The Phillies have not conducted an offseason managerial search since 2004, and they are sure to engage external candidates — as soon as next week. They could pursue a fresh perspective from outside the organization, someone with the ideal characteristics that fit the modern managerial mold.
Or that man could come from within the organization.
The team will have interviewed three internal candidates by the end of the week — Dusty Wathan, Jorge Velandia, and Juan Samuel — for the vacant manager’s job, according to two baseball sources. Samuel, 56, was the first to interview.
All three predate general manager Matt Klentak in the Phillies organization. Klentak is said to be looking for the managerial type coveted by most front offices who are younger and analytically inclined: someone who can guide 25 different personalities but apply data to drive certain decisions.
Wathan and Velandia reached their statuses as strong candidates through different paths.
Wathan, 44, has spent 10 seasons as a manager in the Phillies’ minor-league system. One of Klentak’s stated goals for his next manager is someone who can connect with young players, and Wathan has guided most of the Phillies’ current roster at some point in the minors. His pupils have praised Wathan’s qualities as a leader.
He has the traditional pedigree. The former catcher for 14 minor-league seasons is the son of a catcher and manager. John Wathan managed 646 games in the majors. Dusty Wathan, for the last two seasons as a minor-league manager, has been exposed to some of the Phillies’ analytics ideas.
Velandia, 42, has never managed. His coaching experience is limited; he spent two seasons as a coach at low-A Williamsport and three months as an extra coach with the Phillies in 2015. He played 174 games in parts of eight major-league seasons with six teams.
He is one of the few former players with a prominent role in the Phillies’ current front-office structure. That has made him one of Klentak’s more trusted advisers; Velandia has relationships with players, coaches, analysts, and scouts in the organization. The Phillies will have to decide where that perspective is most valuable. NBC Sports Philly reported that Klentak held a “lengthy” interview Wednesday with Velandia.
Hiring Velandia as manager would be akin to what Houston — in the midst of its rebuild — did at the end of 2014 by installing A.J. Hinch in the dugout. Hinch, an executive for four seasons prior and a former bench player like Velandia, spoke the front office’s language and also could relate to young players. The difference: Hinch had managerial experience before his stint with the Astros.
A move from the Phillies’ front office to the dugout would not be unprecedented in franchise history. That last offseason search, in 2004, generated eight interviews. The man who won the job was a special assistant to the Phillies’ general manager, the same title Velandia holds. His name was Charlie Manuel.