As we enter the early stages of HARPERWATCH™ and MANNYWATCH™, Phillies GM Matt Klentak hopped on the 94WIP Midday Show with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie to discuss the team’s plans ahead of a pivotal offseason. The insightful 23-minute interview spanned a wide-range of topics, but Klentak’s comments regarding free agent Manny Machado were particularly interesting. Here’s what he had to say when Ritchie brought up Machado’s much-maligned “Johnny Hustle” line:
It got my attention. There was a bright spotlight on Manny this postseason. One thing we can’t lose sight of is this guy is really good, and he had some big hits, and made some big plays in the offseason (sic), too, but that stuff matters…Perception does matter and we want to make sure that we put a team on the field that our fans can relate to and our fans are proud of.
I’m not going to get into too much talking about Manny or any other player in free agency, for that matter, that’s not fair to the players, but it is something that we will consider. And for every player that’s available, we have an evaluation of them, and there’s a lot of factors that play into that. Age, cost, offensive production, defensive production, versatility, and, obviously, the style of play is another factor.
1) Klentak, as he showed with this response, is a master of saying a lot to dilute his actual answer, which is often a total non-answer.
2) This certainly wasn’t a ringing endorsement of Machado, and while it wasn’t a complete condemnation, his view of Machado came across as tepid. He seemed to imply that Phillies fans won’t relate to Machado, which is rich, given he later said that Carlos Santana was “great” last year and also a really good player for this town. He wasn’t on Twitter this past season, I guess.
Klentak also addressed the team’s approach regarding the acquisition of a big-time free agent. He was again, let’s say, verbose:
I don’t mean to punt on this, but it really just has to do with the value and what we think the impact of a certain player would have on our team, and I’ve said this before, but we have raised the floor of this organization in just about every realm, not the least of which is the Major League level. We’ve got a quality player or league-average type player or better at just about every spot now. And that got us to about 80 wins, and I’m not suggesting we’ll do this, but rolling out the exact same team next year just given age, and development, and the likelihood of player improvement would probably lead to an improved team next year.
But we need to evaluate where we can move the needle even further. Could that come in the form of a mega contract for a free agent? Sure. Is it necessary that we do that? I don’t think so. We have to be able to evaluate these things objectively, and if they make sense, we’ll do it.
To me, it was obvious that Klentak wanted to convey a belief that intensified instruction and natural player development will organically yield progress in the win column next season—he alluded to those points repeatedly throughout the interview—but he believes external upgrades are necessary in order to get to where the Phillies want to go in 2019, which is the postseason. Maybe it wasn’t the “We’re in on Machado. We’re in on Harper. We’re going to work the phones. We’re going to go full-Gabe, OIL UP and FLEX this offseason,” response most of us want to hear, but he also didn’t sound like a guy who thinks his team is only a bench piece, middle reliever, and year of maturity away from the postseason. I mean, he couldn’t possibly believe that. I think.
Anyway, you can check out the full interview right here: