As we unveil the 2017 Phillies Value 50, we’ll take a closer look at one of the names in our list each day. Today: general manager Matt Klentak.
On October 26, 2015, Matt Klentak spoke about the challenges facing him as new general manager of the Phillies.
The biggest challenge, of course, was shepherding a franchise stuck in baseball’s past into the present, simultaneously preparing it for the future. That meant emphasizing analytics, promoting information, doubling down on the kind of Silicon Valley buzz that had been helping most pro sports franchises for years already. It meant bringing in Google employees, scouring Palo Alto for other warm bodies, and pairing those brains with the eyes that have been leading the Phils’ baseball operations for decades.
It meant not isolating the old guard, promoting a new guard, and doing it all really, really quickly.
So far, it seems like it’s working. The Phillies are building a new home for its analytics department. There’s movement in the Dominican Republic. There’s greater emphasis on accumulating assets that could turn into something bigger, which has already netted the Phillies better prospect rankings, for all that’s worth. It all seems like forward motion.
Seems is where we’ve been with Klentak. Now it’s time for some truth to bear out.
Here’s where the Phillies stand. They have one talented young player locked up into the future (Odubel Herrera). Everyone else is a question mark, from the slugging Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph, to the live-armed Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez, to the possible future pieces Cesar Hernandez ad Jerad Eickhoff. Then there are prospects, and loads of them, but nobody has yet surfaced as a no-doubt future piece. Everything is a relative mystery as we head into Year 3 of the Rebuild.
That’s why we need some truth. Can any of those aforementioned players make the leap to where Herrera stands today? Can a few of those prospects make the leap to being everyday major leaguers? Only as some of the questions are answered can Klentak move into the next phase: acquiring outside talent, either to lead or complement what’s in the system already.
But that has to start this year. Klentak gave us fliers on Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Clay Buchholz for a reason. They’re only here as the answers come in. Then it’s time to strike. But before the year is out, we’ll start to know where the franchise stands, and just what Klentak will have to do to move into that next phase.