Phils seek 'wide spectrum' of GM candidates
PHILADELPHIA -- Andy MacPhail was hired by the Phillies in June. He'll formally take over as team president at the end of the regular season. So it was natural for him to be asked Thursday afternoon about his profile for the team's next general manager in the wake of the announcement that the contract of Ruben Amaro Jr. will not be extended.
Before MacPhail could speak, John Middleton reacted like a defensive back jumping a route and intercepted the query. "Let me tell you what I think and what I've told Andy he needs to do. He needs to hire himself," said the man who has emerged as the voice of the ownership group.
He was kidding. Sort of. He went on to note that MacPhail was in his 30s when he got his first chance as a general manager with the Twins. "And he was playing with mathematical, statistical, analytical tools. And he was using them to try to figure out how he could make better evaluations, therefore, better personnel decisions," an animated Middleton said.
"How did a young guy who never had the job before do that? The answer is, because he was constantly pushing himself to get better. ... What is crucial is that the person who is going to fill this job absolutely has to have a passion for winning, be really competitive. Has to be able to think outside the box. Has to be able to push himself and this organization to make it better and has to be able to embrace change. Because you cannot sustain success unless you're adaptable and flexible and able to deal with problems five years from now.
"Because the problems five years from now are going to be different than the problems today. If you hire somebody today and they're a one-trick pony and all they can do is fix today's problems, they're not going to be successful five years from now. So what we have to do as an organization is find someone who can drive that culture, who can drive that change."
When it was his turn, MacPhail smiled. "I'll give a more traditional answer," he said.
Which was, basically, that he doesn't intend really to have a profile.
"I intend to look at a wide spectrum of candidates," he said. "I would think it would be a mistake if we pigeonhole ourselves into saying, 'We're going to go for young analytics,' or, 'We're going to go for an experienced baseball guy.' Why would you restrict your ability to talk to whoever you want? I think you have a responsibility to look at everything. You might be surprised. You'll learn a lot of things."
The only common denominator, he added, was that the general manager should have a different "horizon" than the manager. The guy in the dugout should focus on what's happening right now. The GM has to consider both long- and short-term objectives.
For anyone trying to read tea leaves and figure out who might be on the short list, that didn't provide many clues. But here's a look at some logical candidates and why they could fit in.
Baseball people will almost always at least consider people they've worked with before. So the names of 35-year-old Angels assistant general manager Matt Klentak and Yankees special assistant Jim Hendry naturally surfaced quickly. MacPhail hired Klentak in 2008 when he was president of the Orioles. And Hendry, 60, was his general manager with the Cubs.
Executives from successful organizations are usually seen as attractive candidates.
So one intriguing possibility could be John Barr, vice president and assistant general manager scouting and international operations of the Giants. San Francisco has won the World Series three of the last five seasons and is a far more analytics-savvy organization than it generally gets credit for. He's 57, but Pat Gillick was three years older when he put the finishing touches on the 2008 World Series championship team. Plus, he's a local native who still lives in New Jersey.
Another who falls into that category: J.J. Picollo, 44, Royals vice president and assistant GM of player personnel.
There are several former general managers with good reputations who could be available, including Ben Cherington, who stepped down from the Red Sox after Dave Dombrowski was hired; Jerry Dipoto, who resigned from the Angels; and Twins special assistant Wayne Krivsky.
There are young assistants who are considered up-and-comers. Braves assistant GM and director of professional scouting John Coppolella; Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler; and Angels director of professional scouting Hal Morris would be examples.
There are outside-the-box candidates. Like, say, Dan Duquette. There have been reports that his relationship with Orioles owner Peter Angelos soured when he was under consideration to become the Blue Jays president, a position that has since been filed by Mark Shapiro. Duquette is whip smart and has won wherever he's been.
Major League Baseball is strongly urging teams to consider minority candidates. So De Jon Watson (D-backs senior vice-president of baseball operations), Billy Owens (Athletics player personnel director), Deron Johnson (Twins scouting director), Tyrone Brooks (Pirates director of player personnel), Ricky Bennett (Pirates pro scout), Dana Brown (Blue Jays special assistant) and Kim Ng (MLB senior vice president for baseball operations) could get looks.
The Phillies aren't expected to interview internal candidates, although Middleton did say that MacPhail knows interim GM Scott Proefrock well enough from their days together in Baltimore that a formal interview probably wouldn't be necessary.
So, since MacPhail isn't going to clone himself, he has a lot of names to consider. That process started, he said, as soon as he stepped off the podium on Thursday.