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Phillies hire 27-year-old assistant GM away from Rays

Ani Kilambi was the assistant director of research and development for Tampa Bay.

Manager Kevin Cash (left) and the Tampa Bay Rays are a low-budget success story.
Manager Kevin Cash (left) and the Tampa Bay Rays are a low-budget success story.Read moreSteve Nesius / AP

For 14 months, and probably longer than that, the Phillies have sought the special sauce that enables the Tampa Bay Rays to recognize talent where other teams don’t.

This week, they hired someone who should have knowledge of the ingredients.

Ani Kilambi, a 27-year-old former assistant director of research and development for the Rays, will join the Phillies as an assistant general manager, the team announced Thursday. Kilambi will “oversee our R&D department and the club’s use of data in all aspects of the baseball end of the organization’s decision-making,” according to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

In a statement, Phillies general manager Sam Fuld said Kilambi’s “skill set and personality provide us exactly what we’re looking for when we started this search. His critical-thinking, humility, and passion for the game are standout qualities that position him really well for this role.”

Kilambi, who graduated from Cal-Berkeley in 2016, started with the Rays as an intern one year earlier and was promoted several times over the last six years. Despite a payroll that ranks among the lowest in baseball, the Rays are 326-220 (.597) with three postseason appearances since 2018.

After the Phillies got swept by the Rays to end the abbreviated 2020 season, team president Andy MacPhail praised the Rays for their resourcefulness.

“They’re able to unlock the hidden value or potential in minor league players that have been around a while,” MacPhail said. “They recognize something that we’re not picking up on yet. That’s one thing that this franchise needs to improve on. Our R&D needs to help with that. They’re seeing something we’re not, and we’ve got to figure out what that is.”