SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whether he’s watching the team from the dugout, standing in the clubhouse hallway, or walking back and forth on the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium, Farhan Zaidi always seems to have his cell phone pressed to his ear.
That was the case Monday when Bruce Bochy announced that this will be his final season, but Zaidi said he did not get calls from coaches around the game looking to get a head start in the search process. He knows that will change, though. It didn’t take long after Zaidi took the Giants job for colleagues to start asking about a potential GM position, and you can bet that parts of this season will be spent having secret discussions with candidates to replace Bochy.
The man who actually hired Bochy 13 years ago believes that’s a good thing. This won’t be a distraction or an awkward situation, Brian Sabean said. Zaidi was informed during the hiring process that Bochy was likely headed for retirement, and Sabean believes that gave everyone time to get “out front” and “on board.”
“I think it should relax the atmosphere among all parties and give (Bochy) his proper due, give him his proper sendoff, but it also gives Farhan some good lead time to noodle this whole thing or line up how he’s going to attack it,” Sabean said.
Zaidi has already been through this process once before. He teamed with Andrew Friedman in 2015 to hire Dave Roberts in Los Angeles, and that collaboration proved to be a successful one. Zaidi, a communicator by nature, spent years with the A’s and Dodgers and has given plenty of thought to what or who he would look for if given his own shop.
He wouldn’t give anything away this week, but he has a short list forming in his head already.
“I think everybody is shaped by their own experience and people that they’ve come into contact with that they value their baseball acumen or their personal values or those kinds of things,” he said. “Everybody just by virtue of their own experience has a list of people that they’ve thought, ‘That guy could be a manager one day,' or, 'If I’m in a position that’s someone I would think about.’”
While Zaidi said this would be a collective process, Larry Baer made it clear that his president of baseball operations will take the lead. Baer said people within the organization — Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus would be two likely internal candidates — will be considered, but most of the candidates Zaidi has experience with would come from the outside.
One possible candidate, David Bell, came off the board a couple of weeks before Zaidi was hired. When Bell joined the organization as farm director in 2017, he was viewed as a likely successor to Bochy or general manager Bobby Evans. The Reds hired him away in October.
Bell was a nice blend of old and new, someone who could be a respected voice in the clubhouse but also work seamlessly with an analytics-driven front office. Roberts has been the same in Los Angeles, and that seems the likely mold for this search.
But Zaidi promised to be open-minded, pointing out that he and Friedman had no idea Roberts would even be a finalist when they began that search. To that point, two executives known as analytics types put together an eclectic group of candidates when the Dodgers were looking for Don Mattingly’s replacement.
Gabe Kapler, a favorite to win the Dodgers job back then, was certainly a modern choice. But the Dodgers also reportedly interviewed longtime baseball men Tim Wallach and Ron Roenicke, both of whom were in their late fifties at the time. Kirk Gibson was brought in, and he’s certainly not the type to be a puppet for a front office. Former Angel Darin Erstad, current Rockies manager Bud Black and current Nationals manager Dave Martinez also reportedly interviewed.
That’s not a group that has a ton in common.
Zaidi has a reputation for being the smartest guy in the room, but he loves spending time with scouts and experienced coaches, and has regularly positioned himself behind the cage this spring, chatting up players and Giants coaches. He eventually will find a replacement for Bochy, but right now it’s not something he’s worrying much about.
“I’m sure there will be conversations and inquiries along the way, but it’s not the focus for us,” he said. “For me, I’m still trying to learn the organization and the players and make sure I get off to the right start.”