Matt Klentak stepped down as Phillies General Manager on Saturday. The franchise will embark on a search for a new person to oversee baseball operations, likely seeking someone who can perform a quick-fix on the big league roster and focus on player development.
When John Middleton and Phillies leadership evaluate 2020 general manager candidates, they have to keep one question in mind throughout the process: “Who do we want to be as an organization?” Middleton has openly said that he would like his franchise to become a perennial big market contender. He also appears to be someone who values family and stability in his organization.
There are two franchises that have embodied sustained excellence and stability in baseball. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have done more than flex their considerable financial muscle over the years. Both organizations also maintained top farm systems with enough quality depth that their 25-man rosters can power through injuries. Two names associated with those franchises are among the best Phillies GM candidates of the 2020 offseason.
The Phillies took a first step towards emulating the Yankees in 2019. Brian Barber was hired as Director of Amateur Scouting after a stint with the Bronx Bombers. Another path towards excellence would be to interview Jean Afterman.
The attorney replaced Kim Ng as the Yankees Assistant General Manager in 2001. Afterman’s lack of playing experience should not frighten anyone. Contemporary front offices are filled with enough Ivy League analysts that her practical experience is impressive on its own. 19 years working alongside one of the most successful executives in the big leagues certifies her credentials to any reasonable doubters.
Hiring the first female general manager in Major League history would be a choice that fits Middleton’s bold, yet measured persona. Afterman also represents a chance to transition the Phillies into a proper big market team that can throw their weight around. With Steve Cohen’s ascension as majority owner of the New York Mets, the Phillies will have to act like a big market team to stay relevant in the NL East.
The Dodgers are the standard in baseball right now. Josh Byrnes is the organization’s Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and has been involved with more than one successful Major League Baseball team.
Byrnes was scouting director for the Cleveland Indians in the late 90s and was in the front office for the Boston Red Sox when the team won the World Series in 2004. As GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, he oversaw teams with inconsistent results that were operating in tougher financial restrictions than he would have in Philadelphia.
The Phillies could also improve the organization by hiring Raul Ibanez. The former Phillies outfielder is currently serving as Special Assistant to Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman. Ibanez recently began to surface as a name of note last season. Hiring the ex-player as Assistant General Manager could provide analytical balance and give the Phillies a chance to have a strong front office.
Good pitching is the key to success in baseball. That is why Matt Klentak promised that waves of pitching would be integral to the team’s success. Pitching is the hardest thing to identify in baseball and the Phillies have not been able to create a deep rotation or bullpen in quite some time.
Phillies fans have witnessed this over the last couple of years when the franchise has leaned on players like Vince Velasquez, Tommy Hunter, and Adam Morgan in big innings. No franchise in baseball has developed a cadre of pitchers like the Cleveland Indians. This is an organization that dealt two top arms (Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber) because they could.
New Jersey native Mike Chernoff has been with Cleveland throughout the bulk of their current run. He became general manager of the Indians in 2015. The team entered 2019 in the beginning stages of what promises to be a quick, lateral rebuild as they rotate their current successful core in favor of younger talent.
Indians ownership does not have a reputation for being the most competitive in baseball. Like most big league teams, the franchise will be in a greater financial crunch following 2020. This could prolong the rebuild and give Chernoff a desire to look outside Cleveland for a different chance of success. Joining the Phillies presents an opportunity to build something in a new city and away from the shadow of Chris Antonetti.
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