The team Gabe Kapler helped develop was one loss from elimination in Los Angeles, but Kapler flew Monday to Philadelphia to start building his newest priority. The Phillies manager must assemble a coaching staff, a task that will have heavy influence from the front office.
Kapler, who has never coached or managed in the majors, could rely upon some of his connections from two decades in baseball. The Phillies could retain a few coaches from the previous staff. General manager Matt Klentak will have his own ideas, and that could shape the staff.
The hiring of Kapler, who was the Dodgers’ director of player development, was unconventional; whether that strategy extends to his staff is unclear. A first-time manager is typically surrounded by an experienced staff. But the Phillies appear willing to eschew tradition in every sense.
It is rare for a new manager to completely scrap the previous coaching staff. Some level of continuity is preferred, especially since Kapler has zero familiarity with the current roster. One option: the man whom Kapler bested for the job.
Dusty Wathan, the other finalist for the manager’s job, remains under contract with the Phillies for 2018. It is not clear what role he will fill. He could return to triple-A Lehigh Valley and manage. Or he could be added to Kapler’s staff, perhaps as third-base coach or bench coach.
That dynamic is a delicate one. Wathan, a favorite within the clubhouse because he guided much of the current roster while in the minors, could help Kapler gain a feel and become a trusted confidant. Or Kapler could decide that the presence of a man who contended for the same job as he did is too uncomfortable. Wathan was not available for comment Monday.
Two coaches from last season’s staff have new jobs: Larry Bowa was bumped upstairs to the front office in an advisory role, and Matt Stairs accepted the hitting coach job in San Diego. That leaves Juan Samuel, Mickey Morandini, Bob McClure, Rick Kranitz, and John McLaren still in limbo. A few could be retained. All of those coaches were hired before Klentak became general manager.
The next pitching coach is an important one, given the young rotation and the organization’s stated desire to improve its pitching from within. Kapler was an outfielder; he will lean on his pitching coach for in-game decisions and adjustments.
The Phillies have favored outside perspectives as they rebuild the franchise from the top down, but if they look inside the organization for a pitching coach, Rafael Chaves is a name to know. Chaves, 49, has drawn strong reviews for his work as minor-league pitching coordinator in the last three seasons. He was the pitching coach in Seattle for two seasons and boasts experience at every level with perspective from several organizations.
October featured a pitching-coach upheaval across the game. Respected coaches such as Mike Maddux, Jim Hickey, and Chris Bosio changed teams.