SAN FRANCISCO -- Embracing change over continuity as they said they would, the Giants officially named Farhan Zaidi to become the club's president of baseball operations Tuesday.Zaidi, 41, is fluent in the language of baseball's modern metrics that most teams actively employ for player evaluation as well as strategy. But
SAN FRANCISCO -- Embracing change over continuity as they said they would, the Giants officially named Farhan Zaidi to become the club's president of baseball operations Tuesday.
Zaidi, 41, is fluent in the language of baseball's modern metrics that most teams actively employ for player evaluation as well as strategy. But he is described as someone who respects traditional methods such as scouting, partly explaining why he fit the description of the "great baseball mind" that Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer said he would seek.
Though Zaidi served as the Dodgers' general manager for the previous four seasons, he reported to Andrew Friedman, who runs their baseball operations. With the Giants, Zaidi will be the baseball czar, answering only to Baer.
"We set out to find one of the best minds in baseball and Farhan's many accomplishments and expertise exceeded our expectations," Baer said in a statement. "Farhan is widely viewed as one of the top executives in our industry, and we are thrilled to have him lead the next chapter of Giants baseball."
Since the final month of the 1985 season, San Francisco has employed four managers (Roger Craig, Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou and Bruce Bochy), four general managers (Al Rosen, Bob Quinn, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans) and four managing general partners (Bob Lurie, Peter Magowan, William Neukom and Baer). The Giants have a legacy of success, highlighted by the transition to AT&T Park and three World Series titles in a five-season span.
But the Giants own a 167-229 record since the 2016 All-Star break. Only the Orioles (160-239), White Sox (162-236) and Padres (167-230) have lower winning percentages in that span.
The Giants' "Next Gen" GM, as Baer defined the yet-to-be-hired executive at the end of the regular season, was expected to have command of modern baseball analytics. Zaidi fulfills that requirement, particularly after having worked with the A's in various capacities from 2005-14.
"He's definitely an analytical-type guy who will use his computer skills to create a model for the Major League club and the Draft," said a National League official.
Zaidi isn't merely a statistical geek who relies on computer printouts for wisdom, though. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998 and completed his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. But people who have worked alongside Zaidi attest to his ability to embrace traditional "baseball men" such as scouts. That quality could come in handy with the Giants, where Sabean and senior vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow, who have attained almost legendary status within the organization, are expected to retain some sort of role.
"I am delighted to return to the Bay Area and to join one of the most storied franchises in the game," Zaidi said in a statement issued by the Giants. "I have watched the Giants from afar and I have respect for the organization's culture and many accomplishments. I am excited about this new opportunity and I'm looking forward to getting right to work."
Zaidi has been known to prescribe a lineup or two, usurping the manager's responsibilities. That raises a potential problem with the Giants, where Bochy has complete autonomy. A compromise likely will be reached, unless San Francisco wishes to see the front door to Bochy's office cordoned off by yellow police tape every day. Zaidi possesses an eye for talent. He's reputed to have urged the A's, for example, to sign Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
As for Los Angeles, the National League West standings reflect the Dodgers' superior rosters. They have won six division titles in a row, including four under Zaidi's watch.
Meanwhile, the Giants have struggled to draft and develop key performers. Selecting three consecutive highly skilled first-rounders -- right-hander Timothy Lincecum (2006), left-hander Madison Bumgarner ('07) and catcher Buster Posey ('08) prompted their World Series binge. But neither the Draft nor the trade market has yielded much for San Francisco in recent years. It will be up to Zaidi to change all that.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.