The San Francisco Giants believe they already have their next World Series-winning manager. The team announced a two-year extension for Gabe Kapler that will keep him under contract through the 2024 MLB season.
The move comes after Kapler helped lead the Giants to a surprising 107-win season in 2021. After posting a .483 winning percentage in 2020 — Kapler's first season with the team — the Giants were expected to finish third or fourth in the National League West in 2021. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system predicted the team would win just 75 games.
Carried by resurgent veterans, the Giants smashed expectations. Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Darin Ruf all posted fantastic seasons at the plate. The rotation was buoyed by Anthony DeSclafani and Kevin Gausman, two talented, but rarely consistent starters who finally figured it out. Homegrown product Logan Webb emerged as an ace after posting a career 5.36 ERA over his first two years in the majors.
Kapler managed that group all the way to a division title. Along the way, the Giants triumphed over a Los Angeles Dodgers team fresh off a World Series title and an offseason-winning San Diego Padres team that was everyone's trendy pick to make a deep playoff run.
The Giants' miracle season came to a premature end in the playoffs, where the Giants lost to the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. The Giants pushed Los Angeles to Game 5, but couldn't topple their biggest rival.
Despite the loss, the Giants still believe Kapler is the right person to lead the team to another World Series title. Kapler's original deal with the Giants took him through the 2022 season, so the Giants didn't have to hand Kapler an extension now. Most teams choose to extend managers before the final year of their contracts to prevent uncertainty in the clubhouse, but giving Kapler a second year suggests the Giants like what he brings to the table.
Can the Giants win the NL West again in 2022?
San Francisco set the bar high in 2021, and there will be pressure on the team to repeat as NL West champs in 2022. The task already looks more difficult on paper after Posey retired in November.
In addition to losing Posey, Brandon Belt, Kris Bryant, DeSclafani and Gausman are all currently free agents. Team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi expressed a desire to keep the 2021 team together, but it could be tough to bring back all those players.
The Giants will likely be projected to regress in 2022, but that's not a major concern after the team smashed expectations in 2021.