Phillies: The Two Sides of GM Matt Klentak’s Process

Later this week the Phillies will announce yet another signing in a string of non-exciting acquisitions when they make the Michael Saunders signing official. Awesome, right?

It’s tough to say. Certainly no one’s lining up to buy a Michael Saunders Phillies jersey, just as they weren’t anxiously awaiting the arrival of Howie Kendrick‘s, Joaquin Benoit‘s or Pat Neshek‘s.

No, this acquisition marks another in a string of half-measures in general manager Matt Klentak’s version of “the Process.”

The Process is a familiar term to every Philly sports fan and it’s meaning has taken on a life of it’s own in the City of Brotherly Love. For Klentak it appears to be perpetuating the state of rebuilding despite seeing some fairly bright signs that maybe it’s time to…do a bit more.

One of those signs is how well the team actually did last year. Two months into the season they were seven games over .500 and second in the NL East, just a few games out of first. Sure, their run differential was remarkably bad. Detractors had a field day with while the Phillies were winning all those games, as if that mattered more than the winning itself. It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off.

But perhaps that’s more a sign that the team should have gone out and gotten a big name free agent bat this offseason. The pitching was there, the offense wasn’t.

The Phillies could have signed Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond and added the $30.5M they cost to the 2017 payroll and they would still be spending less than the Braves, Astros or Royals.

Another sign that maybe it’s time for the Phillies to put their foot in the ground, cut up-field and try to gain some serious yardage is the state of their farm system, which is stacked. Several organizations have noted as much and it’s thick at pretty much every level. The Phillies organization, from Rookie Ball to AAA, had the best winning percentage of all major league baseball organizations last year.

At some point making moves for the primary purpose of hoping to trade at the deadline, like the Saunders signing and the Neshak trade, become superfluous.

And it’s not the like the Phillies are a small market, cash strapped team, heavily reliant on developing prospects because they can’t really afford to sign big name free agents. In fact, the Phillies may have more payroll flexibility than any other team in the sport.

The Phillies could have signed both Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond to the exact deals they got and it wouldn’t have negatively affected that flexibility too much at all. Actually, adding that $30.5M would only move them from 21st in current payroll to 20th for 2017. It would still leave them behind the Braves, the Royals and the Astros.

The other side of the argument though is the time-honored decree that “you can never have enough young talent.” Certainly it all won’t pan out and it’s a numbers game where the more “lottery tickets” you have the better your odds of winning are. In Klentak’s version of TTP he’s collecting ALL the lottery tickets he possibly can.

In regards to the trade deadline, there doesn’t seem to be a team anywhere near as equipped to deal as the Phillies.

Potential candidates to bring back decent prospect hauls seemingly make up a fifth of the Phillies projected 25-man roster in Jeremy Hellickson, Neshek, Kendrick, Joaquin Benoit and now Saunders.

That list doesn’t even include the young players they can deal from a position of organizational depth. Cameron Rupp, Freddy Galvis, Jeanmar Gomez and maybe even a starter like Zach Eflin could all be included as potential trade candidates solely because their young counterparts in the minors are quickly making themselves MLB ready and they’ll have to be added to the already crowded 40-man roster soon or be exposed to the pilfering that is the Rule 5 Draft.

And then there’s the immeasurable benefits of “prospect currency,” that which is needed to be the “buyer” in a trade scenario.

Acquiring depths of talent in the minors is one of the more effective ways to make your major league team better. Instead of being limited to that which is available in an increasingly barren free agent market, having prospect currency opens up your available options exponentially.

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Klentak has his eye on one very special trade target and that’s why he’s perpetually in the Process. There does exist a player whom every Phillies fan covets, whose mere mention in the context of Philly sports sparks endless rumors in Philly blogs and message boards everywhere.

Maybe Klentak has some insider knowledge on what it would take to get this player and understands that it’ll take an extremely special package to bring this one particular player home to Philadelphia. Maybe he knows the only way to do it and have it make sense is to be extraordinarily deep in young talent and that’s the endgame to his “The Process.”

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