Without Bart Braun, Sixto Sanchez never would have been signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, meaning J.T. Realmuto likely wouldn’t currently be preparing for his second season in red pinstripes.
But to attempt to boil Braun’s impact on the organization down to one or two players would not only be a disservice, but it would be impossible.
“I think it’s more like who his fingerprints aren’t on,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Saturday. “It’s hard in this game to ever boil things down to one individual, and we’re careful not to do that because there’s a lot that goes into every player acquisition. Just about any prominent player that the Phillies international scouting department has signed in at least the last five years, but probably longer than that, you can bet that Bart saw and probably like if we signed him.”
Braun – a special assistant to the general manager since 2012 – passed away suddenly Friday night at the age of 64. Saturday afternoon, key decision makers in the Phillies organization from the past and present gathered on Zoom to reminisce about the impact that Braun had on baseball operations and the people that he came in contact with.
Klentak and former Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz agreed that the Phillies never considered drafting someone in at least the first five rounds without having had Braun personally scout the prospect.
Sal Agostinelli, the Phillies director of international scouting, took things a step further. He credited Braun with helping convince him to sign righty Franklyn Kilome as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Kilome was traded to the New York Mets in July of 2018, as the Phillies acquired veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.
Of course, during his time with the Phillies, Braun’s most notable diamond in the ruff signing was the aforementioned Sanchez in 2014.
“He [Braun] flies into [Cuba] one day to see a guy,” Agostinelli recalled. “Meanwhile, the guy he’s going to see is not Sixto Sanchez, we’re supposed to see a Cuban hitter. Well, Sixto Sanchez is throwing to the Cuban hitter. He called me on the phone and goes ‘Hey man, give me $35,000.’ I said ‘Bart, $35,000, you got it, man. You know more about this than I do.’ And he winds up signing Sixto Sanchez, who winds up being our No. 1 prospect.”
Sanchez, who MLB Pipeline says is the No. 22 prospect in baseball currently, is now in the Miami Marlins organization. He headlined the return that went back to Miami in February of 2019, when the Phillies landed Realmuto in one of the most notable trades in franchise history.
In the press release announcing his passing, Klentak’s referred to Braun as “a legend in the scouting world.” His presence graced the Phillies organization for nearly a decade, but that was just one portion of his storied career in baseball. Braun spent nearly two decades in the Tampa Bay Rays organization prior to coming to Philadelphia, helping to turn the organization from an expansion team in 1998 to the American League Champions a decade later. He was the Atlanta Braves scouting director from 1991-1995, when the franchise became known as “the team of the 90s.” He also had stints in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers organization during his 44-year career, which also included seven seasons as a minor league pitcher.
Still, for as impressive as Braun’s resume was, it was far from the first thing a group with tremendous baseball accomplishments in their own right wanted to discuss Saturday.
Klentak spoke of how Braun made him feel comfortable as he adjusted to a new organization after being hired as the Phillies general manager in October of 2015.
“Somewhat in contrast to the other guys on this call who have known Bart for decades, I really didn’t know him until I joined the Phillies,” Klentak said. “Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t know of him. We would always hear stories about Bart and knew his name very well, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with him until I started with the Phillies in the fall of 2015. And I first met him at our organizational meeting down in Clearwater in the fall of 2015. I think, in that moment, the most striking thing to me about Bart was he didn’t know me, I didn’t know him, and immediately he was all in and fully supportive of everything that we were going to do. And it didn’t matter – he trusted me basically before I had that job, that’s how committed he was to his colleagues and to his organization.”
Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, one of the most accomplished executives in the history of professional sports, spoke of Braun’s prowess as a scout and what he meant to the people he worked with.
“The one thing about Bart is he loved going to work every day,” Gillick said. “He loved to scout…he loved players…he loved his teammates that he worked with. And the one thing about him is that he had instinct, he could evaluate, he could project, so he was a real pro in all the aspects of scouting. He was a lot of fun, too, and he had a lot of fun scouting.
“The other thing was that Bart was not afraid to make a mistake. In scouting, if you’re afraid to make a mistake, you’re in trouble. He always put his evaluation forward…he always put his thoughts forward…you know what was on his mind, there wasn’t anything hidden when Bart was talking about a player and evaluating a player. If you were going to send one guy out to take a look at a player on a one-look basis – be it internationally, professionally or amateur – he would be one of the guys we would pick to go. And he’s going to be sorely missed by the organization, because he was a good teammate, a good friend and, as I said, a real professional in the business. So, we’re going to miss him quite a bit.”
Perhaps the most touching thoughts came from Agostinelli, who talked about how Braun helped him both professionally and personally.
“Bart was a friend – it’s a big loss for all of us,” a choked-up Agostinelli said. “His personality was just unbelievable, no matter what we were going through in our lives. I spent the last 10 years with him, and he was always like a big brother to me, if I ever had a problem or [needed] anything. So, as a person, Bart was so special.”
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