For Matt Klentak, an “objectively great'” offseason resulted in only a one-win improvement for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2018 to 2019.
A fourth-place finish in the National League East – along with the team’s failure to both make the postseason and finish above .500 – left some questioning Klentak’s future as the general manager. Klentak specifically addressed the anxieties he may or may not have been feeling regarding his status as Phillies general manager in an interview with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on SportsRadio 94 WIP this past Thursday.
“Not really,” Klentak said when Ritchie asked if he was afraid if he’d lose his job. “On the day you take this job, you know you’re someday going to lose it. I’ve heard a lot of people say that. That’s probably a given.”
That “objectively great” 2018-2019 offseason included the signings of Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper, along with the acquisition of J.T. Realmuto via trade. His best in-season moves included acquiring both Jay Bruce and Corey Dickerson for next to nothing. But as injuries piled up, the Phillies lack of depth was quickly exposed. Many wondered why Klentak was not let go along with his hand-picked manager, Gabe Kapler, back in October. He never believed his job was in jeopardy because he was actively hashing out his offseason plans with managing partner John Middleton and president Andy MacPhail.
“The funny thing was that when we were going through those first couple weeks of October, [there] was a lot of stuff swirling around — rumors, this that and the other thing. I was probably the least affected by all that because I knew that I was talking to John [Middleton] and Andy [MacPhail] every single day, multiple times in meetings and talking about what we were going to do and planning if we do this and if we do that and then what. Never once did I feel remotely cut out of the loop. If there’s anything, I think I became closer with John [Middleton] than I ever was at any other point prior to that. Maybe I was sort of the eye of the hurricane. I never really felt that [concerns over job security] at all.”
Nobody envies the task Klentak has in front of him. He essentially needs to rebuild the Phillies pitching staff through free agency while avoiding the luxury tax and admittedly trying to retain future draft picks. The 39-year-old will need to get very creative for the Phillies to field a team in 2020 that is capable of making the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
In manager Joe Girardi’s introductory press conference, Klentak emphasized that the Phillies would not hire a manager like Girardi if the team was not in win-now mode. The team’s ability to win in 2020 and beyond will surely depend on what Klentak can pull off this upcoming offseason. For now, though, Klentak has a clear message for the fanbase who has kept supporting the team despite a lengthy rebuilding process.
“We’ve got another – what I hope will be – productive offseason ahead of us that’ll give everyone a lot of optimism heading into 2020. You [have] a great manager in place, you [have] star power on the roster. We’re looking forward to a productive offseason and a productive 2020 season.”
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