The Phillies spent more than four weeks culling the baseball world for opinions and ideas about what their future dugout leader should embody in an era when front offices wield more influence over field managers than ever before. It led them to a 42-year-old farm director who epitomizes modern baseball.
Gabe Kapler will become the next Phillies manager, according to a source. The former outfielder, known as a workout freak during his playing career who created his own healthy-lifestyle website afterward, has guided the Dodgers minor-league system for the last three seasons. His combination of playing and front-office experience, with a deep appreciation for analytics, convinced the Phillies to hire an unconventional outside perspective.
But in the current baseball climate, Kapler's ascension is logical. The Phillies believe he can be the proper conduit between a data-driven front office and young clubhouse. Kapler can espouse virtues based both in numbers and his experiences.
An official announcement could come Monday. FanRag Sports first reported the Phillies were "likely" to pick Kapler.
It's an audacious hire, one that pushes the Phillies to a progressive extreme the franchise has never occupied. The immediate test will be Kapler's in-game managerial tactics, given his scant experience there. He has coached or managed for just one season, in 2007, at a low-level Boston affiliate. His hiring of a pitching coach will be critical.
Kapler will be the Phillies' youngest manager since Terry Francona, who was 38 when he was hired before the 1997 season.
The Phillies selected Kapler over Dusty Wathan, a more traditional option. Wathan, 44, managed in the Phillies' minors for the last decade and possess an intimate knowledge about much of the current roster. He could join Kapler's staff as bench coach or third-base coach.
Kapler played parts of 12 seasons with six teams and was on the field in 2004 as a late-game replacement when the Red Sox won a championship for the first time in 86 years. He played half a season in Japan. He retired, managed in the minors as a 31-year-old, then un-retired and played three more seasons in the majors.
The Phillies will entrust him to be the public face of a franchise with growing expectations.
"I've had the opportunity to see the baseball field from a lot of different angles," Kapler told the New York Times in 2008. "From a highly touted prospect, to a 57th-round draft pick in the lowest of the minor leagues, from a starter to a bench player, I've run the gamut."