PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies believe they have reached a turning point in their rebuild.
They will turn that corner with a new manager. Philadelphia announced Friday afternoon that Pete Mackanin will not return next season, less than five months after it signed him to a contract extension through 2018. He will manage the season's final three games, then move into a role as a special assistant to the general manager.
"It's time to look forward," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "That's the message today: It's time to look forward."
Klentak never specifically said why Mackanin no longer fit into his plans, but it is safe to say that the GM wants his own man in the dugout. Mackanin replaced Ryne Sandberg as Phillies manager in June 2015, before Klentak joined the organization. The Phillies went 172-237 (.421) with Mackanin in charge during a painful rebuild. This season the Phils are 64-95 (.403), which is the third-worst record in baseball, but they are 35-37 (.486) since the All-Star break and 21-18 (.538) since Aug. 18.
"We're not firing him. We're transitioning him into a new role," Klentak said. "I think now with the way the rebuild is unfolding and the way that some of our young players are graduating to the big leagues and the way that the outlook is shaping up, that is why I think a new voice in the dugout and a new style is necessary. It has nothing to do with me not liking Pete or being disappointed in him.
"I've said a lot of nice things about Pete that were entirely sincere. I think it's about finding a connection with the team and with the players and leading us on into the future."
Mackanin seemed visibly upset at the beginning of a nearly 30-minute news conference.
"I always like to think I should have been back and I would have liked to have been back," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out."
Mackanin said he never asked Klentak why he would not return as manager. He said he does not care to know why, and is happy to remain in the organization.
But the move surprised many, particularly because the team played better since the roster received an influx of young talent in the second half. In fact, Klentak recently praised Mackanin and the coaching staff for getting through a rough first half.
Klentak said he made the decision to remove Mackanin in the past week. He broke the news to the manager on Thursday.
The entire coaching staff has been told to pursue other job opportunities, although the front office could push the new manager toward certain members of the coaching staff, if management thinks they performed well in their roles and if the coaches have not found new jobs.
Klentak said the managerial search will begin immediately, with no timetable to make a hire. He said the Phillies are open-minded toward candidates without previous managerial or coaching experience.
One potential candidate is Orioles manager Buck Showalter because he has worked with Phillies president Andy MacPhail and Klentak in the past. Of course, Showalter is under contract with Baltimore, so something would have to change to make him available.
Externally, former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Astros bench coach Alex Cora, former Cubs catcher David Ross, former Braves second baseman and Penn alumnus Mark DeRosa, former Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez, Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta, former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing and Giants third-base coach Phil Nevin are just a few possibilities. Internally, the Phillies could take a look at Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan, Phillies special assistant to the general manager Jorge Velandia and third-base coach Juan Samuel.
"Our goal for that search will be to identify a leader that can help lead us into the future and take us to where we want to go," Klentak said.
Can the Phillies get there next year? Is that why the Phillies made this move?
"One of the important things for us is to understand -- particularly when you're fielding a roster of this many young players -- that growth can come quickly," Klentak said. "Sometimes it comes a little more slowly. You just don't know with young players. Trust me, I'd like nothing more than to contend next year right from the very beginning, but I don't really want to place any limitations on that.
"I do think we have seen over the last two months or so with a lot of these young players, it bodes very well for our future. How quickly that manifests itself and takes shape and turns into a playoff team remains to be seen, but we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that happens."
And the team believes all of that starts with a new manager.