In an internal email on June 1, Phillies managing partner John Middleton announced salary cuts that were necessary to “protect the financial viability of our organization” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But he also pledged to protect all full-time jobs through October.
Eight days before the end of the month, staff reductions are underway.
The Phillies have informed five talent evaluators – four pro scouts and one special assistant – that their contracts won’t be renewed, multiple sources said Friday. Among the cuts were former manager Pete Mackanin and Dave Hollins, the popular third baseman on the Phillies' pennant-winning 1993 team.
Pro scouts Howie Freiling, Jesse Levis, and Jeff Harris were also let go, according to multiple sources. Freiling and Levis are Northeast High graduates who have worked for the Phillies since 2008 and 2011, respectively.
Hollins, 54, has been scouting for 15 years, the last 11 with the Phillies. Mackanin, 69, worked in an advisory capacity as special assistant to the general manager after being replaced as manager after the 2018 season. Before that, he served as bench coach under Charlie Manuel.
Cuts are coming in other departments, too. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that amateur scouts Mike Garcia and Chris Knabenshue were dismissed Friday.
Player-development staffers with expiring contracts are also bracing to learn of their fate. Given the likelihood that Major League Baseball will eliminate at least one minor-league affiliate for each club, cuts seem inevitable.
Full-time employees in non-baseball departments could face layoffs next month after the Phillies offered a buyout package in late September.
The Phillies are hardly alone in slashing staff. Even though MLB raked in a record $10.7 billion in 2019 and $10.3 billion the year before, according to Forbes, and secured a seven-year, $3.745 billion extension of its TV deal with Turner Sports, several teams are tightening their belts after revenues nosedived amid a pandemic that shortened the season to 60 games and locked fans out of ballparks. The Chicago Cubs reportedly cut loose 100 employees earlier this week.
In his June email, Middleton projected losses of “substantially more than $100 million” this year. In a Zoom call with reporters three weeks ago, he noted the uncertainty over what the 2021 season will look like. It’s possible that MLB could delay the start of spring training and play a regular season of less than 162 games if a vaccine isn’t widely available until at least the spring.
The Phillies' pro scouting staff consisted of eight special-assignment scouts and five pro scouts this season. Among them, they produced reports on players from every major- and minor-league team that are used for reference in trade talks and free-agent decisions.
Like many teams, the Phillies have beefed up their analytics department in recent years and placed less emphasis on traditional scouting. That shift, combined with financial disruption brought on by the pandemic, has made for tough times for scouts, whose knowledge of the game has been the lifeblood of successful organizations for years.