President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi will make a lot of moves between now and the next San Francisco Giants game. And while the bulk of those transactions will impact what players we see on the field next spring, his most important move of the offseason might not involve any players.
Zaidi is in the process of hiring the team’s next manager, who has the unenviable task of replacing Bruce Bochy. At his end of the year presser, Zaidi said the team will likely interview six to eight candidates.
And one of those candidates appears to be former player, and current Chicago Cubs first base coach Will Venable.
According to a report from NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic, Zaidi has identified Venable as a managerial candidate:
Per league sources, the Giants also have interest in Will Venable, who currently is the first base coach for the Chicago Cubs. Venable, 36, spent eight years as a Padres outfielder and finished his career with the Dodgers in 2016, when Zaidi was the general manager there.
Now, first off, it’s important to note the language here. Pavlovic is reporting team interest in Venable, not an interview. For now, we do not know if the interest is mutual. And it takes two to tango.
Venable, who had a nine-year career as an outfielder, is an interesting candidate. In this era of baseball, where front office decisions and analytics are the driving forces behind rosters, lineups, and many in-game decisions, the most important thing a manager can provide is player/person management.
It goes without saying that we don’t know how Venable would fare in that department. But he played as recently as 2016, and when he last played it was for a Zaidi-led Los Angeles Dodgers team. In other words, he was on the player end of the spectrum when this modern era of baseball began to be ushered in.
Which means he’s probably in a pretty strong place to serve as a bridge between the players who are dubious about analytics and modern decision-making, and the front office. Having relatability, more than authority, may be a serious selling point right now.
Venable also has some local ties. He was born in Northern California while his father, outfielder Max Venable, played for the Giants. Max spent the first five years of his career wearing the orange and black, and his time overlapped with broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow.
Which you may know, if you’ve ever watched a Giants game that Will was playing in, because Kruk and Kuip call the younger Venable “Max and Molly’s kid,” every time they reference him. Almost literally every time. Honestly, I want the Giants to hire Will, just to see how long Kruk and Kuip hang onto that label.
There is one box that Venable doesn’t tick: Zaidi said at the end of the year that he wanted to start targeting players with a proven, positive track record hitting at Oracle Park. In 53 games by the Bay, Venable hit just .237/.281/.393. But we’ll forgive him, since he (hopefully) won’t be wielding any bats.
The reality is, it’s hard to know how good a baseball manager will be until they’re given the chance. It’s not like basketball or football, where we can examine the schemes and plays and defensive acumen. So we really have no idea if Venable is a good candidate.
But a young manager, only recently removed from his playing days, who has a good relationship with Zaidi, and is coming from an organization that embraces analytics, and doesn’t have any off-the-field issues that make you feel uneasy (coughcough Gabe Kapler coughcough)? That’s about as much as you can ask for.
Plus, the Giants have some experience hiring managers who are best known for their time wearing a Padres jersey. It’s worked in their favor before.