SAN FRANCISCO -- A year ago, Larry Baer and the Giants ownership group had to wait until the end of the World Series to get a chance to hire their man. This time around, it's Farhan Zaidi, last offseason's big hire, who has had to be patient. 

But Zaidi and the Giants appear to be zeroing in on a new manager. 

According to league sources, the Giants are believed to have narrowed their search to former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, Royals quality control coach Pedro Grifol and Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who is coming in for a second in-person interview now that Houston's bid for a title is over.

The Giants talked to Espada on the phone early in a search process that kicked into gear in the week after Bruce Bochy's final game. Before Game 3 of the World Series, he flew from Houston to San Francisco for several hours of interviews before catching a late afternoon flight to Washington D.C. 

Kapler, fired by the Phillies after two seasons, has long been an option because of his connection to Zaidi when both worked for the Dodgers. According to one source, Kapler has at points been the favorite in the process, but it's unclear where the search stands currently.

 

Grifol, who also interviewed for the Royals job that went to Mike Matheny, has been a dark horse throughout but comes with a strong background. 

Grifol is 49 years old, while both Kapler and Espada are 44. Kapler is the only one of the trio with previous big league managerial experience, and while his time in Philadelphia was rocky, Zaidi has talked of the importance of having done the job before. 

The Giants have had nine known candidates for the job, although it's possible that others were brought in given how secretive the process has been. Nobody representing the organization has spoken publicly about the search since Zaidi's end-of-season press conference on Oct. 1. 

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Internal candidates Ron Wotus and Hensley Meulens were joined by the three mentioned above, A's bench coach Mark Kotsay, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and Cubs first base coach Will Venable. According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Giants also spoke to Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren.

Zaidi said he expected to interview eight to 10 candidates.