the home dugout following batting practice before a recent game.
“You’re entrenched with the roster,” Evans said. “But there’s not a lot of roster moves to be made now, so you are entrenched with the thought process for 2018. It’s very much in the forefront of our minds.”
The thought process for the last-place Giants is two-fold. Evans and Co. have to identify which players outside the organization — either via trade or free agency — should be pursued. The brass also has to determine which useful pieces are already in place.
Unlike the power-happy upstarts across the Bay, the Giants don’t have any Matt Chapmans or Matt Olsons or even Chad Pinders on the roster — at least, not currently.
Chris Shaw, a 2015 first-round pick, boomed 24 homers in the minors but was a September casualty of a roster rule dictating that his promotion would have hampered the Giants’ ability to protect other prospects.
Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo, the top pitcher and position player, respectively, are both mending from season-ending injuries.
“We knew months ago that that was going to be the case,” Evans said of the missed evaluation opportunities.
“So, it was disappointing — even then — but yeah, our focus right now is on the guys that are here,” Evans said. “And we’re trying to enjoy those opportunities that they’re getting.”
Asked which of those guys have stood out, Evans meanders, a telling statement on the status of the youth movement.
First up is Austin Slater, who flashed potential before spending most of the summer stranded on the disabled list.
“Slater stood out before he got hurt,” Evans said. “Now that he’s back, he’s still finding his way.”
Then, there’s Jarrett Parker, who boasts power. Like Slater, he spent multiple months on the DL after shattering his clavicle crashing into the left field wall in April.
“He’s looked really good,” Evans said of the outfielder who returned at the start of August
“He’s made some adjustments,” Evans continued. “He got a lot of at bats in the minor leagues, and I think that shows in terms of plate discipline [and] really his overall approach defensively, as well has been good for the most part.”
On the infield, there’s Ryder Jones, owning a .183 average heading into the weekend, who has failed to capitalize on the opportunity that arrived when good friend and minor league roommate Arroyo went down for the year.
“Ryder’s made adjustments since he was here the first time,” Evans said. “He’s getting a lot of playing time and maybe at some level, he’s really being pushed and challenged. So that’s good for him. You’ve got to feel good about where he’s at.”
The list goes on.
Kyle Crick has done a “nice job” out of the bullpen. Miguel Gomez “looked good” before — like so many others — an injury cut him down. Erstwhile left fielder of the future Mac Williamson had a strong August in the minors, but hasn’t enjoyed much of a chance with the Giants, by Evans’ admission.
Evaluating players in September can be a dangerous proposition. Teams around the league sport expanded rosters, and for clubs like the Giants, it’s been months since anyone’s felt the big-league pressure of playing a meaningful game.
Donning his scout’s hat, Evans takes the long view.
“You don’t let somebody’s April define their value nor do you let somebody’s September define their value,” Evans said. “All of it’s a combination of all the work together, but there is something to be said for guys who finish strong.”
The assessment doesn’t end in September, either. Beede headlines the contingent of prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. Arroyo is the most prominent farmhand taking part in winter ball.
“It’s all an evaluation process,” Evans said “And we’ve got to find ways to get better and hope they can help us.”
The evaluation extends to the established Giants, too. The club has high-dollar question marks in the outfield (Hunter Pence and Denard Span) in the bullpen (Mark Melancon) and in the rotation (Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore).
With September still winding down, Evans, unsurprisingly, is not ready to reveal what the help will look like this winter or what names are already written on that whiteboard. Evans is playing it close to the vest.
“We try to keep our minds on the target,” he said.