The answer is yes.
Yes, the Phillies, according to an industry source, will check in with Theo Epstein to gauge his interest in jumping right back into the captain's chair and leading the team's baseball operations after stepping down as president of the Chicago Cubs.
But there's no guarantee that Epstein will want to speak with the Phillies about potential employment, or, for that matter, the New York Mets, who are also looking for a leader of baseball operations.
Upon stepping down on Tuesday, Epstein authored a letter to friends in which he stated his intention to sit next year out.
"Next summer will be my first in 30 years not clocking into work every day at a major league ballpark," he said in the letter, which was obtained by ESPN, the New York Post and other outlets. "I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year."
Epstein, 46, is already a shoo-in for future election to the Hall of Fame after breaking World Series curses with the Boston Red Sox and the Cubs. In all, he has presided over three World Series champions. The Red Sox broke an 86-year drought in 2004 then won it again in 2007 and the Cubs snapped a 108-year dry spell with their title in 2016.
Epstein's decision to step down after nine seasons with the Cubs was not a complete surprise in baseball circles. In early October, he appeared at a news conference in Chicago and told reporters that he would likely step aside when his contract ran out after the 2021 season. Some in the industry thought Epstein would vacate his position even before that and hand off his position to Jed Hoyer, his longtime aide in two cities, and that's just what happened.
It is incumbent on the Phillies that they at least check with Epstein to see if he'd consider starting his third chapter in the game sooner rather than later, but there's not a high degree of optimism that he will change his stated position.
Epstein is one of the game's highest paid executives. He earned close to $10 million per season after signing a five-year extension with the Cubs in September 2016. Whenever he starts his third chapter, he will be expensive and there have long been industry rumblings that he'd like to own a slice of the next team he joins. It's worth noting that Phillies ownership, led by John Middleton, did award Pat Gillick a stake in the team but only after he presided over a World Series championship.
The Phillies are in the process of restructuring their baseball operations leadership after Matt Klentak was stripped of his general manager title in early October. Klentak's former assistant, Ned Rice, has been overseeing baseball ops on an interim basis and reporting to club president Andy MacPhail, who is expected to step down when his contract runs out after the 2021 season, possibly sooner if the Phillies complete their restructuring before then.
According to sources, the Phillies would like to hire a president of baseball operations — that's the same title that Epstein had in Chicago — with that person reporting to Middleton, the club's managing partner. The Phils have been publicly criticized for perceived inaction on this front, but people with knowledge of the situation say the team has been active in identifying candidates, requesting permission to speak with them and in some cases actually doing that. The Phils, according to sources, have set their sights on some of the most highly regarded executives in the game but, like other teams, have hit roadblocks in receiving permission to speak with those executives. According to multiple media reports, the Tampa Bay Rays have made top executive Erik Neander off limits and the Milwaukee Brewers have done the same with David Stearns.
Back in early October, Middleton said it could take anywhere from a month or two to well into the 2021 season to complete the restructuring of the Phillies' baseball operations leadership team. The team could make a move in the short term if the right candidate from another club emerges, or it could wait longer and deliberate on a field of free-agent executives that includes Michael Hill, Dan O'Dowd, Ned Colletti, Brian Sabean, Dan Duquette, Dave Dombrowski and others.
Will the list of potential candidates swell to include future Hall of Famer Theo Epstein?
The Phillies will make the call and see what he says.