Former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has interviewed with the Los Angeles Angels to be their next GM while his old team wonders if anyone would be willing to relocate during a pandemic to run its baseball operations.
A source confirmed a report by the Orange-County Register that Amaro is one of nearly a dozen candidates to interview with the Angels, who are moving quickly after firing Billy Eppler at the end of the season. The Phillies reassigned general manager Matt Klentak six days after the Angels fired Eppler, but have yet to conduct an interview.
The Phillies, president Andy MacPhail said, feel confident that interim general manager Ned Rice — Klentak’s top assistant — can guide the team through at least the first stages of the offseason. The team does not seem to be in any rush to replace Klentak as it anticipates a slow-moving offseason in which the majority of the decisions before the end of the year are internal.
“The other item that you’ve got to think about is who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic,” MacPhail said. “But we’ve already gone through the preliminary stages of a search. We’ve already identified people. If what is easily apparent to us is a good fit that is there right away, we’ll move right away. But I could see this thing going longer.”
Amaro spent 10 seasons as an assistant general manager before becoming the GM after the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. With Amaro as GM, the Phillies won a National League pennant and three division titles, including a franchise-record 102 wins in 2011. He acquired Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Halladay before the 2010 season, and Roy Oswalt during 2010, before adding Lee again for 2011.
Amaro’s Phillies tenure ended with four straight non-winning seasons as the core of the 2008 World Series champions regressed, but his regime did acquire Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Sixto Sanchez, the pitcher who helped Klentak land J.T. Realmuto in a trade. Amaro, a Philadelphia native, returned to the Phillies last season as a broadcaster. If he lands the Angels job, he would return to the franchise where he started his eight-year playing career.
The Angels are not the only team conducting a search during the pandemic. The Tigers and White Sox hired managers last week and the Red Sox are conducting interviews. Sam Fuld, the Phillies' director of integrative baseball performance, is one of five finalists for the job. Fuld, an eight-year major-league outfielder, joined the Phillies in 2017 as the team’s player information coordinator, acting as a liaison between the players and the analytics department. He was promoted to his current position before last season.
It is possible that the Phillies, as a way to save funds after a season played without fans, will choose to not hire a new GM and keep Rice in place through next season. The Phillies started the offseason by cutting costs as they scaled back their scouting department and player development staffs and offered buyouts to all full-time employees. The organization is expected to announce layoffs later this month.
“I’ve read some of this stuff that’s critical of the owners. You take the money when times are good, but now when we run into a big problem, the players bear the brunt of it or employees need to go,” MacPhail said. “I can only speak for the Phillies, but when our revenues were what they were, our ownership reinvested everything back into the club. We hired an additional 130 people, we grew the major-league payroll. They put the money all back into the club.
"In addition to that, our guys aren’t really looking to buy a baseball team to make money every year. Ownership makes money when they sell the franchise, not when they operate. At the same time, the losses we accrued in 2020 and what is reasonable to assume for 2021, it’s not pretty. It’s unlike a strike. You can plan for a strike. But something like this caught us in a bad spot. We had just expanded the operation. We had expanded the payroll. We had been active in signing free agents like Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper. We didn’t anticipate a global pandemic.”
The Phillies are paying Rice and Klentak for two more seasons. MacPhail is under contract for one more season, but is willing to step aside if it helps the team land a preferred candidate.
If so, the Phillies would be paying four people — Rice, Klentak, MacPhail, and the new hire — to do one job. Managing partner John Middleton said he expected to lose $100 million last season and there is still uncertainty as to whether fans will return to ballparks next season or whether baseball will play a traditional 162-game season.
The Phillies are already showing signs of saving costs with their roster after they declined to offer Didi Gregorius a qualifying offer for next season. They may not spend as lavishly on free agents as they have in recent winters and their cost-cutting may extend to the front office.