Klentak committed to core group of youngsters
New Phillies GM emphasized unlikelihood of big splashes in free agency
PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Matt Klentak has spent his first 10 days with the Phillies meeting as many people as possible and learning as much as he can about the organization he hopes to return to World Series contention.
Klentak said he feels pretty good about things heading into next week's GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.
"It has been a very busy 10 days, but it has been a super, super valuable 10 days," Klentak said Thursday.
So what's the plan?
"We really want to raise the floor and add some depth," Klentak said. "Kind of at every turn, that's what we're going to be focused on. And in the pitching department, I think we really need to work on just -- again, I say raise the floor -- but kind of establish sort of a firm foundation of pitching. That's not going to end when we break camp at the end of Spring Training. That's something we're going to be committed to for a long time."
How it happens remains to be seen, but do not expect the Phillies to be the "mystery team" that swoops in to sign an ace to a $100 million contract at the last minute. Phillies president Andy MacPhail said in September that the club does not plan to pursue the biggest names in free agency this offseason.
"There is some talent that we think is viable talent, but it needs to come percolate and demonstrate that it's real," MacPhail said of the young players in the organization. "And after that period, you might go forward. But do you really want to commit after you've just been in that pool and suffered from it? Do you really want to commit at this stage?"
Phillies part-owner John Middleton reiterated that point during Klentak's introductory news conference Oct. 26.
"I don't think you can buy a winner," Middleton said.
"I think this will not come as any great shock, I don't view free agency as the way to build your club," Klentak added Thursday. "Good clubs, we just saw it in the playoffs this year, in the World Series this year. The core of the best clubs are built internally through the Draft, through savvy international signings, through signing key players to contract extensions and extending the club control.
"Free agency is very useful to augment or supplement that core, but you know that is not where you're going to get the best bang for your buck from a value perspective. Sometimes circumstances dictate that's where you're going to go to get your players. Sometimes that will dictate where you want to shy away from. But if you want to fish in the deep end of the pond in free agency, you know that there's going to be more risk there. The burn factor is going to be higher. So you have to enter into free agency knowing that. It doesn't mean you shouldn't play in free agency or you should shy away from it at all times. You just have to go in knowing the realities."
Klentak prefers not to trade any of the Phillies' young core to take a larger step forward in a couple years -- closer Ken Giles could fetch some talent, for example -- but he also will not completely dismiss the idea, either.
"I try not to operate in absolutes if at all possible, because you never know," Klentak said.
But first, Klentak has to know what he has. That is why he is asking a lot of questions and listening. That is why he is reading through player reports on his weekend cross-country flights from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where his family lives at the moment.
"We all have to know about our players," Klentak said. "It's really an important thing as we embark on trade discussions and free-agent discussions. We have to know what we have first, before we know what we need."