In one of the weirder moves you’ll see this offseason, Matt Klentak stepped down as general manager of the Phillies on Saturday. According to the press release from the team, Klentak will be reassigned to a new role with the organization.
Matt Klentak was brought in to bring playoff baseball back to Philly in 2015, and in five years, it feels like we are no closer to when we hired him. It was just last offseason that the Phillies had undergone a massive and much needed overhaul in the scouting department, hiring Brian Barber away from the Yankees after years of success developing young talent. It seems that this offseason will be the year where the complete overhaul of the Front Office is continued and conceivably finished.
To do that, someone has to replace one of the more publicly criticized Philadelphia front office members in recent years. Here are my thoughts on some candidates to do exactly that.
Amiel Sawdaye, Assistant GM, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sawdaye is an experienced veteran of front office interviews. Prior to accepting his current job, he was offered the position of GM for the Boston Red Sox, the only organization he worked for prior to 2016. Sawdaye was originally hired as a Baseball Operations intern in 2002 by the Sox out of college. Over the course of seven years, Sawdaye made his way up the organizational ladder, from scouting assistant, to Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting, to finally Vice President of Amateur and International Scouting. During his time running the entire scouting department, the Red Sox were able to build on of the premier farm systems in baseball. Players like Andrew Benintiendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, Yoan Moncada, and Xander Bogaerts were successfully developed into Major League players under the watchful eye of Sawdaye.
In Arizona, Sawdaye has been working hand in hand with Senior Vice President Mike Hazen, with more of his work being focused around the Major League Operations department. Sawdaye has been working, “directly with the Major League club, with the Major League coaching staff, and he’ll also oversee a lot of the process that goes into our evaluation and scouting,” exactly how Hazen outlined it on the day of Sawdaye’s hire. While he has a wealth of knowledge of the scouting/player development side, Sawdaye is also a believer in analytics, having a degree in Decision and Information Sciences from the University of Maryland. He explained his thinking on analytics in a great interview with FanGraphs’ David Laurila in 2017. One of his main points is of the importance of communication between all departments within the organization, of which it doesn’t seem there had been under the old regime.
Sawdaye’s history of succesful player development along with his modern acceptance of analytic make him an intriguing candidate for a Phillies team that needs a cultural reset.
Kim Ng, Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations, MLB
It is very possible that this is the year the Ng is finally given control of a Major League franchise after years of interviews.
While most people will focus on the fact that she is a female, Ng has as much experience in baseball as the men on this list do. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Ng became an intern for the White Sox until she was hired full time in 1991. She worked as a special projects analyst before named Assistant Director of Baseball Operations for the team. Three years later, she was named the Assistant GM of the Yankees, becoming the youngest AGM in the history of baseball at the time, and only the third woman to hold the position. She eventually left to become the Vice President and AGM of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A life long baseball woman, Ng has worked in arguably the three biggest markets in the MLB with much success. In her current position, Ng is working on introducing the game of baseball to more people around the globe. She’s been at the forefront of the expansion of international training programs around the world. While a good amount of the expansion is with countries that don’t already have established baseball pipelines (China, Brazil, and Uganda), the Phillies have seemingly been bypassed by the majority of Major League Baseball in their approach to international scouting. Ng would be a perfect candidate to help improve that department to help find the Phillies version of Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto.
Ng will become the first woman to hold GM position of a Major League franchise. That’s not a question.
Could it be with the Phillies?
Matt Arnold, Assistant GM, Milwaukee Brewers
It seems that front office representatives that have ties to the Tampa Bay Rays are up for every opening, and the same can be said here about Arnold. Arnold has almost 20 years experience with 5 different clubs, but his longest tenure came with the Rays. Arnold has be more heavily involved with pro scouting during his tenure in the MLB, unlike others who are on this list. With Tampa Bay, he also worked on player acquisition and evaluation. With the Brewers, his areas of focus have included roster construction, financial planning and player personnel decisions.
As a team that has struggled recently in the scouting realm of professional baseball, Arnold would definitely be an outside the box pick for this position. He doesn’t have the experience in the player development that some of the other candidates out there do, but he is still generally considered an up and comer in the executive field. Out of the five candidates that I list here, Arnold is definitely my least favorite. That being said, Milwaukee has been able to be an average/above average team with Christian Yelich being their only consistent offensive threat. The Brewers and the Rays have recently shown a knack for finding production from people you may have never heard of, and Arnold is a big reason for that. It seems like many of the lower profile moves the old regime made just didn’t work out, especially this season.
Josh Byrnes, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Los Angeles Dodgers
Byrnes is a semi-local product. He graduated with a BA in English from Haverford College, where he was the team captain of the baseball team. Out of college, Byrnes was hired by the Cleveland Indians and worked his way through the ladder until he was hired by the Rockies to be their assistant GM. Byrnes, then, joined the Red Sox in the same role in 2003, helping lead them to their first World Series in 86 years when they lifted the trophy in 2004. Theo Epstein, current President of Baseball Ops for the Cubs and GM for Boston at the time, said of Byrnes, “He’s a key voice in player personnel. He’s got as much a feel for evaluating and statistical analysis as anyone in baseball.”
His first shot at the GM chair came in 2006, when he was hired by Arizona. His time there will be mostly known for when he promoted AJ Hinch to manager of the team straight out of a role in the player development office. Byrnes is now a major part of the LA front office, and with the success that franchise has had in the last few years, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to steal some magic from them. His name has been floated in circles for jobs, but Byrnes can wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself, as the gig he has now is pretty good.
If experience is a big factor for John Middleton when making this decision, then Josh Byrnes may have a leg up on the competition.
Dave Dombrowski, former President of Baseball Operations, Boston Red Sox
Like Byrnes, Dombrowski has plenty of experience running teams. He’s been the president of baseball ops for three separate teams in his career, winning a World Series with both the Red Sox and the Florida Marlins. His work with Florida (now Miami) was his first and, probably, his most impressive, as the team team had only begun play in 1993. Even after he left Florida to become the president in Detroit in 2001, a roster that had Dombrowski’s finger prints all over it won the World Series in 2003 as the Marlins beat the Yankees in six games.
In Detroit, Dombrowski was hired to run a rebuild for the lowly Tigers. After he fired Randy Smith in 2002, Dombrowski became both president and GM of Detroit. He brought in a familiar face in Jim Leyland, who he had also brought into Miami, to manage the team. Three years after losing a AL record 119 games in, the Tigers had won their first AL pennant since the 1984 season. In 14 years with the organization prior to his release in 2015, Dombrowski has resided over a team that had four consecutive American League Central division titles and won two AL pennants. Quite a different feel for a team that had only four playoff appearances from 1946 to 2005.
Dombrowski would have a much different feel from Klentak, as he has been in an MLB front office since the year 1987, when he first broke in with the Expos. He has experience turning around teams quickly and has shown a penchant for winning in his time running Major League teams. Andy McPhail, who seemingly will be with the Phillies until his retirement in 2021, is very close with Dombrowski. If John Middleton is serious about winning, Dombrowski may have some ideas to do that.
As much as the fans would want this to be a quick search, Matt Breen of The Inquirer is reporting that this search could take upwards of a year to complete. While Ned Rice has been promoted to interim GM position, it seems we may have a longer look at him than most interim positions get.
Middleton likes Ned Rice a lot. Hopefully, his affection towards Rice equals a good performance in the role as GM.
The fan base deserves it.