Tag Archives: Ruben Amaro Jr

Phillies owner John Middleton shows he is clearly not “a potted plant”

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Gabe Kapler was fired after two seasons as Phillies manager

 

On Friday, October 11, 2019, less than two weeks after their once promising season came to an end with a final disheartening defeat that left the club without a winning record for an eighth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies held a press conference.

The purpose of the presser was ostensibly to address the firing of manager Gabe Kapler. However, as principal owner John Middleton sat down at the dais, flanked by general manager Matt Klentak to his right and Phillies president Andy MacPhail to his left, there was clearly an even broader agenda.

The goal of Friday’s session was undeniably to put out the fires now raging throughout the Phillies fan base. That flame sparked as the club slowly fell out of contention over the final two-thirds of the season, then completely collapsed over the final weeks for a second straight year.

But the flames are not out. In fact, judging by the response on both traditional and social media, those flames are only burning hotter today.

The bottom line appears to be that not only did the fan base want Kapler gone, but Phillies fans also wanted to see Middleton turn the page on what has thus far been a failed MacPhail-Klentak regime.

That will not be happening – at least not for now. Logic would appear to say that, now readying for the third manager during their term, both men are now squarely under the spotlight themselves, about to face increased scrutiny from the owner.

If the failures of the first four full years under MacPhail and Klentak continue next season, it would be absolutely negligent for Middleton to allow them continued management roles with the team.

The biggest takeaway from the show was that Middleton himself is clearly the man who will have the final say in every important matter as this organization attempts to reach its goal of becoming a long-term contender.

Middleton is involved. Not just in the way that an owner is usually in charge. He is going to not only be intimately involved in the biggest big-league talent acquisitions, but also have the final say in a new manager and other key personnel moves.

MacPhail opened the press conference with a statement in which he laid out Middleton’s decision-making process in releasing Kapler with one year to go on the manager’s contract.

The club president provided that, on the recommendation of he and Klentak, the owner had undertaken a wide-ranging, week-long process of evaluation which included receiving positive feedback on Kapler from a number of sources. However, MacPhail then stated the following:

What John didn’t hear was any explanation of why we were 20-36 over the last two Septembers. Or more importantly, what was gonna be in place to ensure that didn’t happen again.

What MacPhail never once addressed was his own role in the failures of those two September collapses. It is the job of he and his hand-picked GM Klentak to provide the players, in both minor league depth and big-league talent, for the manager to have as resources to compete and succeed at the highest level.

As the second questioner from the local media called upon, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM and sports director at WTXF-TV wasted no time in asking the question of Middleton that was on the minds of most fans:

John, when you fired (former Phillies GM) Ruben Amaro, you said it’s a results based business…Gabe Kapler took the hit. And I’m wondering why it was just Gabe Kapler? And I, among other people, are wondering why…those two gentlemen are sitting with you today?

Middleton then went on a minute and a half spiel in which he questioned Eskin back, then tossed out some statistics showing improvement in the bullpen over the last couple months of the season. Bottom line, the owner failed to address the pivotal question directly.

MacPhail then jumped in, attempting to justify his and Klentak’s low-rated minor league system. The club president made excuses regarding picks lost due to free agent signings and the selection of high school players, and hung his hat on two or three recent draftees ranked by many services as among the top 100 in the game.

The fact remains that it was MacPhail and Klentak’s decision to select those high school players, including Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, over talented older prospects who have already impacted the big-leagues for other organizations, players who came from those same drafts.

Alec Bohm (34), Spencer Howard (88), and Bryson Stott (89) rank among the current top 100 prospects in baseball per MLB Pipeline, while Baseball America ranks just Bohm and Howard on their top 100 prospects list.

The draft is an inexact science, and teams are going to have hits and misses, even near the top of the first round. But talent comes to a Major League Baseball organization from more than the draft.

Despite four years of those drafts and four years signing international and other free agents to the minor league system, the Phillies organization is ranked among the bottom one-third in depth of minor league talent by nearly every reliable evaluator.

Baseball America had them at #25 back in mid-August. Fangraphs currently ranks the Phillies at #23 overall among MLB organizations. While MLB didn’t provide a recent full ranking, the Phillies were not listed among the top half of organizations back in August of this year.

When MacPhail took over as club president and hired Klentak as his general manager in the fall of 2015, the Phillies were clearly in rebuilding mode. They also had one of the top-ranked farm systems in baseball. Today, after four years, the club has still not registered even a winning season, and the farm season has virtually collapsed.

Both MacPhail and Klentak mentioned that outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and pitcher Cole Irvin, the club’s fifth rounder in 2016, have already impacted the Phillies big-league roster.

Haseley slashed just .266/.324/.396 over 242 plate appearances this season, but did play solid defense. Irvin had a 5.83 ERA and 5.06 FIP while surrendering 45 hits over 41.2 innings in which he struck out just 31 batters this season. That is hardly a duo to hang your hats on as you try to defend your record in talent evaluation.

In response to a question posed by Kevin Cooney of PhillyVoice and Forbes, Middleton made it clear that the search for the new manager would be conducted by Klentak. But that would happen only after the GM sat down with he and MacPhail and laid out a profile of what to look for in a candidate.

Middleton will then be presented with the final name for an interview and evaluation. Clearly, the owner will have the final say on who is hired as the next Philadelphia Phillies manager.

During the course of the press conference, it was pointed out that the Phillies front office was “allowed to play the long game” by making the decisions not to give up young talent at the trade deadline in order to help the 2019 team reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Kapler was forced in the shorter term to try and compete with a lesser roster.

To that, Middleton stepped in with a matter-of-fact response: “That’s the inherent nature of the business. And it’s been that way for a hundred years, and it will likely be that way a hundred years from now. That just goes with the territory. And if the manager doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, then the manager shouldn’t be the manager.

What the owner was saying is a baseball truth that was known well to Kapler: managers are hired to be fired. The list of big-league skippers who get the job and then remain in the same position with the same organization over the long haul, eventually leaving or retiring on their own terms, is extremely short.

As the press conference wound towards a conclusion, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com questioned Middleton directly regarding the owner’s assertiveness in getting intimately involved in matters over the last year.

Especially, Zolecki questioned Middleton regarding any concerns that the owner may have that, had he not gotten so involved, things would be even more troubling today under the MacPhail-Klentak management team.

I’d like to think I actually bring value to an organization. That I’m not a potted plant sitting in the corner…This is what CEO’s do. You wouldn’t have a need for a CEO if everybody in that organization made every decision correctly every time.

Middleton never addressed, at least not in any way that will be accepted by the fans, the status of MacPhail and Klentak. But that is a bit telling in itself. If the two men do not see themselves as now more on the hot seat with the owner than even the new manager will ever be, they are sorely mistaken.

There is one man in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies these days. That man decided that it was time to change managers – again. It will be that man, John Middleton, who will now have to answer to his fan base should his decision to keep this upper management team in place backfire.

Cliff Lee: he never wanted to leave Phillies in the first place

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Cliff Lee came and went in 2009 and came back in 2010

During what all fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe will be one of the most significant off-season periods ever for the franchise, I’ve been taking a look back at the team’s ‘Hot Stove’ history.

So far we have recalled the signings of Pete Rose (1978), Jose Mesa(2000), and Jim Thome (2002) in free agency. We have also revisited key off-season trades: the 1981 three-way deal that resulted in Lonnie Smith leaving and Bo Diaz arriving, the 1982 trade of future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and the trading away of Thome.
Probably the most recent important Phillies move during a Hot Stove season came in the middle of December back in 2010. It was then that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. began trying to reverse a huge prior mistake from exactly one year earlier. Both decisions were among the most influential during the 2009-11 period when the club was trying to get back to the World Series.
Those two moves involved a left-handed starting pitcher named Cliff Lee. His pro career had begun after he was drafted three times. Lee finally signed after being selected by the Montreal Expos with their fourth round selection in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft.
In June 2002, Lee was dealt to the Cleveland Indians as part of a four-prospect package that also included Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in an overall six-player deal that brought starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to Montreal.

LEE DEVELOPS INTO AN ACE

In Cleveland’s minor league system, Lee showed enough with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League that he was given a two-start cup of coffee with the Indians in September 2002. He went 10.1 innings allowing just six hits over those two outings.
Lee won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland
After beginning the 2003 season back at Triple-A, Lee received a spot start with Cleveland in late June. Then in mid-August he was called to the big-leagues for good. Lee would enter the Tribe’s starting rotation and remain there for the next six years.
Lee would develop into one of the top starting pitchers in the game, culminating in a memorable 2008 season. While the Phillies were driving towards their first World Series crown in nearly three decades, Lee was putting together a Cy Young Award-winning season in Cleveland.
In that 2008 campaign, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.110 WHIP. He also had a fabulous 170/34 K:BB ratio over 223.1 innings across 31 starts. In addition to the Cy Young honors, he was an AL All-Star for the first time, and even received AL MVP votes.
Lee was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2010 season, and it became obvious that the Indians would not be able to get him to sign a contract extension. Looking at a rebuilding situation, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro decided to find a deal for him a year early.

LEE ACQUIRED BY CHAMPS IN-SEASON

As defending World Series champions, the Phillies were struggling to open up a lead in a tight NL East race in July 2009. A big reason was that the team’s starting pitching was looking a bit fragile.
Cole Hamels, the hero of the prior season, appeared to be going through a World Series hangover campaign. Brett Myers struggled the entire year with injuries. At age 46, Jamie Moyer was getting hit hard. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ were giving the club innings, but were not the kind of arms that a team looking to repeat as world champions wanted at the front of a rotation.
On July 15, the Phillies signed 37-year-old veteran Pedro Martinez, who had been sitting out the season to that point. It was going to take Martinez a few weeks to get into pitching shape, and in fact he would not join the team’s starting rotation until August 12.
Amaro was still rumored to be hot after both Lee and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay. Finally, just before the non-waiver trade deadline, Amaro and Shapiro reached a deal. The Phillies would acquire Lee in exchange for a four-prospect package led by pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Cito Gaston was manager of the Blue Jays at the time. Once the Phillies had traded for Lee, it meant that Gaston was likely to keep his ace in Halladay. Jayson Stark at ESPN quoted Gaston after the Lee deal was announced: “Who knows? They may come back and get [Halladay], too. That’d be a pretty good staff there, wouldn’t it?” How prescient that comment would eventually prove.
The 30-year-old Lee was everything that the Phillies hoped, and more. Over a dozen starts he went 7-4 with a 74/10 K:BB ratio. Martinez went 5-1 over nine starts with a 37/8 K:BB ratio. The two veterans gave the rotation just the shot in the arm that it needed to push the club to its third straight NL East title.
In the 2009 postseason, Lee upped his game. He made two strong starts in a tough NLDS victory over the Colorado Rockies, then a brilliant start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the NLCS.
When Lee shut down the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series, the Phillies appeared on their way to back-to-back championships. Alas, it was not to be. The team did win his next start in Game Five, but that only kept them alive. The Yanks would take the Fall Classic two nights later.

THE LEE HOT STOVE TRADE

After the season, Amaro resumed his pursuit of Halladay, who was scheduled to become a free agent following the 2010 season. On December 16, 2009 the Phillies acquired Halladay from Toronto in exchange for a three-prospect package.
Amaro had negotiated a four-year contract extension with the 32-year-old Halladay, who thought that he was joining Lee in the Phillies rotation. Instead, Amaro shocked everyone in the Phillies community by dealing away Lee just hours later.
The justification given by Amaro at the time was shaky from the start. He felt that Lee’s contract demands were unreasonable, and also claimed that the Phillies needed to re-stock their farm system after it had been depleted by that summer’s Lee trade and the Halladay aquistion.
However, the package that Amaro obtained from the Seattle Mariners that day of prospect pitchers Phillippe Aumontand J.C. Ramirez and young outfielder Tyson Gillies failed to convince anyone that it improved the organization to the same level as having Lee remain on the big-league pitching staff.
It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies history. Our own Tim Kelly here at PN wrote in August 2018 about comments made by former outfielder Jayson Werth to a local radio station. Included among those revealing remarks were this quote:
…they [the Phillies] offered Cliff a contract at a marginal number, we’ll say. And then he counters at a reasonable counter, far less for what he ends up signing back for. Within that day, a day or two, Ruben freaks out, he can’t believe that they would ask for that type of money – which was under-market for Cliff – and trades him to Seattle. So he was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls and a couple Fungos.”

Halladay would enjoy a memorable 2010 season in which he would capture the National League Cy Young Award while tossing a Perfect Game and a playoff no-hitter. Hamels rebounded with a solid campaign. The rest of the rotation struggled, but Amaro swung a trade to bring in three-time NL All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt from Houston.
The Phillies struggled much of that summer. But then from late August through late September the team went on an incredible run, winning 23 of 27 games to pull away to a fourth straight NL East title.
As for Lee, he would make just 13 starts for the Mariners. With the club struggling and with Lee still scheduled to become a free agent in the coming off-season he was shipped off to the Texas Rangers following a final start for Seattle on July 4.
At the time of that deal, Lee was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and had been selected to the AL All-Star team. He would attend the game not as a member of the Mariners, but instead wearing a Rangers cap.
Over the rest of the season in Texas, Lee would go just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. He did produce solid numbers otherwise, allowing 103 hits over 108.2 innings with a 96/12 K:BB ratio in 15 starts.
The Rangers won the AL West crown and the American League pennant, reaching the World Series. However, the Phillies were not there to great their former pitcher. Halladay, Werth, and the two-time defending NL champion Phillies had been beaten in six games in the 2010 NLCS by the San Francisco Giants.
San Francisco would then take out the Rangers in five games to capture the first World Series crown for the Giants franchise in 56 years. Lee was rocked in the opener of that Fall Classic in San Francisco. He then would also lose a pitcher’s duel to Tim Lincecum in the Game Five clincher at Texas.

THE LEE HOT STOVE FREE AGENT SIGNING

The off-season got underway following that 2010 campaign with Lee entering free agency for the first time in his career. A return to the Rangers was possible, but the New York Yankees were seen by most as the early and overwhelming favorites to land his services.
The Yankees had finished in second place in the AL East in 2010, a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays but had comfortably won what was the lone Wildcard berth available at that time. The Yanks then swept the Minnesota Twins 3-0 in the ALDS, but were beaten by Texas in six games in the ALCS. Adding Lee, and subtracting him from the Rangers, would likely push them to the top of the American League favorites list.
The Phillies were not seen to be a contender for Lee at first. They already had a rotation that would include Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt coming back in 2011. It was projected at that point that Blanton and Kyle Kendrick would make up the back of their rotation.
A formal contract offer was extended to Lee by the Yankees, one that would turn out to be the highest offer that he would receive. It wouldn’t be enough.
Shock waves rolled across the game on December 15, 2010 when, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that the Phillies and Lee had agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract. Lee would join Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in what the baseball world would call the “Four Aces” rotation, one of the best in the history of the game.
In Philadelphia it became known as “Merry Cliffmas”, and Phillies fans were euphoric. They would have a dominating pitching rotation that would give their still-potent offensive attack a chance to win every single day.
Not only was Lee’s signing a surprise gift to Phillies fans, but he also won their hearts forever with what he said upon agreeing to the deal: “I never wanted to leave in the first place.” It turned out that Lee and his wife Kristen had enjoyed their brief 2009 time in Philly so much that returning was a relatively easy decision.
The Phillies of 2011 would not win every day, but it seemed like it at times. That club would set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, leading the NL East from wire-to-wire and ultimately taking the division crown by 13 games.
Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA and was named as NL All-Star, finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. Hamels was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, finishing fifth in that Cy Young Award voting.
Oswalt won just nine games and struggled some with a 3.69 ERA. In fact, he wasn’t even one of the four most effective members of the rotation that year. Neither were Blanton or Kendrick. That status was provided by 23-year-old rookie Vance Worley, who surprised everyone with an 11-3 mark and 3.01 ERA over 25 games, 21 as a starter. Worley would finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
When the 2011 postseason opened, the Phillies were clear favorites to capture their second World Series title in four years. But in one of the most disheartening endings in franchise history, they were edged out in five games by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Lee played a part in that loss. After the offense bailed out Halladay to take Game One, those same bats then provided Lee with an early 4-0 lead in Game Two. But the Cardinals then chipped away, scoring three runs in the top of the 4th inning and one each in the 6th and 7th, rallying for a 5-4 win to tie the series.
The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead behind a strong outing from Hamels in Game Three, but Saint Louis beat Oswalt in Game Four to once again tie the series.
In a decisive Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, a pitching battle for the ages took place. Halladay allowed just one run on six hits. It would be enough to win almost any game. But Saint Louis received an absolute gem from their starter, Chris Carpenter. He would shut the Phillies out on three hits in a complete game.
With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Saint Louis native Ryan Howard stepped in for the Phillies. On a 2-2 pitch, Carpenter’s 110th of the game, Howard topped a slow grounder to second base. As the final out was being recorded, the big slugger crumpled to the ground, having blown out his Achilles tendon.
It wasn’t obvious yet at that point, but history would show that the Phillies era of contention at the top of Major League Baseball would end with that play.
The 2012 Phillies struggled from the beginning but were still three games above the .500 mark and within 2.5 games of first place as June began. But the team would collapse under the weight of injuries.
Howard wouldn’t return until July and was never the same dominating slugger. Chase Utley wouldn’t begin his season until late June, and at age 33 was beginning his own slow decline. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the latter obtained just a year earlier to bolster that 2011 team, were traded away at the non-waiver deadline as Amaro threw in the towel.
Lee would pitch well in both 2012 and 2013 as the Phillies tried unsuccessfully to quickly rebuild. He went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, made the NL All-Star team, and finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting in the 2013 season. Incredibly, less than a year later his career would be over.
The 2014 season opened with Lee as the Phillies primary trade candidate. At 35-years-old he still had that season and then 2015 to go on his contract, with a $25 million salary owed both years. There was a $27.5 million club option or $12.5 million buyout for the 2016 season as well.
He began the year as the Opening Day starter. Over his first 10 starts through mid-May he went 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 61/9 K:BB ratio in what seemed a typical Lee season. But following a May 18 win over the Cincinnati Reds he was placed on the disabled list with discomfort in his left pitching elbow.
The Phillies tried to bring him back as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, hoping to find a deal, but he was hit hard in two late July starts. Then on July 31, the exact date of the deadline, he was given a final chance to show that he was healthy and could help someone.
It appeared to observers that things had started out well that night at Nationals Park. Through 2.2 innings, Lee had allowed just one hit and walked no one, striking out four Washington Nationals batters. And then it ended, just that suddenly.
With two outs in the third inning, Lee delivered his first pitch to Denard Span and walked off the mound, tapping his left arm. It turned out that he had been experiencing discomfort while warming up before the game, and then when warming up before each inning. This time it wouldn’t go away.
‘It was there every throw and I just felt like if I kept throwing something was going to snap and I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen,” Lee said per Sports Illustrated via the AP following that game.
He tried to come back for the 2015 season but was able to throw just two innings at spring training in Clearwater. Lee would spend that entire season on the disabled list after suffering a left common flexor tear. After the season ended the Phillies declined his option for 2016, and his career was over.
In February 2016, when it was becoming obvious that Lee would never pitch again, Grant Brisbee at SB Nation wrote a fantastic piece on the pitcher who he correctly called “one of the best pitchers of his generation.” In that piece, Brisbee described what it was like for a batter facing Lee:
Watching a pitcher move inside and out, up and down, is absolutely symphonic. But it’s even more entertaining to watch the hitters panic, knowing that the baseball can dart a foot away from the plate if it doesn’t bore right in on their damned thumbs. The hitter is acutely aware that the pitcher on the mound can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and there’s a split second to determine if the ball is going to hurt him, be hittable or be so unhittable that it will make him look like an idiot if he swings.
Over parts of five seasons with the Phillies, Lee recorded a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, and 2.85 FIP. He yielded just 777 hits over 827.1 innings across 118 starts, surrendering just 80 home runs while registering a 21.6 WAR mark.
He also produced an other-worldly 813/124 K:BB ratio, made a pair of NL All-Star teams, and finished among the leaders in Cy Young voting twice. In his time with the Phillies, Lee led the National League in shutouts in 2011, and twice led the league in both the K/BB and BB/9 categories.
Cliff Lee was one of the most popular players on a team populated with those types of individuals, the greatest Phillies team to never win a world championship. That popularity has never waned.
His being traded away in December 2009 may have kept the 2010 Phillies from winning another World Series crown. But neither was his return as a free agent in December 2010 enough to make that happen for a record-setting Phillies team in 2011.
It remains possible that one day we’ll be watching Lee enjoy an induction ceremony to the Phillies Wall of Fame. For the millions of fans who packed Citizens Bank Park during the final years of that heyday, it would be a well-deserved honor.

Matt Klentak on the hot seat as the weather gets colder and baseball’s Hot Stove warms up

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That chair is getting hotter under Klentak’s butt as the weather gets colder

Major League Baseball’s off-season “Hot Stove” began to heat up in front offices all across the game this past weekend. Dozens of players became free agents eligible to negotiate with all 30 clubs at that point.
Over three days beginning today in Carlsbad, California the MLB general managers are meeting. While most of the work they undertake will be of the procedural type not directly involving player movement, the groundwork for future deals can certainly take place here.
The Phillies and their fans need look no further than their last World Series champions for proof that important deals can actually get done at the MLB General Manager meetings.
It was 11 years ago tomorrow, on November 7, 2007 at these very same meetings that Phillies GM Pat Gillick swung a deal with Houston Astros GM Ed Wade. Gillick obtained closer Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett in that trade in exchange for pitcher Geoff Geary and a pair of prospects, outfielder Michael Bourn and infielder Mike Costanzo.
Flash-forward just over a decade later, and it’s general manager Matt Klentak who will be attempting to either swing such a deal or lay the groundwork for one that he hopes will prove just as beneficial for today’s version of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Klentak is clearly on the hot seat this off-season. If not with Phillies ownership, then certainly with the club’s fan base. Since being hired to the position in October 2015, his moves have proven to be a mixed bag to this point.

“I’m not going to make decisions because of what they mean to me for my job security” ~ Matt Klentak, September 2018

To be fair, the team that he inherited was a disaster. Three straight losing seasons, each worse than the last, had left the Phillies as the worst team in baseball when he arrived.
However, it is arguable as to how much the situation has actually improved on his watch. While the Phillies reached the 80-wins plateau for the first time in a half-dozen years this past season, it was a sixth consecutive losing campaign, the third in a row under Klentak.
It would be difficult to take an objective look at the Phillies anticipated regulars for the 2019 season at this point and find any homegrown position player who looks to have their lineup spot secured for years to come.

Rhys Hoskins, drafted under the regime of previous GM Ruben Amaro, should have such a claim to the first base position. However, Klentak went out and spent $60 million unwise dollars on an aging Carlos Santana last December, presumably relegating Hoskins to an out-of-position role in left field for the foreseeable future.
Klentak made what seemed an astute move back during spring training of 2018, signing the club’s top prospect Scott Kingery to a team-friendly six-year contract with three additional club-option years.
Kingery, another Amaro draftee and a minor league Gold Glove second baseman, was then switched to shortstop at the big-league level. It was a position where he had played just two games over three minor league seasons, and he struggled mightily both at the plate and in the field.
Klentak also handed a $30 million contract guaranteed over five years to Odubel Herrera, a player whose baseball brain betrays him far too regularly, and whose play has steadily deteriorated since signing the deal.
I applauded when Klentak signed free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta in spring training. The club clearly needed a reliable, proven, veteran winner.
But the right-hander’s performance during his age 32 season was uneven at best. His 6.35 ERA and .867 OPS-against over his final nine starts beginning in early August certainly helped contribute to the team’s collapse.
In the 21 trades which he has made to date, Klentak has not acquired a single player who can be considered an impact piece going forward. Only Vince Velasquez, obtained as the lead piece in the trade of Ken Giles to Houston, still has any such hope.
Heading towards the 2018 MLB non-waiver trade deadline, Klentak had a surprising first place team. He had the chance to add impact shortstop Manny Machado, though it certainly would have cost him something of real value.
Instead, Klentak went the cheap route. He brought in a handful of players at a variety of positions who simply failed. Wilson RamosAsdrubal CabreraAaron LoupJustin BourLuis AvilanJose Bautista.
None made an impact as the team began to free-fall out of first place, out of a playoff spot, out of second place, and ultimately out of any shot at a winning record. And now, all but Bour are gone as free agents, and he will soon be a tough arbitration decision.
It is still too early to tell how his draft record will play out. The three picks in the first round which Klentak has made during his first three drafts are now the club’s top three position player prospects.
Will any ever pan out, how much impact will they have, and how soon will they arrive? Anyone’s guess regarding Mickey Moniak (2016), Adam Haseley (2017), or Alec Bohm (2018) who were taken first, eighth, and third overall in their respective MLB Drafts.
Right now, at this point in their development, the Phillies should be coming off the first full big-league seasons for Hoskins at first base and Kingery at second base. They have Kingery signed long-term, and they should have been looking to do the same with Hoskins.
Instead they have the Santana contract and lineup albatross hung around their necks. All that Klentak’s decisions over this past year have done is hinder or confuse the development of what should be three-quarters of his infield going forward: Hoskins, Kingery, and Maikel Franco.
It has been just over three years now since Klentak was hired. I am a realist. I know just how bad it was when he arrived. He took over a mess, so he deserves more time to continue trying to build it back to consistent contending status.
But the clock is running. Phillies fans have waited through those six losing years. Klentak has not done a single thing to this point to elicit their confidence. His statements so far this off-season, and those of club president Andy MacPhail, have done nothing to excite them.
What is a more annoying sound, Phillies GM Matt Klentak trying to justify one of the worst collapses in baseball history, or the mating call of the dodo bird?
Klentak is on the hot seat during this “Hot Stove” season. If he isn’t with controlling owner John Middleton, then you have to question the owner’s judgement as well. It is time for this entire Phillies management group to come through big.
I’m not going to make decisions because of what they mean to me for my job security,” Klentak said as the 2018 season wound to a close per Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia. “That’s not my job. My job is to make decisions for the good of the Philadelphia Phillies’ short- and long-term health. And that’s what we’re going to do.

Perhaps he should be making decisions as if his job depends on them. In fact, his job should depend on those decisions. If management fails this off-season, and if 2019 is another losing year, they will continue to lose the interest and the disposable dollars of large chunks of what was a passionate, park-filling fan base just a little more than a half-decade ago.

Ruben Amaro Jr considering a run at big league GM and managerial jobs

By D. Benjamin Miller - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70179556
Ruben Amaro Jr (R) was fired by the Phillies
back in September 2015

(Photo: D. Benjamin Miller)
It has been almost exactly three years since the Philadelphia Phillies parted ways with former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. For many fans of the team it was a move that took far too long for the organization to make.
Amaro inherited a team that had won the 2008 World Series championship. The club continued to contend over the first three seasons of his tenure largely thanks to a core group of players put together by the previous regimes under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick.
The club would lose the World Series in Amaro’s first season as general manager, then went out in the NLCS in 2010 and the NLDS in 2011. As that group aged, Amaro proved incapable of transitioning the franchise successfully.
The Phillies slipped to the .500 mark in 2012, to a losing record in 2013, and to last place in the NL East in 2014. Finally, the club plummeted to the worst record in baseball during the 2015 season, and Amaro was out.
He was not out of baseball for long. That winter the former player turned in his GM suits for a return to his uniformed roots, taking a job as the Boston Red Sox first base coach and outfield instructor. After two years in Beantown, Amaro moved on to New York where he served this season as the Mets first base coach.
And now the 53-year-old is contemplating a step back up the baseball ladder. According to an interview with Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, Amaro is considering taking a run at the Mets general manager position. He may also be looking towards an opportunity to actually manage a Major League Baseball team.

“…keeping an open mind that if there are opportunities to be back in the front office, I still feel like I have a lot to offer in that regard as well. I felt like being back on the field would give me a different and interesting perspective as a far as doing a better job as a GM, and trying to improve my information resources. I’m open-minded. If you were to ask me if I would like my next step to be a GM or a manager, I guess it would be a toss-up.”

According to Amaro, he has let the Mets know of his interest in their open GM position. He told Rosenthal that the team was “appreciative of my interest“, which sounds little more than a tacit openness to offer him the chance to interview for the position.
Phillies fans would be skeptical of any such opportunity afforded a man who they largely abhorred by the end. They might, however, be happy to see him making key decisions for those division rivals up north at Citi Field.
I know toward the end of my tenure as a GM in Philadelphia, I was not received well,” Amaro told Rosenthal. “But I do feel grateful that I got to be a part of the rebuild when (former GM) Ed Wade started it. I feel great about being able to work for a Hall of Famer in Pat Gillick, getting advice from guys like Dallas Green and utilizing it for success. Being part of that Phillies success in 2007 through 2011 was something really, really special for me, and something I’ll never forget.

Director of Player Development Joe Jordan departs Phillies organization

Jordan has seen mixed results over seven years.
The Philadelphia Phillies announced on Tuesday that director of player development Joe Jordan would not continue with the organization. His exit from a position that he has held for the last seven years was swift and sudden.
…last week I walked into Matt’s (Phillies GM Klentak) office and told him I didn’t think I was the guy to take this thing forward,” said Jordan per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Much of what you need to know about the bottom line reasoning behind Jordan’s exit from what is essentially the traditional “farm director” position can be traced back to his hiring.
Jordan was hired by former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Over the last few years since Amaro was replaced by Klentak, the new Phillies GM has done what pretty much every new head of any organization does in all industries – bring in his own people.
Those people have included “new thinkers” like Klentak, well-versed in video and computer analytics. In a comprehensive piece on the changes, Matt Gelb of The Athletic named three of those individuals as assistant GM Bryan Minniti, minor league information coordinator Ben Werthan, and player-development coordinator Dana Parks.
Gelb described behind-the-scenes maneuverings involving an increased role for Minniti over the past year which likely helped lead to yesterday’s announcement:
…Minniti, who was promoted to assistant general manager last offseason, oversees  the club’s player-development process along with amateur talent procurement. He has begun to exert more influence in how both departments are run. Two sources said Jordan was asked to take a reserved approach — more hands off — this season.
The Phillies did not immediately name a new farm director. There are internal candidates, but the club has shown with many of its recent hiring’s such as manager Gabe Kapler that they are willing to search aggressively outside of the organization for new talent fitting their ever-increasing move towards an analytical approach to talent evaluation.
What all this means for the future is that the new director of player development will either be one of the newcomers, perhaps Parks, or will be a new hire from outside who fits that same mold.
At the big-league level, players such as Aaron NolaRhys Hoskins, and Scott Kingery came into and developed up through the organization during the Jordan years. They have brought not only long-term talent but are also providing the fan base with the first group of relatable and marketable players in years.Jordan’s tenure has resulted in a somewhat mixed bag of results.
There have been undeniable steps forward. The Phillies have a handful of minor league affiliates in the playoffs this season, and that minor league system has become respected throughout the industry.
There have also been stutter-steps and frustration from high draft picks and top prospects such as J.P. CrawfordMickey Moniak, and Cornelius Randolph who also came into and have been developing through the Phillies organization during his tenure.
Though there certainly were behind-the-scenes frustrations, the public parting of the ways between Klentak and Jordan was amicable. The 56-year-old Jordan was quoted by Bob Brookover of Philly.com:

“It would not be accurate to say that I was opposed to analytics. But I think our organization was in some form of transition and it was time for me to move on. I’m not leaving Matt at all. I had a phenomenal experience with the Phillies.“

As the organization moves forward, fans of such an increased emphasis on analytics will be happy. “Old school” fans who long for days where the eyes and minds of grizzled veteran scouts watching players and filing reports led to decisions regarding on-field talent are likely to become more frustrated.
The Phillies appear to properly recognize that there is merit to both approaches in helping push the organization forward. Klentak is now leaning more and more on his own hand-picked lieutenants to do the job of overseeing the evaluation and development of ball players with an ever-increasing emphasis on statistical analytics.