Opinion

The “significant changes” that Phillies GM Matt Klentak needs to make



Phillies GM Matt Klentak acknowledges his need to make “significant changes” this off-season.

The circumstances have now become nauseating for many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies to continually be reminded. But one more time for context, please.

The fans woke up on the morning of Monday, August 5 with their team having won five consecutive games. They were riding the high of a four-game sweep of the division-rival Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

At least on the surface, the fans seemed to be responding to the team. There were just over 26,000 of them in the stands for the opener of that series with Miami. By the time the Marlins left town there were more than 42,000 in those same stands.

The Phillies had feted their 2008 World Series championship team as the crowds grew over that weekend. They had inducted that 2008 team’s general manager, Pat Gillick, and the recently deceased and popular pitcher Roy Halladay to the franchise Wall of Fame.

Based solely on the positive vibes surrounding the Phillies organization on that morning, it would have been difficult for anyone to envision what was about to happen.

Forget a five-game winning streak, the Phillies have not won as many as three games in a row since that time. They have lost five or more in a row twice. That includes the seven-game losing streak those fans are currently suffering through.

The Phillies record since ending that series with Miami now stands at 15-32, a .319 winning percentage. That is the worst mark in the National League over that time frame, second-worst in the game to only the lowly 112-loss Baltimore Orioles.

Fans responded as you might expect, by staying away from the South Philly ballpark in droves. During the most recent home stand of nine games over eight days the team drew 30,000 fans just once. For four games over three days, including a 9/11 doubleheader, they failed to draw 20,000 fans.

“There’s no other way to put it,” GM Matt Klentak said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia before Wednesday’s game. “We’ve played poorly. We’ve lost games. It’s been miserable for just about everybody up and down the organization.

It’s also been miserable for the fans to sit through in the stands, and it has perhaps gotten even more miserable for any fans who are still watching on television during this final road trip of the 2018 season.

The Phillies have dropped all seven games on this trip to Atlanta and Colorado. Over the last three nights the Rockies have dismantled the Phillies by scores of 10-1, 10-3, and 14-0. That is beyond simple poor play. That is beyond miserable. That is quitting.

The 2018 Philadelphia Phillies have, despite the protestations of manager Gabe Kapler, quit on their season. They have quit on the fans. “I don’t believe there’s a man in that room that’s quit,” Kapler said per Salisbury. He’s wrong, and hopefully the general manager recognizes it.

It would appear from Klentak’s further comments reported by Salisbury that he does indeed recognize that there need to be major personnel changes this coming off-season:

Significant changes are necessary. But I think we all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix. There’s a lot of things we can do and we’re going to address a lot of things.

Principal owner John Middleton will play an pivotal off-season role.

No one who is objectively looking over the state of the current roster would feel the fixes will be simple. But they are within reach, as is a true contending season in 2019, if Klentak and his baseball brain trust along with principal owner John Middleton make the right decisions.

The Phillies should begin making their 2019 plans by informing Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery that they will be the everyday starting right-side infield at first base and second base respectively. They should inform Maikel Franco that he will be the everyday starting third baseman as well.

Then the Phillies should tell Roman Quinn that he will be the starting center fielder on an everyday basis as long as he is healthy, and inform Nick Williams that he will be the starter in either right or left field on a regular basis, depending on other additions.

On the mound, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta are ensured of roles in the starting rotation. No one else should feel the same way. All three of the other starters should be considered and should enter spring training fighting for a spot to remain in the rotation, but none should have it promised. There are plenty of good bullpen options already here.

Then it’s time to start filling in the holes, and that means going after some major free agents. If the Phillies are outbid for both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, then they were negligent.

The combination of the offensive and positional profiles and their ages make these two about as perfect a fit for what the Phillies need over the next half-dozen years. With Machado at shortstop and Harper in right field, with their bats hitting out of the 3-4 spots in the batting order, the Phillies are immediate contenders.

The Phillies have the financial resources to handle both of those contracts, which will be substantial. And they have room beyond that as well. There should be some consideration made to going after a left-handed starting pitcher such as Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, or Gio Gonzalez.

Matt Gelb at The Athletic quoted Klentak on the role of free agency in improving the Phillies roster:

Whatever we do or don’t do this offseason will affect what we do or don’t do the following offseason, which, by the way, is also a really good class in free agency. And the year after that is also a really good free-agent class. So we have to do everything we can to make our team as competitive as we can next year. But we also will always have to balance out the longer-term implications.

Klentak is right in that you cannot completely tie your organization’s future hands by making mistakes in a current free agent market. Of course it was Klentak who did just that by signing the aging first base-only Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million dollar deal just last off-season.

This ain’t that. Machado just turned age 26 back in late July. Harper will turn just 26-years-old three weeks from now. Both players are just now entering their primes, and a seven- or eight-year contract taking each through their age 33 seasons can be expected to yield excellent returns on the investment.

As Salisbury quoted, Klentak summed up his thinking with statements that seem to show that he has a good handle on where the club is now, and on that something major needs to be done going forward.

Some of the things we’ve tried have not worked…I think this was a good year for us to experiment, try new things, grow forward and we made progress. We didn’t make enough progress to make the playoffs…I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go we had to have a year like this, where we pushed the envelope.

As horrible as this last seven weeks have been, you cannot simply erase what happened over the first five months. The team out-performed its statistics largely because the manager kept them believing in themselves.

It is now the owner and general manager’s job to give that manager more proven, top-level talent players. “Significant changes are necessary.” No one put those words in Klentak’s mouth. This coming off-season it will be up to him to deliver.

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Craig Glessner

    September 27, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    100 percent agree with each player being an everyday player and pursuing Harper and Machado. One thing I feel everyone keeps leaving out is a long term deal with Nola. If anyone doubts he is a legitimate ace you’re watching the wrong guy. We wait too long and he embraces the idea of free agency he is gone. Hands down MVP of this team $200 mill 8 yrs may entice him (comparable to Arietta contract ) i think he would be worth every cent. Another guy I think will succeed is Alfaro he just needs a good catching coach his arm is a rocket and I think his bat will improve. Starting lineup 2019 Quinn cf, Williams LF, Hoskins 1b, Machado as, Harper RF, Franco 3b, Alfaro c, Kingery 2b. Only Kapler could screw something up with that lineup. GO PHILLIES

  2. Austin Amarka

    September 28, 2018 at 6:29 am

    Quinn’s first 60 PAs this season – great!
    Quinn’s next 60 PAs this season – abysmal.

    Both small sample sizes, but I’m assuming you’re anointing him an everyday player based on those first 60.

  3. Craig Glessner

    September 28, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    No Quinn is playing because he catches everything anywhere near him. Plus when he is on base he is a huge weapon, there is no guessing how hard Quinn will play for the team. Yeah he struggled with the bat but if we get rid of everyone who can’t hit we wouldn’t have any players left, hell Hoskins isn’t even hitting 250. Quinn equals excitement which the Phillies need.

    • Chris

      September 29, 2018 at 11:11 am

      I also think that Quinn is doing poorly as he has been in the three hole often and he is not a three hole hitter. He is a pure leadoff hitter, and hitting in that position will allow him to hit to his best ability. He also catches everything and is an exciting talent!

  4. Dan

    September 28, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    As a lifelong Phillies fan, I’d be concerned if either Machado or Harper WANTS to play here in Philly. I can’t figure out why anyone would want to play for Kapler. The current roster doesn’t seem to, so why would someone actively choose to come here? If it’s a money grab, that’s even worse. I don’t doubt that we could offer the most money. I remember when Lee, Halladay, and even Thome signed here because they wanted to win. They wanted to bring a championship to this city. The only reason anyone would want to come here in 2019 is to relieve us of some of that cash we’re supposedly drowning in. We’re the rich old guy and we should be a little wary of the youngins that come knockin’.

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