When the San Francisco Giants fired general manager Bobby Evans just days before the end of the season, President and CEO Larry Baer said they wanted a “next gen” mind to lead their baseball operations department, someone who would blend the old-school scouting discipline with the new-age analytic disciplines.
On Tuesday evening, the Giants announced the hiring of the consummate blend of those two philosophies in Farhan Zaidi.
“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. “I have watched the Giants from afar and I have great 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.”
Lately the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers — winning four straight NL West titles and two National League pennants — Zaidi got his start in baseball under Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics.
While with the A’s from 2004 to 2014, the MIT alum and Berkeley PhD oversaw data analysis and played a key role in signing Yoenis Cespedes. In September of 2014, he was tapped by Andrew Friedman, the President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers, as the new general manager.
While Zaidi, who turns 42 on Sunday, drew criticism for being a bit heavy-handed in his platooning philosophy — sometimes sitting several of Los Angeles’s seven 20-home run hitters — he has played a large role in changing the balance of relievers and starters, and has drawn praise across baseball for his outside-the-box thinking.
Zaidi’s arrival in baseball was, in itself, unconventional. The Sudbury, Canada-born Zaidi was raised in the Philippines, born of Pakistani parents, and is the only Muslim general manager in baseball. He attended MIT and earned an economics degree in 1998, and instead of following older brother Zeeshan to business school at Harvard, decided to earn a PhD at Berkeley in behavioral economics.
During his time at Berkeley, he became enthralled by Beane and his Moneyball philosophy. When he graduated in 2004, the second of four children — three boys, one girl — applied for a longshot interview to become an analyst for Beane, replacing Paul DePodesta, who eft to become the general manager of the Dodgers.
Zaidi didn’t just rest on his quantitative laurels. He learned the nuances of scouting while with the A’s, and became a larger part of the operation, third only behind Beane and general manager David Forst. Instead of losing Zaidi to basketball — said to be his real passion — or to Google or Apple, as Beane jokingly said he feared, the Dodgers came calling again. With their offer came a loftier title, and after much agonizing, Zaidi headed to the bigger market.
Now, he will have an even loftier title, setting the course for the club, with final say on trades, signings and draft picks. Though the Giants have not mentioned the hiring of a general manager, it’s expected, based on past conversations with the club brass, that Zaidi will hire his own, much like Friedman plucked him from Oakland. That individual would run day-to-day operations, making decisions on minor league moves, working on trades and hashing out deals with free agents.
Like Zaidi’s job with Friedman in Los Angeles, it will be a collaborative effort, one which will on a higher level involve former general manager Brian Sabean. Baer, though, said the new president of baseball operations — now Zaidei — would report directly to him.
“We set out to find one of the best minds in baseball and Farhan’s many accomplishments and expertise exceeded our expectations,” said Baer. “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.”