Gabe Kapler

Replacing Kapler: Theorizing Giants' short list for next manager

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Four years ago, Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris wore down the path from Oracle Park to a local restaurant known for having one of the city's best cheeseburgers. They held lengthy interviews with their finalists to replace Bruce Bochy, and ultimately they settled about where most thought they would.

Former coworker Gabe Kapler was Zaidi's choice to lead the Giants into the future, and after just two seasons, he was given an extension. On Friday, Kapler was shown the door, and Zaidi began a second search knowing that he's also in a much different spot. 

Zaidi has just one year left on his own deal, which makes this a tricky situation. Anyone who flies to San Francisco to meet with the Giants president of baseball operations will do so knowing that another disappointing season could lead to changes in the front office, which could lead to another change in the manager's office. 

On Friday, Zaidi said he's not at all worried about what kind of choices he'll have to replace Kapler. He anticipates having a new manager in place by the start of the offseason in early November. 

"Being the manager of the San Francisco Giants is, I think, one of the most attractive jobs in baseball and professional sports," he said. "I don't really see that as an issue. I think people know that they would be stepping into a great situation here with a great franchise, a great ownership group, a lot of really good young players that we've seen for the first time this year. 

"I think we're going to cast a wide net and I think there's going to be a lot of interest. This is a really, really sought-after job, as it should be."

Zaidi will have no shortage of candidates, but who does he want? He didn't shed any light on that Friday, and this all happened so quickly that the Giants don't really even have a short list. 

There are some obvious names, though. Here's an early attempt to put together a list of candidates who could make sense:

Bob Melvin

Asked about the likely options Friday, one rival executive laughed and said, "Aside from Melvin?" The Palo Alto native was trending on Twitter as soon as Kapler was let go, and he checks a lot of boxes. 

Melvin is a former Giant who knows Zaidi from his days in Oakland. He would be comfortable with this front office's style, while also bringing the gravitas and Manager of the Year awards to go his own way when necessary. Zaidi admitted Friday that maybe his manager needs more autonomy. 

Melvin is under contract in San Diego, but there has been widespread speculation in recent weeks that either Melvin or executive A.J. Preller has to go. The Giants have brought an experienced former catcher up the coast before ...

Ron Wotus

The longest-tenured coach in franchise history, Wotus is now a special assistant in baseball operations, but he is still in uniform helping infielders just about every home game and he is popular with players as ever. Having helped Bochy lead the Giants to three titles, Wotus would be a popular choice with the fan base, too. 

Wotus initially was on Kapler's staff before retiring from full-time work after the 2021 season. The Giants need experience in the dugout, and there's nobody with more of that than Wotus. 

Mark Hallberg

If you ask people around the Giants to pick one member of the staff who will manage someday, Hallberg is often the choice. The 37-year-old has served as the third base coach since 2022, but he was in the organization before Kapler arrived, so he could provide a blend of different styles. 

Hallberg also happened to play college baseball with Buster Posey, which could give him a leg up if the newest member of the ownership group plays a part in the process as expected. It would be a huge jump for a young coach who hasn't managed above Single-A, but Hallberg has a lot of fans within the organization. 

Zaidi plans to look at internal candidates, and interim manager Kai Correa and bullpen coach Craig Albernaz stand out as two others who could get discussed by the front office.

Donnie Ecker

Originally Kapler's hitting coach, Ecker left for the Texas Rangers after the 2021 season and has spent this season working under Bochy. It's hard to know how much of the offensive drop-off can be connected to that move, as the Giants' 2021 team had the benefit of riding Posey and the Brandons, but there's little doubt that Ecker is a unique thinker when it comes to hitting. The Giants, as you might have noticed, didn't hit in the second half. 

Ecker is a Bay Area native, which is a plus. But it might be awkward for the Giants to even think about bringing in Kapler's former hitting coach as manager, especially when they're likely to make changes with some of the coaches who were hired at the same time as Ecker in 2019. 

Clayton McCullough 

The Dodgers' first base coach was briefly connected to the Giants when they did their first search in 2019, a rumor that came out of nowhere. Industry insiders are high on McCullough, and while Giants fans have probably had about enough of Dodgers imports, there's little doubt that what they're doing down there is working. This is a long shot, but McCullough has a connection to Zaidi from his days in Los Angeles. 

Stephen Vogt

Throughout Vogt's playing career, he was faced with questions about his future: Would he manage or do TV? Vogt has chosen the coaching path and currently is Seattle's bullpen and quality control coach.

Vogt knows Zaidi from his A's days and a lot of other people here from his year as Posey's backup. It's a matter of when, not if, he gets a shot as a manager, and the Giants could surround him with experienced coaches to make the transition easier. The Giants lacked leadership down the stretch and Vogt would bring that to the clubhouse immediately. 

Joe Espada

The 48-year-old was one of three finalists for the Giants job in 2019 and has been the bench coach in Houston since 2017. He knows Zaidi from that search, and worked with current Giants general manager Pete Putila in Houston. 

Will Venable

The son of a former Giants outfielder, Venable is a former big leaguer who has coached for the Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers. He finished his career with the Dodgers when Zaidi was the general manager, and the Giants had interest in him in 2019 when he was the first base coach for the Cubs. 

Buster Posey

You can't write this story without Posey, because you'll be left with nothing but "WHAT ABOUT BUSTER" responses. Even Logan Webb joked about it Friday, saying there's not a guy in the clubhouse who would turn that down.

"I mean, it's Buster," he said. 

That's all you have to say, but Posey is just three years removed from opting out of a season to take care of his children, and he still has four young ones at home. This isn't the time to discuss Posey as manager, although the Giants would be smart to make their part-owner a more visible presence at the ballpark and put him right in the middle of the search process and their offseason attempt to overhaul the roster. 

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast

Contact Us