Klentak: More than one way to build a winner
New general manager won't copy any specific team's model for success
PHILADELPHIA -- It has become the annual tradition in baseball that the most recent World Series champion is the latest model franchise. Teams looking to win a World Series must follow the champ's path to glory.
Of course, the reality is there are numerous ways to build a World Series champion. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak understands that. He is at the General Managers Meetings this week in Boca Raton, Fla., trying to carve his own path to a title.
"What I've learned from the Royals is there's no one way to do it," Klentak said Wednesday afternoon. "The way that they won the last couple years has been unique, relative to how teams have built over the last ... decade or so. And that's encouraging, right? That works for them. The Mets' style worked for them this year. The Cubs' style is working, the Astros' [style] -- again, a very different style that's working for them. That's very positive.
"It can turn on a dime if you're disciplined, if you're organized. If players are developing and you're accurate in the projections of when those guys are going to reach their ceilings or start to achieve at the big league level, it can turn quickly. But you have to be disciplined. You have to be prepared for when that day comes."
The international market remains an excellent way to acquire talent. There are big buys and bargains everywhere, and because the Phils finished the 2015 season with the worst record in baseball, they will have the biggest international signing-bonus pool next summer.
The D-backs had more than $5.3 million in their pool this year, which was the largest in baseball.
"I think it's critical to any operation," Klentak said of the international market. "The way that baseball has evolved over time, and the way that the Collective Bargaining Agreement has been set up, it really minimizes the areas where we can add talent. One of the areas we can do that is via the international market.
"As I've said before, I don't like to operate in absolutes. But it is paramount that we take advantage of situations like that to bring talent into our system. Understanding that when you're talking about kids at that age, from the Dominican Republic, from Venezuela, it's going to take a long time for a lot of those players to get there. But we still have to do that. We have to create waves of players that will feed this team three, four, five, six, 10 years down the line, because we don't know where we'll be three, four, five, six, 10 years down the line. We need to make sure we've got steady waves of players coming, and that's true of the Draft. It's really true of the few areas that are still available to us to bring in players."
This past summer, the Phillies signed Dominican outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz to a $4 million bonus, but they have found bargains along the way, too. Carlos Ruiz famously signed for just $8,000 in 1998. Maikel Franco looks like steal for the $100,000 bonus he signed in 2010.
"It depends on that particular market, as with free agency, as with the Draft," Klentak said. "Do you spread out your dollars over multiple or do you invest in one big-ticket item?
"I do believe, generally, in the idea of volume. Nobody in this industry is so smart that they know exactly who's going to be good, who's not going to be good, when they're going to develop and who's going to get hurt. That's just the reality of baseball.
"So I do believe in the approach of adding as many talented players as we possibly can. But having said that, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of spending a large percentage of the pool on one player, because sometimes the player is just that good."
If it works, perhaps everybody will be talking about the Phils as baseball's model franchise once again.