No one said general managing was an easy gig. Matt Klentak has to measure the Phillies as they are, gauge what they need, consider payroll options, ponder the free agent market, tool with young prospects, balance scouting techniques, collaborate with other executives, all while battling the simply bad luck that can befall anyone associated with this wretched sport.
Being dropped into the mix in October means that Klentak's first few phases as the Phillies most pursued tie-wearer will be spent behind the sealed doors of the team's meeting vaults, discussing various options and tactics with senior Phillies quorum members wearing red and white medals pinned to their pinstriped blazers that indicate their organizational rank. These conversations across long tables tend to stay out of the papers, but with the first two behind him, as well as making his first trade, let's consider how Klentak has fared following the conclusion of everyone's favorite autumn activity: corporate meetings.
Key Klentak Quote: "We will definitely do our best to improve the team for next year."
It was by the start of this assembly that Andy MacPhail had wanted to hire a new GM, meaning that he had no plans for Klentak to sit idly by, humming to himself during these proceedings. And sit there he did not. Klentak did assure us, per the quote above, that his intention was indeed to make the team better, which is always nice to know.
"Culture" was also a term Klentak kept using, citing his desire to establish a good one in the clubhouse as the driving force behind roster improvements. But he offered only one hint as to which players fit his definition of the term - "veterans with strong makeup and a wide array of experiences" - putting anyone worried about losing Jeff Francoeur immediately at ease.
Now, check out these starting pitching candidates Todd Zolecki whips up based on Klentak and the Phillies' needs and goals:
When it comes to starting pitchers, think along the lines of Doug Fister, J.A. Happ and Bartolo Colon -- guys who can pitch six or more innings and give the offense a chance.
He also says the Phillies could look for an outfielder with "some pop." Does he mean an outfielder currently holding a soda while in New England? Probably not. Does he mean Marcell Ozuna? It seems like maybe he could mean that. But the last thing we're looking at here is that the Phillies will not be trading top prospects anymore - yippee! - but might be trading young big leaguers that you already know and like. Hey, six innings aren't free, as Sam McWilliams will tell you.
Key Klentak Quote: "We need to make sure we've got steady waves of players coming, and that's true of the draft, as well."
It was during these meetings that the now infamous James Russell signing took place, putting the plan for the Phillies to have a possibly okay bullpen into motion. This is technically "progress," even if it is such inane non-news to you that you are only learning about it now, with these words that I have typed here. "An okay reliever getting a minor league deal" is exactly the level of sexiness we can expect in the first months of the Klentak regime.
But following the GM Meetings, Klentak was much more vocal about drafting. He mentioned the international market, an arena in which the Phillies haven't been particularly flirtatious. By losing so much in 2015, they've earned themselves $6 million to spend on signing bonuses, livening things up a little when it comes to those young guys who are always about to be The Next Greatest Baseball Hitter on our World, like Yasmany Tomas or Jorge Soler.
Klentak used the term "tweaking" to describe how the Phillies will make adjustments. Tweaking is of course
the absurdly erotic new dance move born out of the sweatiest dance clubs of the Caribbean a boring things that nerds probably like. He also mentioned "culture" again and brought up how the - has anyone ever noticed this? - the A's don't always have a great team, but they do seem to be pretty competitive. Huh. Someone should really document this phenomenon in some capacity.
Jeremy Hellickson trade
Key Klentak Quote: "We've talked about building an environment and we think he'll be a very positive influence on our staff."
Yesterday, Klentak brought Jeremy Hellickson in from the Diamondbacks in exchange for a RHP prospect named Sam McWilliams. It was not exciting or flashy or really that good. But, it was unarguably movement. As always, each new bit of information came with a wave of shudders. McWilliams had apparently improved greatly over the last year, meaning of course that he is one of those prospects ranked in the late twenties of an organization who will go on to eternal stardom.
In general, it seems harmless. Somebody's got to throw the ball for the Phillies occasionally next season, and it might as well be a 29-year-old former ROY instead of Jerome Williams. But switching out young players for vets in the middle of a slow burn does not seem like the kind of... thing... we were promised in a series of press conferences. But, you know, he "stabilizes" the rotation, whatever that really means.
Klentak seems like a nice, reasonable man. He's doing exactly what we figured he'd do at this point in the rebuild; the slow, beginning part at which the future remains ambiguous enough that any one of our manic fantasies could technically become real. While repetition of things like "culture" can get monotonous, Klentak isn't here to juggle knives, he's here to perform high stakes office work, and the idea that he wants to use drafts and veterans to build a talented roster in a clubhouse that encourages them all to be best friends can make anyone feel warm inside.