For the second time in a decade, the Philadelphia Phillies are conducting a general manager search.
Whoever is ultimately tabbed as the successor of Matt Klentak will face an uneviable group of challenges this offseason.
Two-time All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is set to become a free agent, and RADIO.COM Sports MLB Insider Jon Heyman recently suggested that the Phillies are “pessimistic” about their chances to return him. The new general manager will have to be caught up to speed on where negotiations with Realmuto stand, and quickly make an assessment on whether a long-term deal can be reach or if the team needs to pivot.
Didi Gregorius, José Álvarez, Jay Bruce and Phil Gosselin are among other notable players from the 2020 team that can test free agency this offseason as well.
A historically-bad bullpen will need to be rebuilt in a hurry if the Phillies plan to compete for the National League East title in 2020. The aforementioned Álvarez can become a free agent, as can Brandon Workman. David Phelps has a $4 million club option for 2021, and the Phillies will have to decide if they want to tender contracts to Heath Hembree and Adam Morgan in 2021.
Never mind that the Phillies have a pretty underwhelming farm system and COVID-19 will continue to alter how the baseball world is able to proceed, those are almost secondary thoughts in this discussion.
Here’s a look at seven candidates to be the next general manager of the Phillies:
Dave Dombrowski – Former President Of Baseball Operations, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers And Boston Red Sox
At this time last year, a report suggested the 64-year-old would be interested in coming to Philadelphia if the Phillies made a change in their front office structure. Dombrowski has built World Series-caliber rosters in Miami, Detroit and Boston, so his name will certainly surface in this discussion. The problem is while Dombrowski produced teams that won American League pennants in Detroit and Boston – and a World Series in Boston – he pushed all the chips to the center in both places and they were in a bad situation just a few years later. Given that the Phillies have missed the postseason for nine consecutive years following the greatest five-year run in franchise history, perhaps they don’t want to follow that formula.
Tim Naehring – Vice President Of Baseball Operations, New York Yankees
Naehring had a seven-year career as a major league third baseman, and has since transitioned into a career as an executive. He’s been in the Yankees’ organization since 2007, which feels noteworthy when you consider that Phillies manager Joe Girardi and scouting director Brian Barber both had lengthy tenures in the Bronx. Proximity to greatness doesn’t always correlate to success on your own, but having spent the last six years working side-by-side with Brian Cashman can’t hurt your resume.
Damon Oppenheimer – Vice President And Director Of Amateur Scouting, New York Yankees
Again, Girardi and Barber just completed their first years in the Phillies organization, so presumably the Phillies will seek someone comfortable continuing to work with those two. Oppenheimer did just that in New York, a place where he’s been since 2001. The 58-year-old has seemingly earned a chance to be a general manager, and Philadelphia could be the place he finally gets an opportunity at.
Billy Eppler – Former General Manager, Los Angeles Angels
This one is a shot in the dark, and probably pretty unlikely given that Eppler was recently fired as the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels after an unsuccessful five-season tenure there. When you add in that Klentak came from Los Angeles, the optics here probably would be prohibitive. That said, before becoming the general manager for the Angels, Eppler held the same position for the Yankees that Naehring currently does. The 45-year-old spent over a decade in the Yankees organization and has ties to Naehring and Oppenheimer, so he could be a name to watch as someone that could join the front office if either one of them is picked.
Jeff Luhnow – Former General Manager, Houston Astros
Luhnow clearly proceeded over a pretty toxic front office in Houston, and that ultimately caught up to him when he was dismissed following MLB’s investigation into the Astros sign-stealing scandal. For many, Luhnow will never be able to redeem himself. That said, A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora may very well surface as names that could be considered for managerial openings. Are those two more liked personally around baseball? Perhaps, but Luhnow did build a mini-dynasty in Houston. Should the scandals the rocked the Astros keep him from getting to lead a front office ever again? Maybe, but it’s hard to ignore the roster he built in Houston.
J.J. Picollo – Vice President And Assistant General Manager
Picollo did interview for the Phillies general manager position the last time a search was conducted, but it was clear that the organization preferred someone with a more analytical mindset at that time. Considering he has some local ties, it will be interesting to see if the Phillies circle back to him this time around.
Dan Kantrovitz – Scouting Director, Chicago Cubs
During the last search for general manager, Kantrovitz and Chaim Bloom were finalists for the position, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies won’t have a chance to take a mulligan on Bloom – now one of the most decorated executives in the sport – but perhaps they will with Kantrovitz. Kantrovitz was in the Oakland A’s front office when interviewed for the general manager position in 2015, but has since become the director of scouting for the Chicago Cubs.
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