Corey Seidman

Gabe Kapler drawing interest from multiple teams in search of a manager

Gabe Kapler drawing interest from multiple teams in search of a manager

In the four days since Gabe Kapler was let go by the Phillies, two reports have surfaced of teams set to interview him. First, the Giants, now the news Monday from the Chicago Tribune that Kapler will interview with the Cubs.

It shows that, despite how things ended here, Kapler is well-thought-of in major-league circles. Why wouldn't a few teams with openings bring him in to hear what he says, how he'd manage their club, and pick his brain for ideas? Not every team has as much of a preference for a seasoned skipper as the Phillies appear to. It makes sense for a few of the eight teams with vacancies to cast a wide net. There are plenty of examples of managers not succeeding at their first stop before settling in.

Kapler has ties to both the Giants and Cubs. San Francisco's baseball department is run by Farhan Zaidi, who worked with Kapler in the Dodgers' front office. Chicago's head man is Theo Epstein, who had Kapler as a player with the Red Sox from 2003-06.

Former Cubs catcher David Ross is viewed as one of the favorites for that job. Joe Girardi has been connected to the Cubs and Mets, and it is believed that the Phillies are speaking with him Monday in the New York area.

Fuld declines interviews

Sam Fuld, the Phillies' major league player information coordinator, declined managerial interviews with the Cubs, Mets and Pirates, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Fuld is an important and valued member of the Phillies' organization. A former player himself, he serves as a conduit between the analytics department and the players. Fuld is highly respected around the game and could one day be a manager or general manager somewhere. 

Could an opportunity with the Phillies be the reason he declined three interviews? Possibly, but it still seems more likely the Phillies go the route of an experienced manager. It could have more to do with Fuld's family situation, comfort in his current role and potential upward mobility in the Phillies' own front office.

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Several errors led Phillies to this point, and one excuse Friday doesn't hold up

Several errors led Phillies to this point, and one excuse Friday doesn't hold up

One of the key points made by John Middleton, Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak at Friday's press conference was that most of the Phillies' additions performed but many of the players who were on the 2018 team either did not improve or were worse in 2019.

That's not news to any Phillies fan. They saw the product. They watched a team they thought last winter was on the brink of contention add a superstar in Bryce Harper, a star-level catcher in J.T. Realmuto and a very good, multi-dimensional vet in Andrew McCutchen and win just one more game.

It really is staggering to look at how few players on the 2019 team sustained or increased their 2018 production. Rhys Hoskins was worse. Odubel Herrera was worse before his season-ending suspension. Maikel Franco was worse. Roman Quinn was worse (and dealt with a slew of injuries again). Nick Williams was substantially worse.

Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Seranthony Dominguez, Edubray Ramos, all worse. 

This highlights the dilemma the Phillies find themselves in. They spent so much money last offseason that they are now pot-committed. They have to continue to spend. You don't tear it down a year after building it up by committing more than $400 million to future payrolls.

A strong case can be made that the Phillies spent that money a year too soon. It's hindsight, but execs are paid to have this sort of foresight. There were too many holes on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t mean Harper was the wrong player to splurge on. It means the Phillies didn’t do a good enough job building up their roster leading to that gigantic moment they landed Harper. Their current core now looks like it clearly wasn't ready yet. The manager, hitting coach and pitching coach played a role in the disappointment, but would any coaching trio have conjured the eight additional wins it would have required just to tie the Brewers for the second wild-card spot? The answer is almost certainly no.

If the Phillies had a stronger homegrown core, they wouldn't have this great need to spend big for a second straight year. (Or a third straight year, given that Arrieta and Carlos Santana cost $135 million the prior offseason.

If Pivetta and Vince Velasquez ever developed, they could have formed 40 percent of the starting rotation. If Quinn or Williams ever seized an everyday role, or even a bench role, the offense would be in better shape. If Arrieta had been anything close to what the Phillies thought they were getting, that would mean one fewer pitching need. The Phillies didn't sign Arrieta to be the ace he was in Chicago but they certainly thought they were getting, at worst, a mid-rotation piece. Hasn't happened. Those misses matter, especially when they add up.

Then there are the drafts. MacPhail pointed out Friday that the Phillies went with three high school players in the first three rounds in 2016 and that prep prospects develop more slowly than college players. He pointed out that in 2018, the Phillies didn't have a second- or third-round pick because of free-agent signings. This past draft, they didn't have a second-round pick because of the Harper signing.

Still ... that's not an effective excuse. Bo Bichette was a high school player drafted 65 spots after Mickey Moniak that year and he's already a far better prospect. Jesus Luzardo was a high school player drafted in the third round who is now one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball. You could look at any draft any year and fault any team for missing on a certain player. All drafts are crap-shoots, especially in MLB. But the Phillies didn't appear to hit on the right high school players in that 2016 draft. The 2017 draft may produce three big-league players in Adam Haseley, Spencer Howard and perhaps Ethan Lindow. 

Too many misses while drafting high in every round.

The draft, the international free-agent market and player development have been the Phillies' three biggest-picture problems in recent years.

They have led the Phillies from the basement to the middle. They had the 16th-best record in 2019 and the 18th-best record in 2018.

To gain the wins needed to make the playoffs in 2020, the Phillies will need one or more of these things to happen

• Harper and Realmuto perform like superstars for the majority of the season.

• Howard or Alec Bohm not only contribute in 2020 but make a significant major-league impact as rookies.

• The players added this offseason meet or exceed expectations.

• Players like Hoskins and Scott Kingery take steps forward.

If, if, if, if. It's hard to believe that after eight years of non-winning baseball, these many ifs still exist.

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It didn't take long for Gabe Kapler to get a managerial interview

It didn't take long for Gabe Kapler to get a managerial interview

Update: Gabe Kapler will interview with the Giants, according to Jon Heyman

Could Gabe Kapler resurface as a National League manager as soon as next season?

Our friends at NBC Sports Bay Area laid out the case for Kapler to replace Bruce Bochy in San Francisco. It stems from the solid working relationship Kapler had in Los Angeles with Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers' general manager from 2014-18 who just completed his first year as the Giants' head of baseball operations.

Kapler was a finalist with Dave Roberts to become the Dodgers' manager prior to 2016. Zaidi, after that process, was among those who recommended Kapler to the Phillies. Kapler didn't make a believer of everyone in the organization, though. It is no secret that at least one high-profile Dodger made clear he did not want to play for Kapler.

Will Kapler get another job so soon? He went two games under .500 in two seasons with the Phillies. The Phillies outperformed their run differential both years by a total of six games. Offense and defense were issues in Year 1, pitching in Year 2.

A few Phillies pitchers took umbrage with Kapler's managing patterns. Understandable. Kapler made bullpen decisions that past Phillies managers hadn't. Some worked, many didn't. Aside from Hector Neris in the ninth, it was less about roles and more about using the best pitcher in the highest-leverage situation. More often than not, "the best pitcher" wasn't good enough. The results may have been different if veteran relievers stayed healthy. It got to a point in the second half of 2019 that the Phillies rarely had more than two relievers who could reliably get through an inning a couple of times per week.

In contrast, key everyday players like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins had nothing but good things to say about their former skipper.

Was Kapler the main reason the Phillies collapsed two Septembers in a row? No, that was more about a lack of impact players in 2018 and a glaring lack of depth in 2019. It's hard to see even a bullpen whisperer like Bochy figuring out the right formula here in 2019.

Results, though, will always matter more than anything else in sports. Results often trump circumstance. Kapler didn't do enough to make the Phillies better in 2019, to push this long stretch of non-winning baseball forward. The Phillies went from 66 wins in 2017 to 80 in Kapler's first year but only 81 in his second. In a season of enormous expectations following a spending spree, a manager will rarely ever be safe after a one-win upgrade. An 86-win season like the Mets had may have resulted in Kapler getting a third year.

After that rough second half, bringing him back would have been a tough sell. The fan base was out. It never really was in.

Kapler loves managing and the assumption here is that he still wants to. Every manager knows he is hired to one day be fired, but this can't be how Kapler wanted this phase of his career to play out. He may receive offers to join a front office in a role similar to the one he served with the Dodgers. He could get a TV job back tomorrow.

Outside of Philadelphia, the other seven teams in need of a new manager are the Mets, Cubs, Padres, Angels, Giants, Royals and Pirates. It seems unlikely the Mets or Cubs would turn to Kapler. A case could be made for the other clubs. Joe Maddon is the logical shoo-in for the Angels gig.

It will be interesting to see where Kapler resurfaces and if he does, whether his in-game and leadership tactics are the same.

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