Phillies GM Matt Klentak discussed the organizational mindset as the trade deadline draws near, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. He largely echoed the recent comments of club president Andy MacPhail in emphasizing a realistic assessment of the team’s chances.
It seems notable, then, that the outlook is generally becoming sunnier in Philadelphia. The Phils have picked up their play since we examined whether a win-now deadline strategy was advisable for the organization, taking five of their last six games. That doesn’t mean they’re a strong favorite for the division, but the Wild Card is firmly in play and there would seem to be added impetus for notable deadline acquisitions — particularly if the club takes advantage of a weekend series in Atlanta.
Klentak says that the club must “recognize where we are and we have to make moves that are appropriate” to the place in the standings. While the team’s “core players” will dictate the outcome through their performance, says Klentak, the front office is “legitimately looking for opportunities” to buttress the existing roster.
While these comments convey a sense of sober analysis — a notable change from the club’s memorable, unofficial offseason slogan — they surely don’t preclude significant moves. “I feel like our organization has enough talent that we can bid on the top names on the market,” says Klentak, though he adds that “whether we choose to go down that road or not remains to be seen.”
Like any team, the Phillies are looking to strike a balance. Like MacPhail, Klentak evinced an aversion to parting with valuable prospect capital. While that’s obviously always going to be necessary to some degree for a contending team, Klentak says it’s an organizational imperative “to preserve young talent” and avoid the need “to tackle another rebuild at some point” — which, he says, is “not something that our owners or our front office have an appetite for.”
It very nearly goes without saying that all of this reasoning seems to have the big-budget Phillies pointed toward opportunities to improve by means of the bank vault, rather than the farm. There is, however, a point at which the organization will need to watch its payroll as well. The club is already committed to over $110MM next year and more than $90MM in the ensuing season, all before accounting for arbitration spending, extensions, or new acquisitions. Adding to this year’s payroll, which opened at about $140MM, is also a possibility, though teams carrying high-cost players have already ponied up most of what’s due.
Klentak didn’t get into areas of need, but as Salisbury notes, there are quite a few. There’s clearly room to add multiple hurlers and it’s not hard at all to imagine new bats slotting into the infield and/or outfield mix. In some ways, the variety and degree of the places for improvement should help the Phillies find value at the deadline — particularly in the rental market. And it’s worth remembering that the team can look to the near future as a means of justifying new acquisitions. Adding a controllable player or two that fits the 2020 roster would not just improve the team now but help account for openings that will ultimately need to be filled somehow, if not by an offseason trade then by a free-agent move that comes with the possibility of long-term salary entanglements.