It didn’t take long after the Philadelphia Phillies disappointing 2019 campaign concluded yesterday for the conversation to shift to the future of manager Gabe Kapler.
There isn’t yet an indication that the organization has made a decision on Kapler – who is under contract for 2020 – but things do appear to be trending in one direction.
Monday, RADIO.COM Sports MLB Insider Jon Heyman said that he believes the Phillies will ultimately move on from Kapler, who has led the Phillies to a 161-163 record over the past two seasons.
“I’m not sure it’s Kapler’s fault – I do think there’s a good chance that he will take the fall,” Heyman said on the latest edition of Big Time Baseball. “I could be proven wrong, if this comes out and he is given an extension or kept on or whatever, but at this point, as we tape this on Monday, it appears that the momentum would be for them to hire a new manager. We had Matt Klentak on a few weeks ago, and he gave very high praise for Kapler. I don’t think that’s changed – I still think Matt Klentak is a supporter of Kapler. But it does appear that the owner John Middleton, who was traveling with the team, is considering things beyond analytics at this point. Kapler had two years; he won 80 games the first year, 81 games the second year after the team acquired five All-Stars, they only got a game better. I think some people around the organization that have the ear of Middleton have noted that it could be more disciplined, that the rules weren’t strong enough, and that it seemed a little bit loose at times. And so I think that Philadelphia is more likely than not to move on. Again, I could be proven wrong, but at this point, I think there’s a good chance that there will be a change there.”
Prior to Friday’s Phillies-Miami Marlins game, NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury suggested that he thought a managerial change seemed increasingly likely. After the team’s season finale Sunday, MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki said that “feeling throughout the organization is that a change is likely, but the Phillies might not make an announcement for a few days.”
While it’s unclear when Phillies brass will meet to make a determination on Kapler’s future, it does seem like it would take an upset for him to return in 2020. ESPN‘s Buster Olney suggested Sunday that the decision could ultimately come down to what Middleton, the managing partner, wants to do. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported in early August that “the prevailing belief among Phillies executives is that Kapler’s job is safe.” That, though, was before the Phillies fired hitting coach John Mallee and replaced him with Charlie Manuel – a move that Middleton reportedly led. Olney now says that “the lines seem to be drawn within the Philadelphia organization,” which seems in line with the second-half of Heyman’s thoughts.
For what it’s worth, both Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto stood by Kapler after Sunday’s season finale. Realmuto, specifically, said that Kapler “has done a great job” as Phillies manager and that he’s “a guy the clubhouse really respects,” when speaking to the collective media, which included Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
If Kapler were to return, it’s not yet known if it would be as a lame duck or with a contract extension. A wild card scenario could be if the Phillies are interested in bringing Kapler back as manager, but without an extension and he gets the sense that he could land a job elsewhere with more security. For example, Nightengale also suggested in August that Kapler would be of interest to the Giants, who have an opening after parting ways with three-time World Series Champion manager Bruce Bochy. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was a proponent of Kapler when the two were in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization – Zaidi was the general manager from 2014-2018, while Kapler served as the Dodgers director of player development from 2015-2017.
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