Each weekend, Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly will answer reader questions as part of the Phillies Nation Mailbag. Questions can be submitted by tweeting at @PhilliesNation, @TimKellySports or e-mailing your question to tsk@TimKellyMedia.com. Let’s get to this week’s question.
Who will be the next person with Phillies connections to be a manager? – Justin in East Falls
This offseason hasn’t been short on Philadelphia Phillies-connected people receiving interest for managerial vacancies. Former Phillies third baseman David Bell was named the Cincinnati Reds manager last week, and drew interest from nearly every team with an opening at manager. Phillies player information coordinator Sam Fuld did interview for the Blue Jays vacancy, but despite making a “strong impression,” Fuld apparently withdrew his name from consideration. Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan did interview for the still-vacant Texas Rangers managerial job as well.
There’s been no-indication that Wathan isn’t still a candidate that the Rangers are considering in a managerial search in which they’ve cast a wide net. The most obvious response to this question would be to say that Wathan is the only other person with Phillies connections that appears to be a candidate to become a manager in 2019, though it’s unclear how seriously the 45-year-old, who is probably the most accomplished minor league manager in organizational history, is being considered.
Bench coach Rob Thomson, who spent a decade on Joe Girardi’s staff with the New York Yankees, is another possible candidate. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports did note earlier this month that Thomson was “linked” to the Toronto Blue Jays managerial job, which ultimately went to Charlie Montoyo. It’s unclear if Thomson ever interviewed for the Blue Jays job, though we do know that he was one of six finalists for the New York Yankees managerial position a year ago, before general manager Brian Cashman ultimately tabbed Aaron Boone to be Girardi’s successor. Thomson, 55, is a professional that has coached in two major markets and is qualified on-paper to be a manager. Given the analytical influence that has emerged in both the Yankees and Phillies organizations in the last five years, he’s also familiar in that area. But while it would only take one team, he may never be seen as a sexy enough candidate.
Jorge Velandia, a former major league shortstop, interviewed for the Phillies managerial vacancy last offseason. Ultimately, the 43-year-old returned to his role as a special assistant to general manager Matt Klentak. Velandia, as evidenced by the aforementioned interview, is thought very highly of in the Phillies organization. He’s young, he’s a former player and he currently works in an analytically-driven organization. There’s no indication Velandia has drawn any noteworthy interest for any openings this offseason, but he checks off a lot of boxes.
Still, the most sought-after candidate with Phillies connections may be former outfielder Raul Ibanez. The 46-year-old, who spent three seasons in red pinstripes, is currently a special assistant to Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, a role he’s served in since February of 2016. When Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays parted ways after the 2014 season, Ibanez, who had just completed what turned out to be his final major league season, interviewed for the Rays managerial job. While Ibanez was one of three finalists for the Rays job, that job ultimately went to Kevin Cash, which has proven to be the correct decision. Since then, Ibanez hasn’t seemed especially interested in pursuing managerial jobs, with Heyman noting this week that Ibanez “turned down managerial opportunities.” But Ibanez appears extremely likely to be a manager at some point, unless he ultimately decides to pursue front-office jobs instead.
Of the 2008 Phillies, Chase Utley’s name consistently is asked about the most as a potential manager. Depending on who you ask, Utley may have been considered as a possible bench coach for Gabe Kapler last offseason. He ultimately decided to return for a 16th season as a player, and while his playing career will conclude when the World Series does, he didn’t sound like he expects to coach after retirement. Utley’s been a big brother in the Dodgers clubhouse the past few seasons, which is a valuable role. But between him seeming at-best lukewarm on ever managing and his lead-by-example style, he may not be as perfect of a fit to manage as some think.
The 2008 Phillie that sticks out to me as a potential managerial candidate is Carlos Ruiz. Affectionately referred to as “Chooch,” the 39-year-old’s playing career appears to be over, as he never got a chance to play in 2018. But he had the unwavering support of Roy Halladay, Jayson Werth and many of the greatest talents to ever don a Phillies uniform. He’ll only be 40 in January, and being bilingual is important in being able to reach all players in today’s game.
And then there’s Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies former general manager. Amaro served as Mickey Callaway’s first base coach for the New York Mets in 2018, following a two-year stint in the same role for the Boston Red Sox. It’s fairly remarkable that Amaro has transitioned so smoothly into a coaching role after spending nearly two decades in the Phillies front-office. But while the Detroit Tigers reportedly considered Amaro a candidate for their managerial job last year, they are in a small-group of teams that were looking for a more old-school approach from their manager. Even in that search, Amaro never appeared to become a serious candidate, and the Phillies falling behind the eight-ball on analytics under his watch (even if he took a brunt of the blame for an organizational approach, or lack thereof) won’t help him advance past just being on a coaching staff.
So the guess here is that Ibanez will be a manager within the next five years. It will be up to him whether he’s the next person with Phillies connections to be a manager. Fuld is a former player whose current job is being the organizational go-between on implementing analytics effectively. That type of communication ability figures to make him a manager within the next few years. And Wathan, especially if the Phillies ascend into a regular contender the next few years, will likely continue to garner managerial interest as well.
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