The Phillies had to find a replacement for fired director of amateur scouting Marti Wolever, even though the general manager is on unstable ground, the team president is serving in an interim role and the ownership group has unavoidable shifts in control to address in the near future.
As they had done the last time the team had to fill this front-office opening from outside the organization, the Phillies turned to the Atlanta Braves for the hire.
Johnny Almaraz, who had been the Braves' director of international scouting for the last five seasons, was hired as Wolever's replacement Wednesday. Almaraz, 49, has spent a quarter-century in the scouting realm, the first 16 years as a member of the Cincinnati Reds' scouting department following a brief minor-league career as a pitcher in the Reds' organization.
Almaraz spent three years running the Braves' Dominican Baseball Academy before receiving his promotion to head Atlanta's international scouting. During his years in the scouting field, Almaraz received credit for the Reds drafting and/or signing the likes of Johnny Cueto and Adam Dunn, and the Braves getting pitcher Julio Teheran.
His biggest move since taking his latest role with the Braves was the signing of shortstop prospect Edward Salcedo to a $1.6 million bonus in 2010. Salcedo, 23, has struggled at the plate as a pro and was forced to move to third base, then the outfield in the middle of this past season. Playing for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014, he batted just .212 with 10 homers in 110 games and committed 16 errors in 47 games at third before being sent to right field, where he made eight more errors in 48 games. Almaraz could be bailed out of that clunker by a lower-profile signing he made that year, Jose Peraza. Peraza, a 20-year-old second baseman, got $350,000 from the Braves in 2010 and seems to have high-end leadoff-hitting skills. He batted .339 with 60 stolen bases in 110 games between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
Almaraz joins a Phillies organization reeling after back-to-back 89-loss seasons despite spending $350 million in payroll those two years. G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr. remains on the job, although he hasn't received a contract extension and his deal ends at the end of the 2015 season. Team president David Montgomery stepped down while he continues a difficult battle with cancer that cost him part of his jaw earlier this year. Pat Gillick, who was the general manager when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, is filling in as team president until either Montgomery returns or a permanent replacement is hired.
Wolever, who was fired late last month, had been the in-house successor of Mike Arbuckle as the man in charge of the Phillies' draft. Arbuckle, who had received much of the credit for reviving a minor-league system in disarray in the early 1990s, was hired away from the Braves in 1992 to serve that role. Arbuckle was the odd-assistant G.M. out when the Phillies decided to hire Amaro instead of him as Gillick's successor. He joined the Royals' front office in 2009. Kansas City reached the postseason for the first time since 1985 this year, swept the Angels in the American League Division Series and are facing the Orioles in the ALCS.