With the Phillies continuing their late-season free-fall, GM Matt Klentak held an interesting Q&A with reporters including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Despite improvements, Klentak says, “significant changes are necessary.”
That conclusion surely sets the stage for a fascinating, high-stakes winter in Philly. The organization has long been expected to be a major factor in the upcoming market. Having made some notable acquisitions last winter and competed for much of the 2018 season, the stakes are raised for a productive offseason.
Of course, winning the hot stove season isn’t a goal unto itself, so Klentak and company are surely taking a hard look at just how to approach the opportunities to come. As he puts it, “we all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix.”
That could be read as a plea for media and fans not to fixate on some of the biggest names available this winter. It’s also perhaps an acknowledgment that the roster comes with some challenges — some that have arisen largely by happenstance, others relating to decisions made recently by the organization. At the same time, it’s loaded with interesting talent that makes near-term competitiveness seem quite achievable.
For now, of course, Klentak isn’t getting into all of the details or expounding upon the team’s specific hopes in the roster-building department. He did note that the organization will be looking to find the change it hopes for not only through the free-agent market, but also in exploring trades and projecting internal improvements.
In that regard, it’s at least as interesting to contemplate some of Klentak’s comments regarding the season that’s now drawing to a close. As he rightly suggests, the club’s ultimate middle-of-the-road outcomes haven’t strayed far from pre-season expectations. While there was surely a missed opportunity here, given the position the club was in as of mid-August, the organization took its shot at the trade deadline and there’s still clear evidence of progress.
There are also lessons to be drawn from what Klentak calls “a good year for us to experiment.” Viewed from that angle, perhaps some refinement in approach — roster construction included — is slated for assessment and implementation. For instance, the team’s defensive alignment has produced some worrying outcomes. Making the necessary tweaks will, as noted above, not necessarily simply be a matter of acquiring high-end new players.
If that all portends a less-than-straightforward upcoming offseason, well, that seems to have been contemplated in advance. “I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go we had to have a year like this, where we pushed the envelope,” Klentak says.
Having done so, the focus now shifts: from gathering talent, and trying out new ways of deploying it, to achieving the desired bottom-line results. It’s unclear as yet how the Phils will set about re-working their roster to accomplish that, but the possibilities are abundant.
What is clear is that Klentak will continue to head up the baseball operations department for his fourth season, while Gabe Kapler will remain at the helm of the dugout. It’ll certainly be fascinating to see what direction the club takes this winter and how it translates onto the field in 2019.