A year ago, when the Phillies fired Gabe Kapler from his first big-league managing job, they interviewed Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, and Buck Showalter, all of whom were long on experience.
Will they take a similar approach to finding a general manager?
Matt Klentak had not been a GM before the Phillies hired him in the fall of 2015. He stepped down Saturday after five non-winning seasons and a 389-481 record. Ned Rice, Klentak’s top assistant, will serve as interim GM and could remain in that position for several months.
“We don’t really have a firm timetable,” managing partner John Middleton said. “One of the things that’s going to potentially play havoc with this offseason is COVID. I think we have to be flexible, and we have to be nimble.”
Team president Andy MacPhail will be more involved in baseball operations, according to Middleton, but not in a GM capacity. Longtime former GMs Pat Gillick and Terry Ryan work for the team in advisory roles, but neither is interested in being a GM again.
As Middleton begins the search, with a nine-year playoff drought hanging over Citizens Bank Park, he must decide what he wants in the person who will lead the Phillies forward. Here are some potential options who might wind up as candidates:
Most recent job: Kansas City Royals assistant general manager-player personnel
A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., he interviewed with the Phillies in 2015 but wasn’t among the finalists for the job that went to Klentak. Picollo has spent 15 seasons in Kansas City, where he worked closely with former Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle. After overseeing the farm system, he moved into scouting and player development with the largely homegrown team that won the 2015 World Series.
Most recent job: Chicago Cubs amateur scouting director
Kantrovitz was a finalist for the Phillies' job in 2015. Instead, he got hired by the Oakland Athletics as assistant general manager before leading the Cubs' amateur scouting staff this year. Like Klentak, he was an Ivy League shortstop (Brown) and has a background in data and analytics. Kantrovitz also has an eye for talent. In three years as scouting director for the St. Louis Cardinals, they drafted pitchers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver.
Most recent job: Los Angeles Angels general manager
On merit, Eppler and Klentak are the same. Hired a few weeks before Klentak in 2015 and fired last Sunday, Eppler oversaw Angels teams that went 332-376 despite carrying a top-10 payroll each year and boasting the sport’s best player (Mike Trout). But he has a relationship with manager Joe Girardi, who managed the New York Yankees when Eppler was pro scouting director and assistant general manager. Middleton admires the Yankees Way. Eppler would be a continuation of that theme.
Most recent job: Phillies assistant general manager
Like Klentak, Rice has roots in the Baltimore Orioles organization, where he worked with MacPhail. If MacPhail has as much input into the decision to hire Klentak’s replacement as he did in hiring Klentak, Rice likely will be considered to remain in the GM position beyond an interim basis. But if Klentak wasn’t able to deliver a winning season, it’s unclear why the Phillies would believe that his right-hand man will fare any better.
Most recent job: Phillies director of integrative baseball performance
Fuld did a little of everything in the last two years with the Phillies. Last winter, Klentak chose him to run a newly created four-person department designed to improve the coordination among the training and conditioning staffs, the medical team, Girardi and the coaches, and a growing research-and-development division. Sounds a bit like a general manager’s job description, doesn’t it? Fuld studied economics at Stanford but also has the sensibility of a player after spending parts of eight seasons in the big leagues.
Most recent job: A’s assistant general manager
Over the last nine years, the A’s have posted a .531 winning percentage and made six playoff appearances despite never spending more than $109 million on payroll, as calculated for luxury-tax purposes. Owens has been an integral part of it, first as director of player personnel and then assistant GM last year and this year. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle last year, former A’s first baseman Scott Hatteberg said Owens “is like Rain Man” because of his ability to receive and retain information. Gillick was described in similar fashion during his Hall of Fame heyday.
Most recent job: Yankees vice president of baseball operations
Another Yankees/Girardi connection, Naehring has been referred to as a latter-day Gene “Stick” Michael. In the Yankees' universe, there isn’t a higher compliment considering how integral Michael was in unearthing the talent that fueled the late-90′s dynasty. Naehring might be a long shot, though, considering his apparent loyalty to New York general manager Brian Cashman. The former Boston Red Sox third baseman seems content to be a supporting actor rather than a leading man in a front office.