“I know we live in a very binary world where it’s either a good season or a bad season, and there’s nothing in between,” Phillies GM Matt Klentak said before last night’s 14-0 loss to the Rockies. “I don’t think that’s realistic. I think we had a very productive season in a lot of ways and we also had a miserable stretch of baseball at the end of the season, and both of those things are true.”
By Sam Bush
A very productive season?
What has Klentak been watching since early August?
The only thing the Phillies have produced is disappointment and empty seats at CBP.
The Athletic’s Jayson Stark tweeted that no team in baseball history has been 15 games over .500 through 113 games, like the Phillies, and not finished the season with a winning record. The Phillies (78-80) need to win three of their remaining four games to avoid becoming the first.
Klentak said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who has become a lightning rod of criticism the past eight weeks, will return next season. Kapler’s return is not a surprise. Klentak and Kapler are in lockstep with one another. They believe their processes and beliefs will be proven correct.
“When you’re losing, people are going to scrutinize more. I get that,” Klentak said. “He will be. I will be. The players will be. The whole organization will be. I understand that, and I think he does, too.”
But Klentak also acknowledged that “significant changes are necessary” before 2019.
The Phillies will pursue free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, although they are expected to sign only one.
Trades are expected. It seems almost anybody other than Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins is available.
Klentak said other improvements will come from young players simply becoming better. Other changes will come from how the front office and coaching staff operates.
“We all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix,” Klentak said. “There’s a lot of things we can do, and we’re going to address a lot of things.
“If you look around the 25-man roster we had most of the year, you can look at every player on the field and make an argument for why you’d want them to come back because of how well they performed this year or the kind of upside that they possess, the kind of growth that they’ve demonstrated. But there’s also room at just about every spot on the field for us to improve, and there may be better alternatives. We’re going to need to explore everything.”
The manager is not an area of concern. Klentak thinks Kapler did a good job in his rookie season, learning a lot and improving.
Klentak also believes Kapler is the right man to lead the Phillies back to the postseason.
“When we hired Kap, we knew that he is progressive,” Klentak said. “It was in my judgement that this was a good year to be progressive and try new things, because expectations were modest and we had a lot of young players and a new manager. Some of the things we’ve tried have not worked, and we know that and very publicly everybody found out that they didn’t work and we’ve made adjustments. Some of the things that he’s done and that we’ve done as an organization have worked really well. And we’ve taken some positive steps forward, and we will continue to incorporate those things next year.
“I think this was a good year for us to experiment, try new things, grow forward and we made progress. To take this organization where it needs to go, we had to have a year like this where we pushed the envelope.”
The Phillies could trade Santana. Or maybe Hoskins and Santana coexist again next season at the same positions.
“Simply put, we can be a winning baseball team with both of those players playing significantly on our team,” Klentak said.
But some things will change. Things will go one way if they sign Harper. They will go another if they sign Machado. They will go another if they sign neither. Or both.
“I’m not going to make decisions because of what they mean to me, for my job security,” Klentak said. “That’s not my job. My job is to make decisions for the good of the Philadelphia Phillies’ short- and long-term health. And that’s what we’re going to do.”