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Retroactive Phillies offseason grades: 2016

The Matt Klentak era begins!

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates
The 2016 offseason saw the arrival of Vince Velasquez
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I hope Santa was good to everybody, and if you were busy with holiday plans and missed it, please check out my two-part John Middleton’s A Christmas Carol: Part One and Part Two.

The Phillies lost 99 games in 2015, and the team felt miles away from contention. The Four Aces were gone. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were gone. Ryan Howard was still around, but now in more of a timesharing role. And perhaps most importantly, the front office was under new management.

2016

The previous summer, the Phillies hired Andy MacPhail as the team president to oversee the rebuilding process. Once Ruben Amaro’s contract ran out at the end of that season, MacPhail set about finding his replacement, and eventually chose Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak.

Klentak was supposed to bring a more analytic approach to team building than his predecessor. But with the team still looking to be years away from contention, there weren’t going to be any expensive players brought in via trades or free agents, and the biggest name was the one sent out of Philadelphia.

The big moves

  • Signed relief pitcher David Hernandez as a free agent (one year).
  • Traded for starting pitcher Charlie Morton.
  • Traded for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
  • Traded closer Ken Giles for a package including pitchers Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel.
  • Claimed outfielder Peter Bourjos off waivers.
  • Picked outfielder Tyler Goeddel in the Rule 5 draft.

How did they do?

The Phillies were still just getting started with their rebuilding effort. You can question why they let Amaro begin the process, and then get rid of him after he had already made a few potentially franchise-altering moves. I’ve never heard a good explanation other than his contract ran through the 2015 season and they didn’t want to pay two general managers.

The hiring of MacPhail as team president was not particularly innovative. Pat Gillick had been acting as team president and led the search for his own replacement. The team could have gotten creative and found a bright young mind, or someone with fresh ideas. Instead, they settled on a member of baseball’s “Good old boys” network in Andy MacPhail.

In turn, MacPhail could have hired an up-and-comer, but instead just picked Matt Klentak because they had worked together before. (I didn’t originally intend for this to become a huge criticism of the Phillies’ awful front office hirings, but how much can I really write about Jeremy Hellickson or Peter Bourjos?) And when you have a chance to steal one of the top decision makers in the Angels organization, you have to take it!

Klentak made an early splash. Realizing that having a good closer on an awful team was pointless, he traded young flamethrower Ken Giles to the Astros for a package of players with varying levels of promise. When Vince Velasquez broke through with his famed 16 strikeout game, it looked like Klentak may have pulled off a steal. But we all know how that turned out. (I can’t believe I’m spending Christmas writing about Vince friggin’ Velasquez. What is wrong with me?)

The rest of the moves were of the “We have to field a team” variety. Hellickson was an adequate innings eater who got two Opening Day starts mostly because the Phillies didn’t have anyone better. Morton was actually a good signing as they identified him as a potential breakout candidate. Unfortunately, he got hurt after a few starts, so they let him leave after one season, so that he could enjoy the breakout for another team.

Bourjos was regarded as an excellent defender, but even the best defenders in a corner outfield spot need to carry an on-base percentage over .300. Goeddel was somewhat intriguing as an outfield prospect, but the only thing of note he ever did was throw a runner out at the plate.

Final analysis and grade

The Phillies made no secret that they were rebuilding, so they weren’t going to spend a lot on free agents. Future-thinking moves like trading Giles or taking Goeddel in the Rule 5 draft made sense. Unfortunately, none of the moves they made worked out, and caused my mental state some damage by bringing in Velasquez who might be my least favorite Phillie ever.

I would have given them a “no harm, no foul” C grade, but the hiring of Klentak would prove to be a major misstep, and trading for Velasquez deserves them to be knocked down an entire grade.

Final grade: D