Chance to add starters led Phils to deal Giles
GM Klentak says trade with Astros was 'opportunity we couldn't pass up'
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak never said he wanted to trade Ken Giles, but he always said he needed to be opportunistic.
Klentak sensed a chance to improve the Phillies last week, when the team finalized the trade that sent Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for pitchers Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz. It was Klentak's third trade of the offseason, with each one geared toward boosting the team's starting pitching.
"This was an opportunity we couldn't pass up," Klentak said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "We feel like we've made our club better, both in the short and long term. We hate to lose a player like Ken Giles. I've said all along that we're trying to add good players, but in this case, it's an opportunity for us to add five starting-pitching candidates to our system. And it improves the state of our organization moving forward. That's a very exciting thing for us."
In the end, it simply made sense for the rebuilding Phils to trade Giles' 65 innings a season for the opportunity to develop two or three pitchers who could pitch 180-200 innings a season.
"I don't think finding an elite closer is easy by any stretch," Klentak said. "I don't minimize that at all. We will do everything we can to make sure we are locking down the end of a game as well as we can. But the difficulty of putting together a rotation and gathering enough inventory to get through the season and multiple seasons that we can control for a long time -- that is really hard to do and that is a huge factor in this trade. You are able to turn one reliever -- albeit a really, really good one -- into five starting-pitching candidates."
The Phillies certainly created some competition for the 2016 starting rotation. They previously acquired veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton in a couple of trades for mid-level prospects. Those two will be in the rotation come Opening Day. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Velasquez might be the favorites to earn the other three rotation jobs, with Oberholtzer, Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher and Severino Gonzalez in the mix.
Top prospects Appel, Jake Thompson and Zach Elfin figure to top a talented and promising Triple-A rotation.
"For us, it's all about balance," Klentak said. "I think no team ever gets through a season with five starting pitchers. That's just not realistic. So we knew we wanted to add to the inventory, both for the short term and the long term. And I think the balance component comes into play, because we've got two veterans in Hellickson and Morton, we've got some kids in Eickhoff and Velasquez and Nola that have gotten a taste of the big leagues, but haven't pitched a full season. We've got a stabilizer in Oberholtzer. And we've got several others, both on the 40-man and off, that are going to be competing either for jobs early on the season or later in the season as their development continues.
"Organizationally, that's been a goal of ours. It will remain a goal of ours, to always have starting-pitching depth."
Klentak praised Oberholtzer, who has a 3.94 ERA in 45 appearances (42 starts) in his big league career. It is worth noting that Oberholtzer is out of options, which puts him in a strong position to make the pitching staff.
Klentak and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had been discussing a Giles trade for the past three or four weeks, and those talks intensified last week at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. They agreed to a 4-for-1 trade on Wednesday, but it became a 5-for-2 on Saturday (with Appel and Harold Arauz added to the Phillies' package with outfielder Derek Fisher subtracted) because sources said the Phils had concerns about a physical of one of the players involved.
Of course, the question now is, "Who will close in 2016?"
Internal candidates include the recently signed David Hernandez and Ernesto Frieri. But Klentak also hinted the club could sign a free agent in the near future.
"We don't have to decide that in December," Klentak said about the 2016 closer. "We'll see. Every closer at some point was a first-time closer. Someone will be pitching the ninth for us. I'm going to be honest, since the news of the Giles trade broke, we've had a number of players and agents that have reached out to us to express interest in the opportunity."