General manager Matt Klentak says that he didn’t read the PECOTA projections that suggest that the Philadelphia Phillies will win only 77 games this season, but he certainly disagrees with any assessment that believes the team will finish with a losing record in 2020.
In fact, he knows there’s quite a bit of pressure on the roster he’s assembled to reach the playoffs in his fifth season as general manager.
After the Phillies signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius in December, Klentak told Phillies Nation that he believed that the Phillies had enough talent to potentially win what he acknowledged was setting up to be a very competitive National League East. He didn’t back off that quote Thursday, but he did again admit that the Phillies will be competing with three other teams with legitimate playoff aspirations in their own division.
“I think we are realistic about the division,” Klentak said to the assembled media in Clearwater. “The National League East is about – if not the – most competitive division in baseball. You have four teams that are going for it, you don’t often find that in any division. There’s a little bit of a reality check about the competition level this year.”
However, Klentak said in October when the Phillies introduced Girardi as their next manager that it was time to win. He echoed those same sentiments earlier today.
“But, I said it at Joe’s press conference, and I’ll say it again now – the last two years we were two games below .500 and then we were .500, it’s time to take another step forward and produce a winning season and play baseball in October. We have the talent…we’ve got a winning manager to do that… we’ve got committed ownership…we’ve added players to the roster this year to help get us there…I think that’s true. I think that [reaching the postseason] is what our fans want, I know that’s what our owners want and it’s what I want. That’s why Joe is here, because that’s what Joe wants.”
When Klentak stated that he believed that the Phillies could win the division in 2020, he cited the amount that went wrong with the 2019 Phillies in a season where the team still ultimately won 81 games.
The team’s Opening Day center fielder was arrested on Memorial Day and ultimately suspended for the remainder of the season following a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend. Less than 10 days later Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL, ending what was a promising season. Hector Neris and Jose Alvarez were the only members of the Opening Day bullpen that didn’t spend extended time on the injured list. It is true that the Phillies are probably due for better luck than they had in 2019.
Additionally, the Phillies added Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius in free agency. Klentak sounded hopeful that Nick Pivetta could make an impact in 2020 following a disappointing campaign a season ago. The organization’s top two prospects, Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm, are likely to make their major league debuts at some point in 2020.
All that acknowledged, it’s entirely possible that the Phillies will need to win 90 or more games to win the National League East or one of the two National League Wild Card spots. Even if they improve, getting to 90 or more wins isn’t a guarantee. And you can bet that if the Phillies go 86-76 and miss the playoffs in 2020, there won’t be any moral victories in Philadelphia.
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