2020 Offseason

5 candidates not named Epstein that could replace MacPhail as president of baseball operations

The Phillies are expected to begin interviewing candidates in their search for a president of baseball operations this week, according to a recent report from The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.

A source told Stark the team is in search of “an experienced, trusted, credible person.” Additionally, they will also look at a pool of candidates who are deemed “rising stars” that are on track to be GMs at some point in the future.

They’ve already shown interest in a few candidates, including former Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. Epstein stepped down from his position on Tuesday and intends to take some time off. The Phillies will at least inquire about his availability.

If the Phillies miss out on Epstein, there are still plenty of excellent former or current executives to choose from. Here are just a few of them.

Michael Hill should be considered a top candidate for the Phillies president of baseball operations job. (Photo by JC Salas/Icon Sportswire)

Michael Hill – Former Miami Marlins President of Baseball Operations

In October, Hill and his former employer, the Miami Marlins, parted ways after he was asked to restructure his contract. Since then, he has landed three interviews for front office openings around the league, including one with the Phillies.

Hill, a graduate of Harvard University, has 26 years of front office experience, including five years in the Rays scouting and player development department in the ’90s. Prior to his arrival in Miami, he served as director of player development for the Colorado Rockies. He became the GM of the Marlins in 2007.

The Marlins haven’t achieved much success during Hill’s tenure as president of baseball operations but that shouldn’t be held against him. Poor ownership and a lack of financial flexibility plagued a franchise that excelled at developing superstar level talent. The likes of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, José Fernandez and J.T. Realmuto developed into elite players under Hill’s watch. Because of that, Hill should be high on the Phillies’ list.

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Thad Levine – Minnesota Twins Senior Vice President/GM

As Phillies Nation’s Tim Kelly pointed out, the Twins have developed a successful way of operating that the Phillies would be smart to imitate.

When Levine was hired to be Derek Falvey’s right-hand man in 2016, the Twins were coming off a franchise-worst 59-103 record. The Twins, under Terry Ryan, were able to acquire and develop key players and Levine and Falvey were able to complement the homegrown talent with shrewd free-agent signings and a continuation of good scouting and player development practices. In 2019, the Twins’ playoff roster was second only to the Dodgers in homegrown talent — 13 of the team’s 25 players game through the system.

According to a report from The Athletic, the Twins expect the Phillies to reach out to them and request an interview with Levine. While the Phillies job would be a clear promotion for Levine, it’s unclear if Levine is looking to leave Minnesota. He received a contract extension in 2019.

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Mike Chernoff – Cleveland Indians General Manager

Teams have been clamoring to hire Chernoff for years only to be told that he’s not interested in leaving Cleveland. The Princeton University grad has been with the organization for 17 years.

Naturally, anyone who has had a hand in running the franchise who is the best at developing top-tier pitching on a consistent basis will have their name flown around when a new opening emerges. As a team who has struggled to develop “waves of pitching,” the Phillies would presumably love to have Chernoff at the helm.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Chernoff is the leading candidate for the Mets’ president of baseball operations job, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Morosi also reported that he is interviewing for the Mets president of baseball operations job but that was denied by Mets owner Steve Cohen on Twitter. While both jobs are desirable, any level-headed executive who had to choose between the Mets and Phillies openings would go to New York.

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Josh Byrnes – Los Angeles Dodgers Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations

The Jim Thome doppelgänger has been around the game for quite a long time. He was hired as an advance scout for the Indians in 1995 and served as the team’s scouting director in 1998 before becoming an assistant GM in Colorado.

Byrnes worked under Epstein with Boston from 2003-2005 and served as GM of the Diamondbacks (2005 to 2010). Before his original deal with Arizona expired in 2015, Byrnes was hired and fired by the division-rival Padres.

He was seen as a rising star out of Boston but struggled to turn the ship around in both Arizona and San Diego. After winning another World Series under Andrew Friedman, the sport’s best executive, his stock is on the rise again.

He oversees scouting and player development for the Dodgers. John Middleton did mention in a press conference that he will be looking for a candidate who has a successful track record in that area.

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Erik Neander – Rays Executive Vice President/General Manager

If you’re an owner, you savor the opportunity to add a Rays executive to your front office. Unfortunately for the Phillies, it doesn’t look like they will get the chance to do so.

The team has shown interest in Neander but he’s not interested in leaving the organization he’s spent 14 years in. The Rays will also fight to keep Neander for as long as they can, considering they recently lost Chaim Bloom to the Red Sox. Neander’s special assistant Bobby Heck could also depart to take a prominent role in the Mets front office.

I’ve written extensively in the past about why the Phillies should be all-on on Neander. It’s an extremely easy argument to make.

All you have to do is look at the Rays’ World Series roster. Tyler Glasnow? He looked like a bust until Neander traded for him and the Rays coaching staff taught him how to pitch to his strengths. Randy Arozarena? Acquired by Neander in a low-key offseason trade and broke the record for the most home runs in a single postseason. Not to mention, the Rays also have six prospects in Baseball America’s 2020 Top 100, including the No. 1 overall prospect Wander Franco, that were acquired by Neander and his front office.

The man knows how to construct a winning team. If the Phillies believe they have a slither of a chance to convince Neander to leave Tampa, they should pursue him.


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