Even with a mounting speculative debate about the future of Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, the organization hasn’t changed their stance. Just a day after the rookie manager said the Phillies coaching staff will return in 2019, general manager Matt Klentak told the collective media, including Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that Kapler will return as Phillies manager next season.
To be fair, things can always change. Last May, the Phillies rewarded Pete Mackanin with a one-year extension that included a club option for 2019. However, the Phillies ultimately went 6-22 in May, the worst month of a 66-96 season. In the season’s final week, the Phillies announced that Mackanin would become a special assistant to the general manager, rather than returning to manage the Phillies in 2018. Things are always fluid in sports, especially when teams go through stretches like ones the Phillies are currently in.
It does seem extremely unlikely that the Phillies will change course and decide to part with Kapler when the season concludes this weekend. Unlike Mackanin, Klentak hand-picked Kapler to be his manager. For as good of a relationship as Klentak and Mackanin are believed to have had, Kapler moved on from him in search of a younger, more analytically inclined manager. Kapler checks both of those boxes, and though the 2018 Phillies season will have some ugly bookends, the Phillies still have a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011.
Though the Phillies certainly didn’t stand pat in July and August, the club has often looked undermanned in the season’s final two months. Four-fifths of the team’s starting rotation has posted an ERA of 4.57 or higher in the second-half of the season. The Phillies have been among the worst defensive teams in the sport, which probably isn’t as simple as some players playing out of position. The Phillies have given regular at-bats to Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro and Maikel Franco, trying to balance development, potential and present performance. And even if all things had gone according to planned – which never happens in a 162-game season – the club still feels like they are a middle-of-the-order hitter away, even if said hitter wouldn’t necessarily hit in the middle of the order if acquired.
Even prior to Klentak being hired as the general manager and long before Kapler was the manager, the 2018-19 offseason has been circled as a big one. Both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado – who have 10 combined All-Star nods – are eligible for free-agency this offseason, with the Phillies expected to be players for both. But between trying to improve the team’s defense, acquire more stability in the starting rotation and decide whether pieces like Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez and Franco will be part of the team’s long-term future, Harper and Machado will be just the start of an offseason that will likely define the Klentak/Kapler era.
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