Giants

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

SAN FRANCISCO -- The best way to get through life on social media is to never check the mentions, but a lot of Giants employees couldn't help themselves over the past month.

The franchise's search for a new manager was mostly quiet outside of the building, but occasionally a scrap of information would leak out, and Giants fans were not shy about making their opinions known about one particular candidate. Team employees found themselves gravitating toward Twitter, reading some of the reaction.

Gabe Kapler was the favorite when the Giants started this process more than a month ago, and in the end, he was Farhan Zaidi's choice.

Zaidi and Andrew Friedman nearly hired Kapler as the manager in Los Angeles before settling on Dave Roberts, but given a second chance, the Giants' president of baseball operations is tying a large part of his own future to Kapler, whom the Phillies fired last month after two seasons.

This perhaps is the biggest decision Zaidi will make over the course of his initial five-year contract with the Giants, and it's one he did not at all take lightly.

The Giants knew Kapler would be a controversial choice, and sources say there was division at the upper levels of the organization about which way they should go. As the finish line neared, Kapler came back to San Francisco.

"He has met with everybody we have," one Giants person said Monday.

There are team employees who preferred Astros bench coach Joe Espada and a path with less baggage, but in the end, this was Zaidi's choice, and it needed to be.

When the Giants brought Zaidi up from LA a year ago, they handed him the keys to the baseball operations department. You can't do that, and then keep him from making his own decision with his most important hire.

Zaidi was deliberate, interviewing two internal candidates and a handful of rising coaches from other organizations. As of Monday afternoon, some of his coworkers believed Zaidi truly had not made up his mind, but the search kept coming back to Kapler.

The reasons for optimism are clear. Kapler is known as a good communicator, and he was a rising star while with the Dodgers. The Giants believe they need changes across all levels, and Kapler helped modernize the Dodgers while serving as director of player development. While he went 161-163 as the manager in Philadelphia, Kapler does have two years of experience and hopefully has learned from his mistakes. Zaidi has publicly talked of the boost a manager can get the second time around.

Kapler certainly has the résumé that can help overhaul a Giants clubhouse that had become stale. He played a dozen years in the big leagues, and that carries significant weight. His time working in the minors should serve him well, as he takes over a team that used 64 players in 2019 and expects to bring in plenty of prospects over the next two years.

But there also are reasons why you'd be ratioed with the mere mention of Kapler as a front-runner. There are questions about the way he handled assault allegations against Dodgers prospects while in LA, and Kapler and his bosses will have to answer those as he's introduced Wednesday. Zaidi gave his initial thoughts Tuesday night, but he'll likely have to address it again. Kapler will, too.

[RELATED: Krukow explains why he likes Kapler's hiring]

Ultimately, this decision will be judged on wins and losses, and Kapler is coming off a rough finish in Philadelphia. The Phillies had plenty of injuries, but they went 81-81 and finished fourth in the NL East after adding Bryce Harper.

The Giants have been worse than that in recent years, of course. That's why they brought in Zaidi and tasked him with overhauling the organization. They gave him the keys and trusted him to make the right decisions.

The first year was mostly positive, with the big league roster showing strides and the farm system hinting that it might get this team back to contention sooner than expected. This is the start of Zaidi's second year with the Giants, so he took a big swing, giving Kapler a three-year contract. Starting Wednesday, when they'll stand side by side at Oracle Park, they'll try to prove it was the right decision.

The easiest way to do that is one that worked for the previous regime. Win, and win big.

More on Kapler from NBC Sports Philadelphia

Leadership issues led to Kapler's firing by Phillies 
Kapler's reactions on final day of Phillies season
Bryce Harper's thoughts on Kapler's future
Kapler, Velasquez have miscommunication

MLB rumors: Giants to hire Reds' Donnie Ecker as new hitting coach

MLB rumors: Giants to hire Reds' Donnie Ecker as new hitting coach

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are hoping to see a youth movement in their lineup over the next couple of seasons. They're apparently going with the same approach on their coaching staff. 

Cincinnati Reds assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker will be named the Giants' hitting coach, according to Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic. The Giants did not immediately confirm the hire. They are expected to announce their staff next week at the Winter Meetings. Ecker, 33, is just five years removed from being the baseball coach at Los Altos High, his alma mater. 

The Giants have spent the last month putting Gabe Kapler's staff in place, and they have not looked in traditional corners. They have worked to surround Kapler with coaches who take a more modern approach and can help develop the next Giants contender, and Ecker certainly qualifies as an interesting hire. 

Ecker spent just one season as assistant hitting coach in Cincinnati. In 2018 he was the Triple-A hitting coach for the Angels, and before that, he coached in the minors for the Cardinals for three seasons. Ecker's coaching career began in 2013 when he took a job at Los Altos High, where he was a two-sport star in baseball and football. Ecker was a 22nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2007 but got just 97 minor league at-bats. 

Ecker certainly is a bit of an out-of-the-box hire, but that might be just what the Giants need after years of struggling to put together a lineup that can hit at Oracle Park. Ecker's bio with the Reds stated that "his teaching methods incorporate human movement research and technology-based applications to the body and swing." He is described as someone who is an "integrated movement specialist."

[RELATED: Where Giants' core players stand as Winter Meetings near]

Once confirmed, Ecker will join third base coach Ron Wotus as members of Kapler's staff. The Giants also have hired Brian Bannister as Director of Pitching but it's unclear if that role will have him in the dugout. 

MLB rumors: Giants targeted Georgia's Sean Kenny as next pitching coach

MLB rumors: Giants targeted Georgia's Sean Kenny as next pitching coach

The Giants' coaching staff under manager Gabe Kapler is starting to take shape. 

The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Sunday that San Francisco was in negotiations with Indians defensive coordinator Kai Correa, and sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic on Wednesday that Brian Bannister, a former big leaguer who spent the previous five seasons with the Red Sox, will join the Giants as their director of pitching

Speaking of pitching, the Giants appear to be on the hunt for a new pitching coach. And their search seems far and wide. 

D1Baseball's Kendall Rogers reported Wednesday that the Giants targeted the University of Georgia's pitching coach Sean Kenny for the same role in the big leagues. But, UGA made sure Kenny stayed in Athens. 

Kendall says the Giants have looked at several candidates from college and the pros, and Kenny looks like a prime coach on the rise. The former 17th-round pick of the Mets became Georgia's pitching coach before the 2018 season and instantly made a huge impact. 

Georgia's pitching staff lowered its team ERA 1.05 points to 3.97 in Kenny's first year on the job, and set a school record with a .236 opponent's batting average. That number dropped to a lowly .200 last season, as UGA's ERA fell to 3.24 while setting a school record with 601 strikeouts. 

[RELATED: Report: Twins, White Sox 'heaviest suitors' for MadBum]

The Giants haven't formally announced that Curt Young will not return for a third season as their pitching coach, but it was expected that Kapler would bring in several new coaches. The only known coach to come back next season is Ron Wotus, who will be in his 33rd year with the Giants organization.

Bench coach Hensley Meulens has joined the Mets, and hitting coach Alonzo Powell accepted a job in Japan in the same role.