Why Giants, new manager Gabe Kapler think so highly of Rays organization

Why Giants, new manager Gabe Kapler think so highly of Rays organization

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Farhan Zaidi wouldn't have accepted the job last November, the Giants very likely would have turned to Chaim Bloom, then the vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. A year later, Gabe Kapler was chosen over two other finalists for the manager job, including Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. 

It's no accident that the front office keeps looking to Tampa Bay in a quest to find a new and better approach, and their new leadership team has Rays connections, too. Zaidi was hired in Los Angeles by Andrew Friedman, who came over from the Rays. Kapler played his final two big league seasons in Tampa Bay. 

Asked earlier this month if there are specific strategies he wants to implement with a younger Giants team in 2020, Kapler brought up his former team. 

"Farhan has a tendency to be experimental. I know the guys in Los Angeles have a tendency to be experimental, as well," Kapler said. "I think an organization that we all think pretty highly of that's doing great things in the industry is the Tampa Bay Rays. I think Tampa is a really good model for being creative around strategic decisions. Things like you mentioned, like the opener, how to use relievers maybe in more high-leverage situations relative to having very set, specific roles."

The Rays are not the only organization on the frontline of innovation, but they get the most credit because they've gone furthest in big league games, and they continue to win despite one of the lower payrolls in the league. Tampa Bay went 96-66 last season, finishing 15 games better than the Phillies and 19 ahead of the Giants, who want to embrace new strategies while also having the payroll to dominate in more traditional methods of player acquisition. 

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With Zaidi in charge, the Giants did try some new things last season. They used an opener once and tried a four-man outfield with Joe Panik standing in right. At the minor league level, they used openers, piggybacked starters at times, and experimented with four-man outfields and different shifts. 

A big part of that was to get future Giants on board with new methods, and Kapler said communication will be key as he tries new things.

"All those conversations have to happen before those kind of experiments are put into motion," Kapler said. "Because, if they're all for it and the strategic decision makes sense, sure I think that's a really cool strategy to deploy. But if a guy is like, oh man, I don't feel like I can get ready for a game to come in in the second or third inning, it might take a little bit more work before you're ready to use that guy in that situation."

For more from Kapler on his early thoughts on the Giants, you can listen to him on The Giants Insider podcast. 

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.'s Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

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While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority


MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

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While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.