Phillies general manager Matt Klentak met with local media via Zoom earlier this afternoon. He hit on a variety of topics during the approximately 40-minute session, including the team’s training camp plans, the 60-man player pool construction, and the J.T. Realmuto negotiation.
Here are the top takeaways from this afternoon’s chat.
The Latest on the J.T. Realmuto Negotiation
The latest update on the Phillies’ negotiations with J.T. Realmuto is that, well, there is no update.
At the expense of sending an impatient fanbase into a panic, Klentak said it’s still “too soon to tell” when the team may begin hammering out an extension with the best catcher in baseball. He noted the two sides didn’t speak over the weekend in what were the first days a deal could be negotiated following baseball’s transaction freeze.
While this probably isn’t exactly what fans want to hear, just because the team has yet to engage Realmuto in serious talks doesn’t mean the silence signals the end of the world. A deal can still come together–and come together quickly.
As Klentak pointed out, the Phillies (like every other team around the league) have been busy in recent days with planning summer camp protocols and constructing the camp player pool.
Of course, if the team truly wanted this deal done ASAP and at all costs, Klentak could have offered $23 million+ over six years on Saturday morning and wrapped it up. The lingering financial consequences of an abbreviated season are surely a factor here.
I’ve been critical of this front office, but Klentak’s explanation didn’t feel wildly preposterous to me, nor did it make it seem that a potential deal is dead.
Though the longer this thing goes on…
Some quick notes from Klentak on the initial 60-man player pool:
- Most players are already in town, having arrived in the last day or two.
- No Phillies player has indicated plans of opting out of the season.
- The team will have a handful of players on the COVID-19 list, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a player has contracted the disease. A player can be placed on this list after possible exposure to someone who has been infected.
- The Phillies filled only 53 of the 60 spots available in the player pool. “We did not field the full 60, and, really, that’s a product of just making sure that we preserve enough flexibility,” Klentak said. He noted it’s far easier to add a player than it is to remove one from the pool. Expect a “second wave” of additions in the coming weeks.
- The Phillies will add at least one more catcher to the player pool in the next few days.
Odubel Herrera Still Under ‘Consideration’
The early Twitter take today was that Odubel Herrera’s days in Philadelphia are numbered following the team’s decision to leave him off the 60-man player pool. Not so, according to Klentak, who says Herrera will remain under “consideration” for a spot in the coming weeks.
While the general manager didn’t verbally bury the team’s former starting centerfielder, my sense is that Herrera’s return remains unlikely. The organization is very conscious of its imagine and Herrera would have to really impress to re-emerge in an already crowded outfield.
Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm Should Factor
Klentak indicated Phillies top prospects Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard should factor into the team’s plans this season.
My sense is that Howard, who unquestionably possesses the team’s most upside on the mound beyond the likes of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, will get a long look in camp as a starter.
Perhaps the Phillies take a more conservative approach with their highest-ceiling pitching prospect by placing him in the bullpen, but his stuff is plenty good enough to play in this rotation now.
I get the reasons for easing Howard in with a bullpen role, but I keep coming back to the following question. If he’s sharp in camp, why the hell not take a chance?
Most neutral observers will tell you the Phillies possess the division’s third or fourth-best roster. They need to make up ground somehow. In this case, Howard’s considerable talent can help bridge the gap, making him well worth the risk.
If he falters in his first few spins through the rotation, there’s plenty of No. 5 arms in the fold that can step in and produce middling results. They have to roll the dice at the start.
As for Bohm, the expectation from this perspective is that he’s in line for some action, but he will probably be eased into the equation with an occasional start or two in the early going.
Plans for DH
Expect a little bit of everything at DH for the Phillies. Klentak says the plan is to use multiple players in the role and “use that as an opportunity to spread out at bats who deserve them who may not have a place to play in the field.” Sounds good. Among the players you can expect to see DH this season include Jay Bruce, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins.
Andrew McCutchen Is Ready to Go
It’s full speed ahead for Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who completed his rehab a few weeks ago before heading home to Pittsburgh. It sounds like he should be 100% as Camp 2.0 opens later this week.