Our top 10 candidates to become the next SF Giants general manager (including a clear favorite)

Oakland A's assistant general manager Billy Owens is considered a top candidate to join the SF Giants front office

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ – FEB. 15: Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations, texts on his phone after watching pitchers and catchers work out at Scottsdale Stadium, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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SAN FRANCISCO — The search for Bruce Bochy’s replacement will garner significant attention this offseason, but the manager position is not the only high-profile job the San Francisco Giants are attempting to fill.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is also interviewing candidates to become the Giants’ next general manager.

In previous years, the general manager position belonged to the Giants’ top baseball executive, but CEO Larry Baer’s decision to hire Zaidi last fall and install him as the president of baseball operations ensured that’s no longer the case. Zaidi holds the same responsibilities Brian Sabean once did as general manager while the next general manager will serve in the capacity of a lead assistant.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. Zaidi admitted it is and that the new front office hierarchy reveals how complex baseball operations departments have become.

“Nobody ever needed a president and a GM before, how’s this going to work?,” Zaidi said. “I feel in five years baseball has come a long way because there’s a tremendous amount of alarm that we don’t have a GM at this point.”

What exactly will the new general manager do?

Zaidi said job duties will largely depend on the qualifications and the skills of the person the Giants hire. The organization isn’t necessarily looking for a jack-of-all-trades, but instead someone who specializes in a particular area such as scouting.

“I think by not defining it specifically, it opens up the candidate pool,” Zaidi said. “Whether that’s somebody that has experience and expertise in scouting or player development, administration, whatever their strengths are, hopefully, we can complement each other and work well.”

With that in mind, we evaluated 10 candidates who could fit the broad job description and end up as Zaidi’s second in command.

Billy Owens, Oakland A’s assistant general manager

Long considered to be the favorite for the job, Owens is considered one of the sharpest scouting experts in the game. The San Jose native has spent the last 19 seasons with the A’s organization and ascended through the ranks alongside Zaidi, who began his career in Oakland’s front office.

There’s little doubt Owens would be a home run hire, but he played a significant role in shaping the A’s roster and it’s possible he would want to see many of the players he helped acquire attempt to deliver a championship to Oakland. The Giants will be challenged with presenting Owens with an enticing offer, but a league source said Owens is “definitely interested” in the job.

Owens has a vast knowledge of players at every level of professional baseball and would fit in well with a front office that already includes one of his former Oakland colleagues, Giants amateur scouting director Michael Holmes.

Peter Woodfork, MLB senior VP of baseball operations

A former Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager who has been in a high-ranking role with the league office since 2011, Woodfork’s name pops up regularly when teams are searching to hire new executives.

He reportedly interviewed for the Mets’ general manager job last winter, which suggests Woodfork has some level of interest in working for a team again. Woodfork’s strengths may suit the Giants on the administrative side, which could prove important for a team that made too many mistakes in handing out large contracts in the middle of the decade.

J.P. Ricciardi, Giants special advisor

It’s unclear if Ricciardi has interest in re-entering the day-to-day grind as a central front office figure, but he appeared to enjoy his first season as a special advisor to Zaidi. Ricciardi was more present than other members of the front office with his title and has a genuine interest in staying involved in the game after a long run as the Blue Jays general manager.

It’s important for front office personnel to have strong working relationships and by hiring an internal candidate, Zaidi would at least know what he’s getting.

Michael Fishman, Yankees assistant general manager

Another Yankees assistant GM, Jean Afterman, was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Giants’ president of baseball operations job last offseason, but the highly-regarded Afterman has insisted she’s not interested in a GM title. 

The Yankees front office is full of bright minds and Fishman ranks among those who would be in line for a higher-profile job elsewhere. Initially hired as an analyst by New York in 2005, Fishman helped create a quantitative analysis team that’s now among the largest in all of baseball.

Fishman is an analytics guru who certainly qualifies as the type of “next-gen” front office executive the Giants have in mind.

Kevin Goldstein, Astros director of pro scouting

Few teams have done a better job of accumulating talent in recent years than the Houston Astros and Goldstein is one of the figures who receives credit for the work. Goldstein is involved with trades, free agent signings and overseeing the Astros’ pro scouting efforts, so he’s established himself as a key cog in one of the most successful front offices in baseball.

Goldstein also brings somewhat of an outsider’s perspective to a front office as he began his career in baseball as a writer for Baseball Prospectus.

Other candidates on our radar

Amiel Sawdaye, Diamondbacks assistant general manager: Sawdaye is well-regarded in Arizona, but it’s unlikely the D’backs would allow their No. 2 baseball operations executive to move to a similar job within the division

Raquel Ferreira, Red Sox Senior VP, major league and minor league operations: Ferreira has risen through the ranks in the Red Sox organization for 21 years and is expected to play a key role in helping Boston replace Dave Dombrowski.

Brandon Taubman, Astros assistant general manager:  A former derivative valuation expert for Ernst & Young, Taubman is another member of an Astros front office that’s loaded with talent other teams are trying to poach

Billy Gasparino, Dodgers director of amateur scouting: The Dodgers’ player development machine is incredible and despite the team’s recent playoff exit, there’s no doubt Los Angeles has built a talent pool that’s the envy of the rest of the league. Gasparino is largely responsible for helping assemble the up-and-coming group.

Ismael Cruz, Dodgers vice president of international scouting: There are few better ways to level the playing field in the NL West than to start dominating the player acquisition process in the international market. Cruz left a similar job with the Blue Jays in 2015 to join the Dodgers. Some of the players he’s credited with signing in recent years include Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Franklin Barreto, Jeurys Familia, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores.

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