Matt Klentak

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Phillies are a big-market team with plenty of financial might and flexibility.

So, naturally, they will land Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the $295 million that remains on his contract this offseason.

Not so fast.

General manager Matt Klentak acknowledged Monday at baseball's annual GM meetings that the Phillies do have the financial strength and flexibility to consider big-ticket items this winter.

But it doesn’t sound as if a big bat is his priority.

"Our position-player group is young, it's growing and it has shown promise," Klentak said. "I think we have an obligation to the players and to the franchise to let that play out, as a general rule. The most important thing for us in 2018 is that our young players continue to grow and develop and get the reps they need at the major-league level.

"Now, as far as the offseason, the question is, what can we do for those players to put them in the best position to achieve that growth? That could come in the form of veteran players we bring in to surround them. It's going to come in the form of creating the coaching staff and the environment to help support these players. Some combination of that is the answer. It's more likely that we add pitching than hitters."

Stanton's power bat would no doubt look good in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. And the Phils, with just Odubel Herrera signed beyond 2018, could afford him. That's why Stanton has been so frequently linked to the Phillies. That's why any and all big-ticket players will be linked to the Phillies this winter.

"I understand why the narrative exists," Klentak said. "As an organization, the Phillies have been very disciplined over the last few years to get out from some of the contracts that we had and to not invest long term in players while we were going through the rebuild. The result of that now is a lot of financial flexibility moving forward. So I understand where the narrative would come from — because we have this financial flexibility, we should spend money.

"That very well may happen. This offseason is the first time since I've been here that we will explore contracts of more than one year with free agents. Now, is that two years or is that 10 years? Or is it something in between? That will all depend on the market and the individual players. As we get closer to contention and once we're contending, then yeah, that's when we start to use our payroll muscle to augment the club. This year, it could go either way. I have no doubt that we'll make some additions to our club. Whether those come in the form of shorter-term contracts or trades or long-term contracts remains to be seen."

The Phillies could look to do some business on the second tier of the free-agent pitching market. Trading for starting pitching seems to be their preference.

"I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add a starter," Klentak said. "I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add two. But I'm also not going to say we don't need one."

The Phils have middle-infield depth with shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Scott Kingery about to supplant Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. One or both of the incumbents could be moved for pitching this offseason. Hernandez, who drew some trade interest last winter, could have more value than Galvis because he is three seasons away from free agency. Galvis will be eligible for free agency after next season. The Angels had interest in Hernandez last winter and could again this winter.

Klentak said rival clubs are well aware of the Phillies' middle-infield surplus.

"A number of teams have checked in on that," he said. "Now, does that mean we will receive an offer that we think is fair value for one of those players? That I don't know. Do we have an obligation to the franchise to explore that? We do."

Klentak said that the team recently re-signed infielder Pedro Florimon to a minor-league contract. He could end up being important depth if the Phillies trade Galvis or Hernandez, especially because Kingery is not expected to arrive in the majors until May, at the earliest.

In addition to building a roster, Klentak and new manager Gabe Kapler continue to build a coaching staff. Dusty Wathan will be the third base coach and John Mallee the hitting coach. Rick Kranitz will be on the staff, perhaps as pitching coach, but his role has yet to be specified. Klentak said more staff hirings could come later this week.

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

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Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler unveiled the first three members of his coaching staff Friday.
 
Kapler stayed within the organization for a couple of important hires, retaining Rick Kranitz and naming Dusty Wathan third-base coach.

Kranitz's role is yet to be determined.
 
Kapler also hired John Mallee as hitting coach. Mallee (pronounced May-lee) most recently spent three seasons as the Cubs' hitting coach. Prior to that, he served as the hitting coach for the Astros (2013-14) and Marlins (2010-11). Mallee was actually drafted by the Phillies back in 1991.
 
Kranitz, 59, has previously been major-league pitching coach for the Marlins, Orioles and Brewers. He joined the Phillies' staff as bullpen coach before the 2016 season and served as the club's assistant pitching coach under Bob McClure last season.
 
It's no surprise that the Phillies kept Kranitz. His experience — 10 seasons as a big-league pitching coach — and familiarity with the organization's pitchers will be valuable to Kapler, a first-year manager who most recently served as the director of player development for the Dodgers.
 
Wathan's hiring is also not a surprise. The 44-year-old former catcher has managed in the Phillies' minor-league system for the past 10 seasons, has had an important hand in the development of many of the players projected to help the Phillies in coming seasons, and was a finalist for the job that went to Kapler. Had Wathan not been named to the big-league staff, he would have returned to manage the Triple A Lehigh Valley club in 2018. Wathan was the Eastern League manager of the year while leading the Double A Reading club in 2015 and 2016.
 
"Dusty was incredibly impressive in this process," general manager Matt Klentak said last week at the news conference to announce Kapler's hiring. "Obviously, the fact that he was a finalist would suggest that we thought a lot of him. ... We are really proud of everything he accomplished and the way he conducted himself in the interview process. We're really glad he's with the Phillies."
 
While initially disappointed to not get the manager's job, Wathan last week said he was eager to continue his work with the organization.
 
"I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things," he said. "I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it."
 
Wathan's departure from the Triple A manager's post means the Phillies have an opening at that level.
 
Kapler and Klentak still have several more hires to make for the staff. At the news conference to announce his hiring last week, Kapler said he wanted to build a diverse coaching staff.
 
"I don't want seven people in the dugout who think just like me," he said. "I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. So I'd say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that's a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff."

Phillies hire Sam Fuld, Ben Werthan to front office roles

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USA Today Images

Phillies hire Sam Fuld, Ben Werthan to front office roles

The Phillies continued to retool the front office Friday with two hirings. 

Former major league outfielder Sam Fuld will join the team as major league player information coordinator, while Ben Werthan will serve in the same role in the minors.

Fuld, 35, played parts of eight seasons with four different teams, last appearing in the majors with the Oakland A's in 2015. In 599 career games, Fuld posted a .227 career batting average with a .307 on-base percentage. 

Werthan, 31, served as the Orioles' advance scouting coordinator for the past six years, leading the team's advance scouting process. He previously held internships with the Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds.

Both new hires will "help integrate the use of information in all areas of on-field performance and make recommendations regarding the most effective areas of future research analysis," the Phillies announced in a press release. 

The moves continue the Phillies' trend towards analytics, something that general manager Matt Klentak has expanded upon since his arrival in 2015. New manager Gabe Kapler is also deeply rooted in analytics as the Phillies move to a new-school thought process. 

"He has a unique ability to connect with people and I think that bodes very well for our young roster," Klentak said of Kapler during his introductory press conference Thursday. He's a progressive thinker. Look at the teams (Indians, Cubs, Dodgers, Astros) that competed in the last two World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. That's where the Phillies need to head and Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future."