Some might say that baseball is the "meetings" of sports, in that it can be mundane, go on forever, and at times, you'd rather be anywhere else. Gazing out the window on a beautiful day while someone in clothes they definitely slept in drones on is akin to watching two eliminated teams try to stay awake for nine innings in the second game of a week day double header.
Fortunately, baseball also has actual meetings to keep up its natural momentum during the off season. This year, team executives will gather in Nashville, Tennessee, starting today until the December 10, and when they're not wheelin' and dealin' in the city's bugling honky-tonks, they'll be wheelin' and dealin' with each other in hopes of making that key acquisition that finally gets the fans to stop yelling at them for being stupid.
Phillies fans are giving Matt Klentak a gentle grace period here, and he's been a straight shooter thus far. He's said he doesn't plan to acquire a big free agent this year, and he's been fervently active with the team's prime waiver positioning, signing a van-load of cheap fringe hurlers to start the winter. He also snared Peter Bourjos from the Cardinals, filling out a new kind of Phillies outfield.
So what's he got going on for the next four days in a city of booming gun show attendance?
Everybody wants a piece of Ken Giles. But guess what? They can't have him. Klentak has explained that he's not actively looking for trade the 25-year-old closer, but obviously teams are knocking on the door. That polite knocking will eventually become violent pounding and hideous shrieking as the reliever market gets smaller and smaller. All Klentak really has to do is occasionally peak between the curtains to see whose out there. If the it's Astros without guys like Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez, well. That door's staying dead bolted.
Maybe the Cubs will get him. Maybe the Marlins will get him. With five years of club control and a blistering heater, Giles has people absolutely drooling. Whoever it is better be ready to pay, because the Phillies don't have a ton of motivation to deal Giles for no reason. Of course, Buster Olney thinks they should just do it, since a star closer on a crappy team is just wasting everybody's time (or in some cases, growing so hostile he eventually tries to choke out the team's best player), and Giles' value may never be higher than it is now. But has Buster Olney considered how young and cool Giles is? Yeah. Didn't think so.
We keep hearing this term "depth" in regards to Klentak's moves. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Basically, when someone says "Matt Klentak has given the Phillies pitching depth with signings like Dan Otero and James Russell," what they mean is, "Baseball is a massive, groaning machine that operates non-stop for 162 games every year. It can't be turned off. It can't be stopped."
"Therefore, every open position must be manned until the adequate number of innings have transpired. For that reason, even the worst teams whose seasons are generally a waste of the lives of everyone involved have to supply enough players to complete their schedules. Otero and Russell, being deemed humans who have met the minimal arm requirement for MLB, can help supply the Phillies with the innings they need in order to no longer be playing baseball as quickly as possible."
Adding more depth at these meetings will be on Klentak's mind, and he has said he will be "optimistic" about the moves he can make while he's down there, claiming he plans to "augment" the team's pitching, which presumably means he will keep pecking away at those roster holes with low risk deals to pitchers coming off surgery or you assumed were retired.
Something about Klentak saying "I think as a rule of thumb the free-agent market is not the best place to invest your money... that's the last place we should focus," really got people to picture baseball's best right fielder in a Phillies uniform.
Hey, executives are born liars, and we have yet to detect how much of a sociopath Klentak really is. Ruben Amaro wouldn't hesitate to spin a few falsehoods right into a reporter's microphone, sometimes just because he was bored while waiting for his car. Klentak doesn't seem like a guy who would say "We're not going to drop a ton of money on a big free agent because we're too early in the rebuild" and then hand Heyward an eight-year, $23 million deal.
But who the hell knows what's on that zip drive labeled "PHIL" dangling from Klentak's keys?! This is the Winter Meetings, where there are no rules, unless you count the extremely thick binder full of baseball's many, many litigiously-worded rules.
Rule 5 draft
The whole she-bang ends with everybody's favorite draft on December 10. As GMs in wrinkled suits tearfully exchange contact info and promise to keep in touch until next year, they also have to use their final day to strategically pluck players from competitors' rosters.
As we all know, anyone on the 40-man roster is protected. So who have the Phillies left vulnerable to a steal? Most notably, Carlos Tocci, as well as Alberto Tirado. Losing either one of these players would of course mean the end of the Phillies as a franchise, and plans to demolish Citizens Bank Park in an attempt to eradicate the team from human history are in place should either prospect be selected.
However, the Phillies are also one of the most active and productive teams in this particular baseball thing in recent years, as has been pointed out plenty of times - and with their top pick status, this skill could land them a good haul. Shane Victorino, Odubel Herrera, and David Herndon were all Rule 5 draftees, as were players like Michael Martinez and Ender Inciarte, who are always included on this list as if they were successes, too. Plans to rebuild Citizens Bank Park quickly, to re-establish the Phillies as a titan of baseball success following the demolition, are in place should the Phillies draft a team savior.
Pitchers are flying around the baseball market place right now, and Klentak has not restrained himself. Hurlers are particularly popular picks in the Rule 5, so Klentak could continue stockpiling in that regard. Hopefully he does not too long a look at unprotected Royals hitter Balbino Fuenmayor, who, while expertly named, would be a third-string Darin Ruf, something this team has quite enough of.