SAN FRANCISCO - The initial headlines after last week's firing of general manager Bobby Evans didn't quite capture what the Giants are looking for in the next head of their baseball operations department. CEO Larry Baer said he wanted a "next-gen" candidate, and that was taken to mean the Giants would shift toward an analytics-based view.
In reality, they prefer a person who represents much of what has been successful here, just with a different and fresh perspective. Brian Sabean put it this way Sunday: "It's somebody that's strong on both sides of the house and has been able to matriculate learning from both sides of the house."
That means a person who can push the Giants forward in the analytics realm while still respecting the scouting community that helped build a dynasty. It's a tricky balance, and Baer and Sabean are expected to take at least a month to make a very important choice. And make no mistake about it: This is the biggest move the Giants will make this offseason.
The next head of baseball operations will report directly to Baer, potentially shape this roster for the next decade, decide what to do with Madison Bumgarner and others, choose the next manager and hire many of the people - including a new GM, likely - responsible for trying to turn around this mess.
Baer said this process will not be public, but names surely will leak over the coming weeks. So, here's an early list of some interesting candidates, narrowed down from discussions with executives and sources around the game:
Jed Hoyer, Cubs general manager
The model for big-market teams recently has been to offer a step up for someone who was GM elsewhere, and let that person become a president of baseball operations and reshape the front office. Multiple league execs pointed to Hoyer as the best candidate to make that jump.
He has a good thing going in Chicago, but he should be at the top of any short list the Giants create.
Farhan Zaidi, Dodgers general manager
It seems unlikely that Zaidi would jump to the other side of the rivalry, but as one league recently exec said, "Why not make the call and find out?"
The Giants could offer to hand their baseball operations department over to Zaidi, who spent years across the bridge with the A's and now is No. 2 with the Dodgers. They could weaken the six-time NL West champs, too.
David Stearns, Brewers general manager
Stearns certainly has lived up to the hype that comes with being named GM at just 30. The Brewers were surprise winners of the NL Central, and Stearns built a contender largely by making the kind of non-splashy additions the Giants have relied on in past championship years. Given the opportunity to go all-in last offseason, Stearns struck gold with his two biggest moves, trading for likely NL MVP Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain.
Stearns is one of several on this list who would be leaving a much better baseball situation, but the Giants should make this call and see what it would take.
Mike Elias, Astros assistant general manager, player acquisition
You want someone who can help accumulate young talent? How about Elias, who oversees amateur scouting for the reigning World Series champs. Elias joined the Astros in 2012, and since then, the organization has drafted Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Alex Bregman and others who have contributed to a powerhouse.
The former Yale pitcher broke in with the Cardinals in 2007, and seems a perfect fit for Sabean's description of someone who will respect both the scouting and analytics sides.
Jason McLeod, Cubs vice president of player development and scouting
The Cubs have plenty of talent in their front office, and McLeod certainly would satisfy Sabean's preference for someone well-versed in the scouting aspect of the game.
McLeod joined the Cubs in 2011. You might have noticed they're loaded with young position players. You might have noticed the Giants haven't developed a keeper since Joe Panik arrived.
Mike Rizzo, Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager
The Chronicle's Henry Schulman mentioned over the weekend that Rizzo could wind up in the mix. He has helped build a perennial (if you ignore this year) contender in Washington D.C. Most importantly, he has a connection to Bryce Harper, a Giants offseason target.
Jean Afterman, Yankees assistant general manager
Afterman went to Lowell High School with Baer and comes from Sabean's previous organization, so it's easy to make the connection -- and many already have. She's tremendously respected, but a source familiar with the search downplayed the likelihood here.
Ben Cherington, Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations (UPDATE: Ben Cherington has reportedly pulled his name out of consideration for the Giants' job)
The Giants' preference is to find someone who has done the job before, and Cherington held the GM position in Boston, helping build the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox. He struggled in free agency - Pablo Sandoval was one of his big additions - but when he resigned in 2015, much of the core of this current Red Sox power was in place.
Kim Ng, Major League Baseball vice president of baseball operations
Baer has said the front office will interview qualified women, and Ng long has been considered the favorite to become the sport's first female GM. She was the assistant GM in New York and Los Angeles, and interviewed for the Dodgers' GM position in 2005.
Chaim Bloom, Tampa Bay Rays vice president of baseball operations
The Rays basically serve as the complete opposite to what the Giants believe, but they are as creative as any organization and consistently build playoff contenders with a payroll that basically amounts to what the Giants pay their infielders alone.
Bloom, 35, is in his 14th season in Tampa Bay and has the kind of all-encompassing - contracts negotiations, salary arbitration, international scouting, etc. - background the Giants are seeking. The Rays, under Bloom and GM Erik Neander (another interesting name), put together a 90-win team using the "opener" strategy and a collection of position players - Joey Wendle, Mallex Smith, C.J. Cron - most fans have never heard of until this season.
David Forst, A's general manager
The Giants generally find the A's to be an annoyance, so do we think it's particularly likely that they will cross the bridge to find their new head of baseball operations? No. No, we do not.
But Billy Beane and Forst put together a roster that might have been the best story in baseball this season, and the A's are back in the AL Wild Card Game despite working with the lowest payroll in the majors. They know what they're doing, and Forst, like Hoyer, is on the short list of executives who appear ready to take over the top spot in a baseball operations department.