PHILS INSIDER

Restructuring Phillies baseball hierarchy might take some time

PHILS INSIDER

The morning after a big change in the Phillies organization, everything felt, well, pretty much the same.

Matt Klentak was out as general manager but remained with the organization.

His closest adviser and confidant, Ned Rice, was in as interim general manager.

Andy MacPhail remained as club president with owner John Middleton saying, "his attention will shift much more to the baseball side now than it was a month ago, let's say." That aligned with what Middleton said the day MacPhail was introduced in Philadelphia five years ago. To wit: "Andy oversees the entire organization, but his focus is baseball and his mandate is to win."

MacPhail, who spearheaded the hiring of Klentak five years ago, will assist/advise Middleton in the hiring of a new head of baseball operations for the club. It's important to phrase it that way — head of baseball operations — because the structure of the Phillies' front office could be changing. MacPhail's contract runs out at the end of 2021 and he could move on after that. It's not difficult to envision the club constructing a hierarchy that includes a president of baseball operations with a general manager of his hiring reporting to him. A number of teams already have this structure.

So, what's the timetable for the Phillies to set this potential front-office hierarchy?

If the task is simply hiring a new general manager, the timetable could be relatively short.

But if the team is going to target a president of baseball operations and let him hire his own GM, it could be longer — maybe stretching through next season.

 

The entire situation is complicated by the world we live in. The COVID-19 pandemic impacts everything.

"We don't really have a firm timetable," Middleton said in a videoconference with reporters Saturday. "I think one of the things that's really going to potentially play havoc with this offseason is COVID. Right now, our offices aren't even open. So if you had somebody new today, they can't go into the office to work. They can't meet people. They can't work with people. It's hard. Holding Zoom meetings only goes so far, particularly when you are establishing relationships. 

"What I've discovered over the last six months is Zoom is a pretty good way to have meetings with people that you know. But when you start introducing new people to each other via Zoom calls, it's not nearly the same thing. So, I think that's going to play a factor in terms of our timetable. 

"I think we have to be flexible and we have to be nimble. So, we'll go out and see. And who knows how COVID is going to play in potential candidates' minds — whether they're going to become conservative and say, 'I want to stay where I am because I know where I am and I feel safe here.' Or they could say they want to take a chance and move out to a new job and a new organization. I can't tell you."

The possibility of a lengthy transition period is why Middleton assigned Rice the interim GM role, even though Rice, in a lot of ways, represents an extension of the deposed Klentak.

"One of the reasons that we chose Ned is because he has by far the most breadth of experience in the organization other than Matt and frankly the most depth as well," Middleton said. "When we looked at this, when Andy and I were talking about this issue, the point about COVID is we don't know how this is going to play. We needed a guy in that job that we had enough confidence in that we could have him in there for a long time."

Middleton was asked whether Rice was too similar to Klentak.

"If you're talking about a permanent hire, that would be one issue," Middleton said. "If you're talking about something that could be two to three months or, at most, a season, that's an entirely different kettle of fish."

So, establishing a new Phillies front office structure could take some time.

And all of this is unfolding at a time when the organization, and the baseball industry as a whole, is facing financial uncertainty caused by the lost revenues that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations have already laid off workers. The Phillies have guaranteed full-time employees' jobs through October, but layoffs could be coming.