Evaluating the Giants’ Trades Under Farhan Zaidi

by Jacob Taylor


After a few years developing a reputation as a bit of a front office golden boy with the A’s and Dodgers, Farhan Zaidi took the job of President of Baseball Operations with the Giants in November 2018. He brought with him a reputation for being highly analytical, and he was expected to leverage that mindset in a value-conscious way. But has he? 

His team enjoyed one standout season, 2021, that, in retrospect, was driven largely by the old core of aging veterans (Buster Posey’s last stand, if you will, before he retired) more so than any moves made by Zaidi. Before and after that, the Giants have been decidedly mediocre.

One aspect of team-building is making smart trades. So how has Zaidi done on that front? Let’s break them down, beginning in 2019, to leverage our database since our site was created.

For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll ignore the small deals – the ones that were for a fringe roster piece in exchange for cash or a PTBNL (there are lots of those that amounted to nothing). With that in mind, let's get to it. 



February 2021: Giants receive LaMonte Wade Jr. ($2.9M trade value at the time); Twins receive Shaun Anderson ($2.7M) 

This deal looked extremely fair at the time, but the years since have proven this to be a one-sided trade. Wade has become the everyday 1B for the Giants and has produced fWAR totals of 1.7, 0.3, and 2.1 (for a total of 5 fWAR) since his acquisition in 2021. Wade turned what was a rocky start to his career in Minnesota into being an average regular in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Anderson pitched just 8.2 IP for the Twins with a 9.35 ERA and has not had a productive big-league season since this trade. He’s now pitching in Asia. Chalk this one up as a victory for Zaidi. 


April 2021: Giants receive Thairo Estrada ($0.5M); Yankees receive cash considerations (unknown)

This trade might be Zaidi’s shining moment. The Yankees simply didn’t have room for Estrada on their 40-man roster, so they sent him to the Giants and received cash in return (he was out of options, so that also hurt his value and forced the issue). Since that trade, Estrada has become the everyday 2B for the Giants and produced season fWAR totals of 1.1, 2.8, and 3.9, for a total of 7.8 fWAR. Estrada, 27, looks set up to be the Giants' 2B for the foreseeable future with a chance to make All-Star appearances. Pretty good for a little cash. 


August 2, 2022: Giants receive J.D. Davis ($0.9M), Carson Seymour ($0.9M), Nick Zwack ($1.6M), Thomas Szapucki ($0.7); Mets receive Darin Ruf ($1.9M) 

This felt like a terrible trade for New York at the time. They essentially traded for the equivalent bat of J.D. Davis, but with no hope for defense – and gave up three extra prospects to do so. Turns out, Zaidi and team were right. Ruf managed -0.9 fWAR across 29 games in 2022. 

Meanwhile, Davis improved a bit after the trade, finishing the 2022 season in line with expectations, then put up 2.2 fWAR for the Giants in 2023. He’s become a valuable right-handed power bat who isn’t a liability at 3B. This trade has the opportunity to become worse for the Mets as Nick Zwack, Carson Seymour, and Thomas Szapucki are all still in the Giants system, albeit none considered top prospects. 

To add insult to injury, Ruf was released by the Mets last April, and re-signed with the Giants (although he continued to underperform there).



May 2022: Giants receive Michael Papierski ($0.1M); Astros receive Mauricio Dubon ($0.6M) 

Dubon was on the fringes of the Giants’ roster and he was out of options, so Zaidi sent him to Houston in exchange for catching depth. This was a mistake. Papierski played in only 5 games for the Giants and failed to record a hit. Meanwhile, in Houston, Dubon struggled across 83 games in 2022, managing only 0.1 fWAR. However, he broke out in 2023 with a 1.9 fWAR season. That 1.9 would have been good for 6th on the 2023 Giants. This one stung.


December 2022: Giants receive Kade McClure ($0.7M); White Sox receive Gregory Santos ($0.6M)

McClure had a 5.79 ERA in AAA last season, and he’s 27 years old. Meanwhile, Santos put up 66.1 IP for the White Sox with a 3.39 ERA and 1.6 fWAR. And that’s not the worst part. He’s only 23 years old and under team control until 2029, which is why the Mariners had to give up two mid-level prospects and a draft pick to get him in a recent trade. This is already looking like a horrific trade for Zaidi and the Giants, with the opportunity to get a ton worse. 


Too soon to tell:

July 30, 2021: Giants receive Kris Bryant ($13.9M); Cubs receive Caleb Kilian ($1.0M), Alexander Canario ($10.1M)

This is extremely hard to judge. At the time, this trade leaned slightly in favor of the Giants. They got their superstar for the 2021 playoff push and the Cubs got something back for a player about

to hit free agency. Bryant managed a 113 OPS+ (100 is average) over 51 games in San Francisco as they managed to win 107 games and usurp the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers for the N.L. West crown, before being eliminated in the divisional round by those same Dodgers in 5 games. 

On the other side, Canario managed a 143 OPS+ across 17 MLB-level plate appearances in 2023, and currently ranks 14th among the Cubs top prospects. Caleb Kilian has only 16.2 IP in MLB, with a 12.42 ERA and is now 27 years old. What Canario does from this point forward will go along way in deciding the outcome of this trade. Bryant helped carry the Giants to an N.L. West crown and league leading 107 wins. However, if Canario’s career is anything like his first handful of plate appearances, then the Giants may have let go of a franchise cornerstone in the process.


May 2022: Giants receive Donovan Walton ($0M); Mariners receive Prelander Berroa ($0.4M)

Donovan Walton for Prelander Berroa might end up as the worst trade Farhan Zaidi ever constructed. Walton, across 78 plate appearances as a Giant, has a 44 OPS+, which is bad as you can be and still be on the fringes of MLB. All the while, Berroa reached MLB for a cup of coffee at the end of 2023 and was recently traded to the White Sox as part of the package for Santos. Considering the fact that the Giants are likely to get little to no value from Walton, and projecting what Berroa is capable of at just 24 years old with six years of control, this could be a genuine loss from Zaidi.


January 2024: Giants receive Robbie Ray (-$43.2M); Mariners receive Mitch Haniger (-$29.7M), Anthony DeSclafani (-$1.1M), and $6 million in cash to offset the salaries. 

Our model had this one as a terrible deal for the Giants as they took a -$18.4M loss on the trade, which is the largest difference of any trade during Zaidi’s tenure with the Giants. Seattle later flipped DeSclafani and more cash to Minnesota in the Jorge Polanco deal. This one represents one of the largest trades Zaidi has made, and it may be the straw that broke the camel's back or the beginning of new success.


Adding it up:

So far, balancing the wins against the losses of the more significant trades we can track at this point, Zaidi has three wins and two losses. Not bad at all. Granted, none of them are so significant that they’re considered game-changers in the industry. But the wins (Wade, Estrada, and Davis) have unquestionably helped the team, while the losses (Dubon, Santos) haven’t hurt too much.

Meanwhile, the three trades that are “too soon to tell” are not looking promising so far, so that calculation may indeed change.

Interestingly, Zaidi does not seem to be one of the more active traders in the industry – he’s seemed to focus more on acquiring players via free agency (e.g., a lot of veteran pitchers) or waiver-wire pickups (the most notable being Mike Yastrzemski). 

Still, it begs the question, is he missing an opportunity by not using the trade market more to his advantage? Then again, based on this analysis, trading does not seem to be his strongest suit. And given the fact that his team has made the postseason only once in his tenure, is the patience of the Giants fan base and its ownership wearing thin? It seems that way.


About the Author


Zaidi did not pick up Yaz on the waiver wire, it was one of his biggest trade wins- Yaz from Baltimore for Tyler Herb (who is now out of baseball). Let's throw that one in the win column.