The Giants have requested and received permission to interview Padres manager Bob Melvin for San Francisco’s managerial opening, The Athletic has learned, potentially paving the way for Melvin to join a National League West rival following a tumultuous season in San Diego. Melvin instantly becomes the Giants’ leading candidate to replace manager Gabe Kapler, according to league sources briefed on the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly.
Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller declined comment, as did Melvin, who is under contract through the 2024 season. Although the two men announced earlier this month that they would return in their respective roles with San Diego, the widespread belief within the industry has been that their situation is more complicated than that.
The uncertainty in San Diego loomed over the Giants’ search efforts to replace Kapler, who was fired with three games remaining in the season. Now, Melvin has emerged as the favorite in San Francisco, with league sources indicating that he received assurances he would be a top candidate before he agreed to participate in the interview process.
The Padres’ run to the 2022 National League Championship Series masked stylistic differences between Preller and Melvin, then in his first year with the organization. But as the Padres crumbled during a massively disappointing 2023 season, those differences created a major disconnect that rival officials described as one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball. The wishes of owner Peter Seidler, according to team officials familiar with the situation, were the driving force behind the organization’s public pronouncement to retain both Preller and Melvin coming off an 82-80 finish.
“I think those are all kind of personal matters and private matters,” Preller said in early October when asked if the Padres would allow Melvin to pursue other job opportunities. “We never really comment on those in terms of other clubs and interest in any of our employees. … With Bob, he’s under contract. He’s our manager. I think we’re both excited going forward into the offseason.”
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi already has interviewed four internal candidates and sought permission on several others. But Melvin’s availability was exacting a gravitational pull over the entire process.
Melvin, a Bay Area native and former Giants catcher, worked with Zaidi for three years in Oakland when the former managed the A’s and the latter served as their assistant GM. Melvin, a three-time manager of the year who turns 62 this month, also is well regarded by key members of the Giants’ ownership group.
The Giants began their formal process earlier this month when they interviewed four internal candidates: bench coach Kai Correa, third base coach Mark Hallberg, assistant coach Alyssa Nakken and special assistant Ron Wotus.
The Giants’ list of known external candidates is loaded with former catchers. Earlier this week, club officials interviewed Seattle Mariners bullpen and quality control coach Stephen Vogt, an ex-A’s catcher who played for Melvin.
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They’ve expressed interest in speaking to Boston Red Sox coach Jason Varitek, according to the New York Post. Varitek, who spent his entire 15-year catching career with the Red Sox, served in a hybrid coaching/front office role from 2012 to 2020 before joining Boston’s coaching staff as a game planning coordinator.
San Francisco officials also invited former Giants catcher Nick Hundley to interview for the job. Hundley, now a special assistant to Texas Rangers GM Chris Young, told The Athletic that he had lengthy conversations with Zaidi as well as minority owner Buster Posey and strongly considered throwing his hat in the ring with an organization he deeply respects. But Hundley ultimately declined, saying that his current situation with the Rangers was a better fit for him and his young family.
Melvin, of course, is another ex-catcher who played for seven major-league teams — including the Giants from 1986-88 — over his 10-year career.
The Padres could have multiple incentives for allowing the Giants to access him.
Preller, after regularly clashing with Melvin, may want a manager more aligned with his way of doing things. The executive has at least one potential successor on staff; Padres bench coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Flaherty, 37, is seen as a potential future manager and a favorite of Preller’s. That perception was strengthened in early 2022 when the Padres denied Flaherty, then a quality control coach, permission to interview for the Mets’ bench coach role, citing the timing of New York’s request. Another member of San Diego’s coaching staff, former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, is believed to be interested in managing again.
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Preller, too, might not be in a position to fire another manager. The executive already has let go of four managers (including former interim manager Pat Murphy), an unusual number for a GM who since 2015 has registered only two winning full seasons, both of which came with Melvin as manager. Should Melvin land the Giants job, Preller could frame his exit as a voluntary decision, not an involuntary one.
Finally, the Padres appear to be trying to cut costs throughout the organization after a season in which they spent more than $250 million in payroll, failed to make the playoffs and experienced the collapse of their regional sports network. Club officials say the target for next year’s payroll, subject to change, is approximately $200 million. Melvin is one of the highest-paid managers in baseball with a 2024 salary of $4 million, an obligation that would pass to the Giants if they hire him away.
It’s unclear if the Padres would seek compensation if Melvin ends up defecting within the NL West. In 2006, San Diego did not receive compensation when it allowed Bruce Bochy, then with a year left on his contract, to leave for San Francisco, where he went on to manage the Giants to three World Series titles. But there have been examples of swaps involving prominent off-field personnel. Before the 2012 season, the Chicago Cubs acquired a new president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, from the Red Sox by agreeing to surrender pitchers Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz. After the 2002 season, the Tampa Bay Rays hired manager Lou Piniella away from Seattle and traded outfielder Randy Winn to the Mariners to complete the deal.
A couple of weeks later, Melvin was named Piniella’s replacement in Seattle, embarking on a managerial career that now spans 20 big-league seasons. Melvin has publicly indicated that he is open to either retiring after 2024 or extending his run beyond that.
Melvin’s potential departure raises more questions for a Padres organization trying to recover in the aftermath of a disastrous season. If Melvin interviews for the Giants job but does not get it, what are the ramifications for his tenure in San Diego? And what does this all mean for Preller, who soon could be looking at replacing a fifth manager?
“From my standpoint, a lot’s been overblown,” Preller said of his relationship with Melvin. “I think when we talk about reports (that) we don’t speak — we’re talking four or five times a day. Personally, I think we have a friendship.”
(Photo: Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)