The Phillies held a press conference this morning to discuss Scott Kingery’s big payday and promotion. The 23-year-old Swiss Army knife signed a six-year deal worth $24 million yesterday that runs through his years of arbitration eligibility. If Kingery performs anywhere near the vicinity of the lofty expectations placed upon him, the deal could be worth up to $65 million over nine years.
According to Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, Kingery’s big spring in which he’s hit .392 with a 1.141 OPS, forced the team’s hand in making a move, one that came together quickly. “Scott Kingery puts us in the best position to win…as camp progressed, it was becoming more and more clear, and as far as the contract is concerned, it was probably a week’s worth of negotiations,” he said.
There are two ways to view the deal. If all goes well, the Phillies just locked up Dustin Pedroia, a player who one American League scout favorably compares to Kingery, through his prime years at an extremely affordable price. Now is that something you might be interested in?
If things don’t go according to plan, which is certainly more possible than the organization or its fans would like to admit, then the Phillies just needlessly committed a decent sum of money to a guy whose Baseball Reference page currently features nothing more than a biography, an impressive Spring Training stat line, and minor league numbers.
Klentak explained why the team was willing to run that risk. “Phillies fans are going to love this guy. I think they already do and he hasn’t even played a day in the big leagues. His style of play, his talent, his hustle, the way he goes about his business every day is going to be a perfect fit for the city of Philadelphia and our fans and our team,” he said.
From this perspective, Klentak is absolutely right – Kingery will be easy for the fans to fall in love with. He wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school. He had to scratch and claw for a shot at the University of Arizona and when he got it, he took advantage of it. His story and style of play are going to resonate with fans. On a team stocked with intriguing young talent, it’s Kingery who I believe will ultimately define the character of this squad in the coming years. The Phillies clearly believe this, and that’s why they made this almost unprecedented deal.
Just one small question, then. Where is he going to play? Kingery addressed the issue by saying, “At the moment, I’m willing to play anywhere. Obviously, my main position is second base right now, but I’m just trying to get out there with the team. If that’s in the outfield or anywhere in the infield, I’m willing to work on that and kind of take a step in the door at a different position if that’s what it takes.”
Good answer, kid.
Manager Gabe Kapler seemed to have the definitive answer on the subject:
“I think it gives us an opportunity to be healthy and strong, not just in April and May, but deep into the season as well…Let’s be frank here, this works because Scott has the ability, not just the willingness, the athleticism to move around the diamond…this requires his teammates to also be flexible and recognize that when Scott’s on the field for us at various positions—and he will play various positions—that that makes us a better club and gives us an opportunity from jump. I think we’re in a unique position with a bunch of great teammates, a really athletic individual, a very flexibly-minded individual, for all of this to work beautifully. I have no concerns about it.”
I don’t think Kapler is blowing smoke up anyone’s ass here. In an ideal world, Maikel Franco becomes what he has not been over the past two seasons – a good player – and J.P. Crawford and Cesar Hernandez give the Phillies quality production up the middle. Under that scenario, Kingery will spell those players and get a taste in the outfield. If, however, one of those guys struggles to get going, he could see more consistent playing time at one position as the season progresses.
My biggest takeaway? The press conference underscored just the latest example of the Phillies’ impressive transformation from the this time last year. I remain a bit skeptical about their ability to reach the playoffs this season, but that shouldn’t be the lone metric used to evaluate their overall success. While I was fixated on Kapler’s use of coconut oil and his marvelous, just absolutely tremendous physique, I doubted his declarations about a culture shift. I honestly thought it sounded like a bunch of bullshit. In no less than five months, it’s not just happening, it has already happened. The energy is palpable and the team is fun again. Maybe I’m too easily won, but I’m a believer. Oil me up.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) March 26, 2018