As soon as General Manager Matt Klentak announced that then-manager Pete Mackanin would not return to the post next season, the rumor mill began swirling with names in connection to the Phillies. We now know that Mackanin and Larry Bowa, the team’s bench coach, will be retained in the club’s front office as advisors to the GM.
But, what about the vacant managerial position? Interviews are underway and with that, a few frontrunners have emerged.
Dusty Wathan: Current manager of Triple-A Lehigh Valley
He makes the most sense given much of the Phillies brass is familiar with him. Not to mention, Wathan has a winning pedigree in 10 years with minor league organizations, having won a league championship with Lakewood and becoming the winningest manager in Clearwater Threshers history.
The team was virtually groomed by Wathan who has significant experience working with players like Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Jorge Alfaro who are all seen as the next core of the Phillies. With Wathan leading the group into the next stages of the rebuild, Maikel Franco may be able to find his groove back to what he had with the minor league system. Because he’s guided many of the players to success thus far as an internal option, the interview was a certainty. Putting Wathan back in charge of the talent might be a step in the right direction. Wathan’s promotion would be his second in as many years, having just been brought up to the Triple-A level in 2017.
Wathan fits the mold for what Klentak wants in the next manager as someone who can connect with the young players. If the Phillies decide to go with an internal candidate again this time around, look for Wathan to be at the top of the list. Furthermore, we asked you guys on our twitter who should be the manager and almost 40 percent of you guys agreed on bringing Wathan in.
It's still pretty early in the process, but at this point, who would you like to see as the next #Phillies manager?
— Phillies Nation (@PHLPhilNation) October 13, 2017
Jorge Velandia: Current Phillies front office executive
Velandia is a name fans aren’t likely familiar with, but is a strong candidate due to his strong bond with Klentak since his arrival. He has been with the Phils the past eight seasons in various positions from player development to coaching and is a veteran of the game, having played with six teams in his Major League career. A Venezuela native, Velandia served as GM for La Guaira club in the Venezuelan winter league which produced current outfielder Odubel Herrera, the only player currently on a long-term contract.
Klentak is part of a group of new-age general managers who make analytically driven decisions and prefer his newly appointed skipper to do the same. Working under and with Klentak, Velandia has shown his willingness to learn and embrace analytics becoming well aquatinted with the Phillies analytics team. Being cognizant of sabermetrics holds some weight over someone who must be taught the Phillies thought process. Velandia’s chemistry with the club’s staff is pushing him into contention for the managerial job, a position seen as extensions of the front office than simply a game-day role. Another internal name under serious consideration, Velandia would have his first manager position in any level of baseball if he were given the position.
Mickey Callaway: Current Cleveland Indians pitching coach
An outside the organization name that’s been heating up, Callaway is an interesting name who’s been lighting up the rumor mill. The club formally asked the Cleveland Indians for permission to interview Callaway on Thursday after they were eliminated by the Yankees in postseason play. Callaway has never managed, having only been a pitching coach in major league baseball since his hiring for the position in 2013. Interestingly enough, the Phillies stressed the importance of young pitching throughout the entire rebuild, and Callaway would be a natural to mold the arms.
In Cleveland, he’s led the Indians to hold an AL-best 3.52 ERA and 2.89 in relief. Since his arrival, Cleveland is one of the league’s perennial pitching staffs headed by Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, two 18-game winners this year who were developed into Cy Young contenders under Callaway’s leadership. With analytics being a focus in Klentak’s organization, Callaway is an ideal fit as someone who is a student of the game and understanding of the game’s transformation. He had arguably one of the greatest rotations in baseball in wins above replacement (WAR) at Cleveland, one of the key sabermetric measurements of success. Perhaps he’s the guy the Phillies need to turn the corner with a young core of Phillies; there is no greater need for the Phillies than pitching, after all.
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr CC