The Phillies are looking for a track record of success in their next president of baseball operations, so it’s no surprise that they have shown interest in Rays GM Erik Neander and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, according to Jon Heyman. They are also planning to interview former Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill, per Jayson Stark of The Athletic.
“I have heard, and this is speculative on my part, that [the Phillies] have interest in Theo Epstein,” Heyman said on RADIO.COM’s Big Time Baseball podcast. “That would probably be a year away. It’s possible it could work with MacPhail now and I wouldn’t rule out anybody letting [anyone] leave. Theo Epstein obviously has a big salary. The Cubs seem to be considering their finances, so that’s a rumor that I’ve heard.
“I’ve also heard they’re interested in Erik Neander who did a terrific job. … Obviously, the Rays have overachieved on a tight budget. So those are the two big names I’ve heard.”
It’s unclear, however, if either Neander or Epstein are available at the moment.
Neander is the highest-ranking baseball executive in the Rays organization but reports to Team President Matthew Silverman. MacPhail could step aside and offer Neander the title of team president, which is something MacPhail said he is willing to do.
“Let’s say there is a very successful president of baseball operations,” MacPhail said. “You can’t get him on a lateral move but you can make him the president and he’d be interested in that.
“And then he can come and essentially act as the president of baseball operations. … That would be an avenue to help you land a big fish where I’d happily step aside.”
The Rays wouldn’t have much of a case against blocking an interview request for Neander since the team president’s job is a promotion.
The only problem is that Neander does not wish to leave Tampa Bay, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. A bigger paycheck and a promotion could intrigue Neander but if he’s set on remaining with the Rays, there’s not much the Phillies can do to change his mind.
Epstein is interesting because he’s already the president of baseball operations with the Cubs, so it’s unclear if the team would allow him to interview for a lateral position in Philadelphia. On one hand, ESPN‘s Buster Olney said last week that he’s heard that Epstein could part ways with the Cubs “a lot sooner” than the conclusion of the 2021 season. On the other hand, simply because he leaves the Cubs organization doesn’t mean he would be interested in immediately coming to Philadelphia, or anywhere else.
In the meantime, Hill is the first name to surface among a list of candidates the team plans to interview. Hill has been a hot commodity among MLB teams looking to fill a vacancy at the top of the front office. Under his watch, the Marlins have drafted and traded numerous star players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto. With a more than capable young pitching staff in hand, Hill left the Marlins with a core that can make noise in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball.
The Phillies are still in the preliminary stages of their search but Hill, Epstein and Neander could all be considered home-run hires. Hill wouldn’t be a bad fallback option either. The fact that the team is showing any kind of interest in these men is a step in the right direction.
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