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MacPhail talks future of Phillies' front office

@ToddZolecki
October 30, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have not made the postseason in Andy MacPhail’s five-plus years as team president. They have not even finished with a winning record. “That is a severe disappointment to me,” MacPhail said Friday in a Zoom call with reporters. “In the end, if you look at the

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have not made the postseason in Andy MacPhail’s five-plus years as team president.

They have not even finished with a winning record.

“That is a severe disappointment to me,” MacPhail said Friday in a Zoom call with reporters. “In the end, if you look at the directory … it’s John Middleton -- that’s ownership -- then it’s me. I’m ultimately responsible for the management of the franchise on the baseball and the business side. So that is a great source of disappointment to me that by this time we hadn’t done better than we did.”

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The team’s performance pushed Middleton into removing Matt Klentak as general manager. Ned Rice took Klentak’s place as interim GM, but there is no urgency to find Klentak’s permanent replacement. MacPhail, who intends to leave the Phillies once his contract expires following the 2021 season, discussed several topics Friday in a 35-minute session with reporters.

Is there a timeline to find Klentak’s replacement?
The plan is to hire a president of baseball operations. Names like Brian Sabean, Ned Colletti, Dave Dombrowski, Thad Levine and Erik Neander make sense. MacPhail said the Phillies have gone through the preliminary stages of a search. They have identified people. Nothing is imminent.

In fact, MacPhail said, the Phillies might not hire anybody until next year.

“Who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?” he said. “I could see this thing going longer. Certainly, through until ’21, when you have a little more clarity with what it is we’re facing. I just try to underscore this, you want the next regime to do well. You want to put them in a position to succeed. In my estimation, if you brought somebody in here right now with a limited capacity that they could affect positive change, it’s just borderline not fair to them.”

MacPhail said he would step aside if it helps Middleton land a “big fish.”

“I would happily do that,” he said.

Is it status quo until then?
The feeling inside and outside the organization is that nothing changed in the short term with Rice serving as interim GM and Klentak remaining active in an advisory role.

Rice served as Klentak’s right-hand man the past five seasons. They made every major decision together. But MacPhail said Klentak and Rice have different personalities, which is true. But while they are different people, they have similar baseball sensibilities. Rice might be more conservative than Klentak. For example, Rice did not want to break the bank for free agents like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jake Arrieta.

“Most of what is in front of us in the short and mid-term, we can do internally, and I am very confident that Ned can get us through that,” MacPhail said.

Is Rice making the major decisions or is somebody else?
“There won’t be a significant move made without it going through me and John,” MacPhail said.

But MacPhail does not expect any major decisions to be made until later this year or even early next year with no GM Meetings and Winter Meetings and a likely slow-moving free-agent market.

Is there a chance Realmuto could return?
MacPhail said he is optimistic the Phillies can re-sign catcher J.T. Realmuto, which differs from public comments from Middleton and Klentak.

“There are two things we’ve got going for us,” MacPhail said. “The first is I think he enjoyed his time here, and, obviously, we want him back. So I think those two things give you some measure of hope. In any offseason, there are an amazing amount of variables -- and you can just multiply that exponentially this offseason. But, yeah, as long as the player enjoyed his time here and the team has a legitimate interest in bringing him back, there is that possibility.”

Is the farm system as bad as it seems?
The Phillies’ farm system is generally regarded as one of the weaker ones in baseball. MLB Pipeline ranks the Phillies’ system 23rd, but that will drop further once Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard lose their prospect status.

MacPhail strongly disputed that. He touted evidence that the Phillies’ system has been the best in baseball the past few years. Phillies’ Draft picks from 2016-20 have a combined 1.8 bWAR, which ranks ninth in baseball in that span. Draft picks from 2017-20 have a combined 2.6 WAR, which ranks first.

“Let's be fair, let's be honest -- it's a snapshot in time,” MacPhail said. “That number is going to change every year because somebody else is going to come up and hit it big. That number is always going to vacillate. But right now, as that race is being run, the Philly horse is in first out of 30.”

Is the research and development department doing its job?
The Phillies have put millions into their analytics department. They will continue to lean on it as they move away from scouting. The organization recently let go five pro and two amateur scouts.

“Our R&D department has been good, with one exception,” MacPhail said. “I'm just being blunt. I look at Tampa. They're able to unlock the hidden value or potential in Minor League players that have been around a while that they recognize something that we're not picking up on yet. I think that's one thing that this franchise needs to improve on. Our R&D needs to, obviously, help with that. They're seeing something we're not, and we've got to figure out what that is.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .