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 for them.
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.
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.