Is the Phillies' search for a new head of baseball operations narrowing?
Or is it expanding?
Los Angeles Dodgers executive Josh Byrnes is no longer a candidate for the position, a source said Wednesday, confirming news reported by The Athletic's Jayson Stark late Tuesday night.
Stark's report said, "Byrnes decided to stay in Los Angeles." It is unclear whether Byrnes, who had two interviews for the job, pulled out of the running because he decided he didn't want the Phillies' job or if he had possibly received vibes that he was not the top candidate.
Earlier, highly regarded Minnesota Twins executive Thad Levine removed his name for consideration for the job.
With Levine and Byrnes out of the mix, Michael Hill, former president of baseball operations with the Miami Marlins, remains as the only confirmed candidate for the Phillies' job.
It's unclear, however, if the Phillies are now completely focused on Hill or if they are in the process of broadening their list of candidates. In addition to Hill, there are a number of proven executives who are free agents and would likely have interest in the Phillies' job. The list includes Brian Sabean, Ned Colletti, Dan O'Dowd, Dan Duquette and others.
The Phillies' search for a new head of baseball operations is being conducted by managing partner John Middleton and club president Andy MacPhail. Both have offered a broad timetable for making a hire, saying one could happen in the short term or even after the 2021 season has begun.
Other than addressing the timetable, Middleton and MacPhail have been mostly tight-lipped on specifics of their search. However, shortly after stripping Matt Klentak of his general manager duties in October, Middleton said, "It's the acquisition and the development of talent that is critical so I'll be looking for people who have proven that they can do that. That's where my target is."
Ned Rice, Klentak's former assistant, is handling GM duties on an interim basis. From catcher to shortstop to fixing a bullpen that was historically bad in 2020, the Phillies have big holes to fill all over the diamond. But in the second week of December, winter meetings week in a usual year, the Phillies' additions have totaled just two waiver-claim relievers who have a combined 15 big-league innings between them.
The winter meetings were canceled because of the pandemic. Ordinarily, general managers meet with reporters several times during the winter meetings to articulate their team's baseball plans. Many teams are doing that remotely this week, but the Phillies have not made Rice available despite requests.
Maybe soon the Phillies will have a new head of baseball ops and he'll speak on the team's plan.
Or maybe they won't.