CARLSBAD — A few days after shaking up the Giants' baseball operations department, CEO Larry Baer said he would methodically look for a “great baseball mind.”
The Giants now have hired a man known as one of the best in the game.
Farhan Zaidi will switch to the other side of the rivalry, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area and the team later confirmed Tuesday, going from general manager of the Dodgers to president of baseball operations for the Giants. Zaidi, 41, finally will have complete control of his own front office, reporting only to ownership.
The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the news, and Zaidi will be introduced at a 1 p.m. Wednesday news conference at AT&T Park.
For the Giants, this is a coup. Zaidi was high on their wish list from the beginning of a search to replace Bobby Evans, but it always was unclear if they could lure him away from the Dodgers, who are light years ahead of the Giants at the moment when it comes to roster construction and farm systems. The move weakens the Dodgers’ front office while giving the Giants a highly thought-of executive to take the organization in a new direction.
"We set out to find one of the best minds in baseball, and Farhan’s many accomplishments and expertise exceeded our expectations," Baer said in a statement released by the Giants. "Farhan is widely viewed as one of the top executives in our industry, and we are thrilled to have him lead the next chapter of Giants baseball."
Zaidi, who has economics degrees from MIT and Cal, began his career as a baseball operations analyst with the A's. He was promoted to director of baseball operations in 2009 and became their assistant general manager in 2014.
"I am delighted to return to the Bay Area and to join one of the most storied franchises in the game," Zaidi said in the Giants-issued statement. "I have watched the Giants from afar, and I have great respect for the organization’s culture and many accomplishments. I am excited about this new opportunity, and I’m looking forward to getting right to work.”
A's general manager David Forst, one of Zaidi's good friends, said he stood out right away.
“We originally hired Farhan because of his personality,” Forst said Tuesday. “Not because of his Ph.D. or his analytics chops or whatever. Billy (Beane) and I really liked him.”
With the A’s, Zaidi had his hand in all aspects of player development. He is known for statistical analysis and certainly fits the “next-gen” description that Baer threw out in September, but he's also known as someone who appreciates the scouting side of the game. The Giants still rely on scouting more than most organizations, and finding someone who honored both sides of the coin was an emphasis for Brian Sabean, the former general manager who has served as vice president of baseball operations.
“He is someone who fit in well with scouts and always wanted to be out at games with guys, and I’m sure he’s continued to do that with the Dodgers as much as possible,” Forst said. “This is the last guy you would sort of pigeonhole as just an analytics person.”
When Andrew Friedman moved from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles, he picked Zaidi as the general manager of what became a powerhouse Dodgers front office.
“I felt like our skill sets would complement each other really well, and it’s played out as well as I could possibly imagine,” Friedman said.
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Zaidi joined the Dodgers in November 2014 and helped turn them into the perennial power in the NL West. The Dodgers have won the division six consecutive years and reached the World Series in back-to-back years. They have done so using many of the methods the Giants would like to now emulate, building a strong farm system while selectively adding free agents and finding hidden gems such as Chris Taylor and Max Muncy.
As the Giants approached a deal with Zaidi, the move was just about universally praised at the annual GM meetings. Zaidi is quite popular in the sport, and is said to be popular in the Dodgers clubhouse as well. One friend joked that Zaidi is a three-time champion of the organization’s high stakes fantasy football league.
The Giants would settle for signs of progress, and they’ve chosen Zaidi as the man to lead them in the years ahead.