It’s been over a week since Matt Klentak stepped down as Philadelphia Phillies general manager, and we’ve yet to see a candidate linked to the position. Perhaps that’s because the Phillies are weighing whether they want to restructure their entire front office this offseason.
Saturday, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Phillies managing partner John Middleton would like president Andy MacPhail to step aside from his current role:
“Three sources said this past week that they believe Middleton’s preference is for MacPhail to relinquish the club presidency a year early or at least to cede his baseball-related duties, thereby enabling the Phillies to hire both a president of baseball operations and a general manager.”
Last Saturday, Middleton said that MacPhail would remain in his role as team president, but suggested that he was in the process of being phased into a lesser role within the organization.
“He is still the team president, and he’s got – as I think you know – one more year left on his contract…his contract will be up at the end of 2021,” Middleton said. “He and I have been talking for two years…frankly, since he signed his extension…about what the world looks like when he steps down. And we’re not sure exactly when he’s gonna do that, but it’s a conversation that he and I have had multiple times and we’re talking about it even now.”
Middleton said that MacPhail will be involved in the search for Klentak’s replacement, but said something similar for Pat Gillick and Terry Ryan, former general managers who currently serve in the roles of senior advisor and special assistant to the general manager, respectively.
There are a few realities here.
The first is that there may just not be enough time – especially in the COVID-19 world – to have a new front office in place before key decisions need to be made this offseason about J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius and how to rebuild a historically-bad bullpen. MacPhail and interim general manager Ned Rice may need to be the decision-makers on some of these choices, even if they are limited in time in their current roles.
The second reality, though, is that Middleton is the managing partner. Perhaps the hope here is that MacPhail will step aside on his own accord. But if that doesn’t happen, Middleton has the power to make a change at president because he’s the closest the Phillies have a majority owner. It’s unclear if he’s prepared to fire or re-assign MacPhail if the 68-year-old doesn’t agree to do so himself.
In any event, the sense you get from the reporting of Lauber is that whenever a new front office is in place, the president of baseball operations will be the point person on, well, baseball operations. For the Chicago Cubs, Jed Hoyer is the general manager, but Theo Epstein is running the show. The San Francisco Giants have a similar front office layout. And, at some point over the next year, the Phillies could be headed for that type of structure.
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