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J.J. Picollo once again in mix for Phillies general manager


Citizens Bank Park has been home to the Phillies since 2004. (Tim Kelly/PhilliesNation)

A familiar name has emerged as the Philadelphia Phillies search for their next general manager.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com says that the Phillies are “considering” J.J. Picollo, the vice president and assistant general manager of player personnel for the Kansas City Royals.

A native of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Picollo was a candidate for the general manager position when it last became available in October of 2015. Ultimately, though, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that “his background is in player development and scouting and that probably didn’t fit what the Phillies were seeking as they continued to build their analytics department.”

This time around, that type of background may work to Picollo’s advantage. He was on our initial list of general manager candidates, in part because managing partner John Middleton appears hell-bent on beginning to consistently develop elite talents from within, something the Phillies have struggled to do for most of their existence, in his words.

“I think the problem the Phillies have had for a hundred years is they don’t evaluate talent well,” Middleton said.  

“It’s the acquisition and development of talent that is critical, so I’ll be looking for people who can do that and have proven that they can do that. That’s where my target is,” Middleton added of what type of candidate he’s looking for.

The Royals are in the midst of a leaner stretch currently, but one of the smallest-market teams in the sport won consecutive American League pennants in 2014 and 2015 largely because they did a great job of developing internally. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Lorenzo Cain and Danny Duffy were all key cogs in the team’s 2015 World Series title that passed through the orgnization’s farm system.

Picollo began his career in the Atlanta Braves organization, working his way up to the director of minor league operations for the team. Phillies fans don’t need much of a reminder of how much success that the Braves had consistently developing talent in the 1990s and early 2000s under Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz.

Additionally, Middleton shared some hesitancy about meeting a new candidate over Zoom, something that could perhaps play into the hands of a candidate that previously has established a relationship with some of the Phillies remaining brass.

“Holding Zoom meetings only goes so far, particularly when you’re talking about establishing relationships. What I’ve discovered over the last six months is Zoom is a pretty good way to have meetings with people that you know and that you have relationships with, but when you start introducing new people to each other via Zoom calls, it’s not nearly the same thing. So I think that’s going to play a factor in terms of our timetable. I think we have to be flexible and we have to be nimble. So we’ll go out and see.”

It’s been 15 days since Matt Klentak stepped down as the Phillies general manager. To this point, Picollo is the first name to emerge for the vacancy. That leaves you with the sense that no matter who is ultimately hired to fill the position, the trio of Middleton, president Andy MacPhail and interim general manager Ned Rice will be left to make a variety of key decisions this offseason, including on how to proceed with J.T. Realmuto.

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