How Giants' managerial search could be impacted by other openings


How Giants' managerial search could be impacted by other openings

SAN FRANCISCO -- Larry Baer always had his eye on Farhan Zaidi, but it took more than a month after the end of the 2018 regular season to make the hiring official because the then-Dodgers GM was unable to fully interview while his team made a run to the World Series. 

Zaidi may find similar roadblocks this October as he looks for Bruce Bochy's replacement, along with one other issue. There are managerial openings every offseason, but this is about as loaded a class of vacancies as we've seen in recent years. 

So far, there are seven openings, including the one at Third and King. The Cubs job is as appealing as any in the sport, and the Mets also play in a large market with a strong veteran roster. Take either one of those jobs and you can reasonably expect to contend next season. The same would hold true in Philadelphia if Gabe Kapler is let go. 

The Padres have the best farm system around and could have a quick turnaround under the right leadership. Plus, you get to live in San Diego. The Angels have their issues, but they also have Mike Trout. The Pirates and Royals also are looking for new managers. 

There's a lot of variance in that group, but inevitably, some of the hot names will get calls from multiple executives. Zaidi acknowledged this week that the other openings could impact his own search. 

"Obviously I don't know who is on other teams' managerial candidate lists but it's reasonable to expect there to be some overlap, and it throws an additional wrench into scheduling of things, which could wind up extending the process," he said. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it but I imagine some of the candidates we wind up interviewing will be candidates elsewhere as well." 

That could be the case with Raul Ibañez, who is believed to be at or near the top of Zaidi's list. The current Dodgers front office employee also reportedly could be on the radar in Chicago, where bench coach Mark Loretta is a candidate and also could be a fit for what the Giants are looking for. 

Joe Maddon is believed to be the favorite in Anaheim and Mike Matheny in Kansas City, and neither has been connected to the Giants yet. But it's likely that someone like Mark Kotsay, connected Friday, will have other options as well. The same holds true for Hensley Meulens, who interviewed with the Giants this week and has been a hot name in coaching circles for a couple of years. 

[RELATED: Zaidi reflects on difficult trade-deadline decision]

The Giants kicked off the interview process this week and plan to talk to six-to-eight external candidates. The expectation has been that a new hire won't be made until November, but keep an eye on other openings. There's a musical chairs element here, and openings and hirings elsewhere will impact the Giants. 

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff


Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

SAN DIEGO -- When you hear the words "player development," you think of 19-year-olds learning on back fields at the minor league facility in Scottsdale, or a roving hitting instructor spending time making swing changes with prospects Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos, or a coach teaching a Logan Webb or Sean Hjelle a new pitch. 

But when Giants manager Gabe Kapler talks about player development -- and he does so often -- he's also thinking about guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Kapler said this week that there's "not much I feel more strongly about" than players continuing to develop at the big league level, and that played a huge role as he hired a young staff that will ideally bring an innovative approach.

"There's evidence all over the place in Major League Baseball about players who reinvent themselves or take major steps forward and reestablish their value at the Major League level," Kapler said this week at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

The Giants are building for the future, but they also believe they can squeeze much more out of the existing core. And when Bart and Ramos are veterans one day, they want those guys to continue to find new levels, too. As he talked about player development at the big league level, Kapler pivoted and told a story about Bryce Harper, who already had more than 900 games under his belt when he joined Kapler's Phillies last season. 

"Bryce Harper, I think, was influenced heavily by Paco Figueroa, our first base and outfield coach, mostly just because Paco was not concerned about approaching Bryce," Kapler said. "He recognized that Bryce Harper wanted to be coached and wanted to develop, and he was willing to approach. Bryce recognized that so much so that at the end of the year when we were doing our exit meetings, Bryce recognized that Paco had been influential in his career and helped him become a better outfielder and baserunner."

Harper was worth negative-26 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018 according to Fangraphs -- just about the only blemish on his résumé as a free agent -- but was plus-9 in his first season in Philadelphia, a massive improvement. The Giants were actually intent on going that path long before Kapler arrived. When they offered Harper $310 million last year, their existing analytics and coaching staffs had ideas about how they could get more out of Harper defensively with positioning changes. 

Harper's not the only example the Giants will use to sell their vision to veteran players. General manager Scott Harris mentioned Gerrit Cole as another who found new ways to add to his game. 

"Look at the strides he made the last two seasons and now he signed the largest free-agent contract (for a pitcher) in the history of the game," Harris said. "You look at the strides he made when he first burst onto the scene for the Pirates and what he did in Houston. Their coaching staff was largely responsible for the development he saw at the Major League level."

The Astros' staff has gotten a lot of credit for turning Cole into the pitcher the Pirates were expecting when they took him first overall in 2011. Cole had a 3.50 ERA in Pittsburgh and a 2.68 ERA in Houston, where his strikeout rate jumped from 8.4 per nine innings to 13.1. He was worth 15.4 WAR in five seasons with the Pirates and then skyrocketed to 13.4 in two seasons in Houston. 

[RELATED: Kershaw believes Dodgers signing MadBum would be 'great']

Kapler and Harris are not walking into an organization that has a Harper or Cole, but they believe their new coaching staff and player-development methods can get the most out of existing talent. That'll be a focus in spring training, and the conversations have already begun with some veterans. Kapler, who mentioned J.D. Martinez as another example of late-career adjustments, said he has spoken to Posey multiple times since getting hired. 

"I think that a lot of established successful Major Leaguers want to get better and sometimes they don't know how," Kapler said. "In some cases, it's because coaches haven't approached them because they don't want to break something that's working well, but I think those days are gone and I think players crave having coaches approach them and ask them to make changes."

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Despite what Giants fans want to believe, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are friends.

Before many Giants-Dodgers games over the years, they could be seen talking on the field, in plain sight of everyone.

So it should come as any surprise that Kershaw would love to have Bumgarner on the Dodgers.

"I love Bum," Kershaw said Friday at a Dodgers holiday event according to Dodgers Nation. "If we signed him, that’d be great."

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Dodgers and Bumgarner have a mutual interest in a deal.

Bumgarner in Dodger blue is the worst nightmare for Giants fans. But it's a real possibility with Los Angeles missing out on top free agent Gerrit Cole.

[RELATED: Padres reportedly looking at Bumgarner]

Kershaw hasn't been able to bring a World Series to Los Angeles on his own, so of course, he would love for a postseason hero to come help him end the Dodgers' title drought.