NEW YORK -- Phillies president Andy MacPhail held a state of the team chat with reporters in the dugout at Citi Field before Friday night's game against the Mets.
Here are the highlights:
On the season
"I’m disappointed like everybody else. I don’t think there’s any great surprise that I’m disappointed. I didn’t expect us to contend, quite honestly. I thought it was a stretch that we’d get to .500. The fact that we’ve struggled as much as we have is disappointing, particularly when we made some effort to avoid this very thing. We made some effort in terms of our payroll to sacrifice draft position in ’18, to bring some stabilizers in so we wouldn’t have to endure — our fans wouldn’t have to endure — the kind of start that we got off to. I’m hopeful things will get a little better for us in the second half.
"The other thing that I think about, as ugly as it’s been – and we’ve had some periods where it’s been pretty ugly – I don’t know that anything has materially changed in terms of where we are in the rebuild. The things that made people bullish about the Phillies going into the year are still as valid today as they were before we threw the first pitch. We’re still 30th out of 30 [payroll] commitments of all teams. We’re going to have almost $70 million rolling off the table next year, which gives (GM) Matt (Klentak) a lot of flexibility. Our farm system, when it’s evaluated by the media, which is an imperfect science really for any of us, but the last time I looked it was ranked between fifth and seventh. And I know that’s subjective, but if you look at it objectively we have the second-best winning percentage in baseball in the farm system. And Baseball America did a study at the beginning of the year, we had the second-youngest farm system, so we’re winning in the minor leagues and not doing it with mercenaries. I like the idea of how we’ve deployed our assets over the past few years.
"And then the last thing that I have to keep in mind for myself is that what this season has always been about, I mean right from the start, is trying to ascertain the long-term pieces. It’s like a movie. You see a movie and they’re trying to get the code. There are nine digits spinning. Every once in a while a code kicks in. We’re doing the very same thing. We’re trying to find the players for the future and we’ve got nine guys out there on the field. We’re trying to get them to kick in, and maybe right field Aaron Altherr, Cesar (Hernandez), you don’t know. But that’s what this season has been about. And even if the news you get isn’t as hopeful as you thought it would be — maybe you have more holes to fill than you thought — there’s a value in knowing that.
"The only way you're going to know it is by sending them out there to play. There is no other way to find out who’s going to be part of your long-term future and who isn’t unless you roll them out there and let them play. It gets frustrating. You want to see new faces. I am subject to the same thing. But you have to stay objective. And when Nick Williams takes the field tonight that’s going to be the ninth player that makes his major-league debut with the Phillies this year, and we’re not halfway through the season. We’re introducing the new faces we thought. I wish our record was better. I wish, frankly, we tightened things up occasionally on the field, I wish we played a little better, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to pick it up in the second half."
Will the bad record equal more prospects coming up?
"I think it’s a case-by-case situation. Nick is going to make his debut because Howie (Kendrick) goes on the DL. I think Matt is going to evaluate those things with Pete (Mackanin) as we move along."
On the veteran additions
"I know that there’s a lot of attention that gets paid to that. But as an old GM, this is where being an old GM is helpful, if you’re fishing in one-year, free-agent waters you’re not going to bat 1.000. The fact that we brought in like five guys and (Pat) Neshek and Kendrick have been outstanding, (Daniel) Nava has given us everything that you could hope and expect, and (Michael) Saunders and (Clay) Buchholz weren’t able to produce for us. The fact that it’s a percentage doesn’t come as a great surprise to me. You’re not going to bat 1.000."
Can Neshek bring value in a trade?
"I don’t know how he can throw any better. Also, the one thing that he brings you is a different look. I’ve been with enough managers to know that they’re always looking for that different look in the bullpen over the course of the year. Again, clubs are pretty stingy with their prospects, though. The best way to make a good trade is to find a motivated buyer, so that’s going to be Matt’s job. Find a motivated buyer."
As a former GM, would Kendrick's two trips to the DL give you pause about acquiring him?
"If I wanted a professional hitter, I sure wouldn't have any pause."
On the timing of the releases of Saunders and Jeanmar Gomez
"I think Matt felt they'd gotten enough time and they probably weren't part of the 2018 equation, so let's find out more about others. I think it's as simple as that."
On the difficulties of this season
"Well, this year has been harder than I thought it was going to be. I will tell you the truth: We're having the year this year that I thought we were going to have last year. I was really prepared for '16 to be dreadful because we had moved everything. When you really want to target the rebuild, the rebuild started in my mind on July 30, 2015. Everything went over the side: (Cole) Hamels, (Jonathan) Papelbon, (Ben) Revere. You moved everything. That's when you stop trying to have a foot in both pieces of the water. That's when the rebuild starts. I'm thinking, 'Hoo, boy, '16 might really be tough.' But Gomez was great for us. He saved  games. He brought stability at the end. That worked out great. So we're having the year this year that I thought we were going to have last year."
When can this team contend?
"People have been trying to ask that question. … You are so not going to get an answer on that. But I will say that it does give me a good opportunity — these rebuilding programs now, it's different from when I started. When I started, you guys would ask, 'Is this going to work? Is the rebuild going to work?' You don't ask that question anymore. You ask when it's going to work. Because it's documented. Who's gone through this that hasn't been rewarded in the postseason?"
Are you farther away than you thought?
"We're going to find out by the end of the year. We've got a lot of unknowns. Nine guys have made their debuts. We've got a lot of baseball to play.
"I'll answer one other thing on that subject. For me, and I'm not in the baseball operations, you see flashes of it. You see flashes. You see (Nick) Pivetta go out there and see a frontline guy. They have a hard time sustaining. You get consistency through repetition and experience and confidence. Whether they hold it or not, you're going to have to run them out there."
On if the starting pitching's there and where it stands
"You never have enough. I have to tell you, as an organization, we understand the importance of starting pitching. Without trying to be nasty about it, there was a period where the rotation was Sean O'Sullivan, Jerome Williams, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia. There was an all-points bulletin out for as much as young starting pitching as you're going to get. Some of it's going to pan out, some of it's not. But we needed to do everything we could to bring in as many bodies in there with good arms and see what can happen. It's something that's going to continue."
With money coming off the books, will the Phils be active on the free-agent market for something other than one-year stabilizers — i.e., a big-ticket player — this winter?
"I think we are right now, if Matt sees something he thinks is part of the long-term picture and feels it's a hole we need to fill or that we don't have internal answers — I absolutely see that. The interesting thing to me, again, is that we've got so many guys that are well thought of at the upper levels of the farm system, you're almost obligated to let them come up here and see how close they are. You've got Williams and (Roman) Quinn, (Dylan) Cozens, (Scott) Kingery, (Rhys) Hoskins, (J.P.) Crawford, (Jorge) Alfaro. (Tom) Eshelman is throwing well at Triple A. To find out what you need, that's why you've had nine guys that have made their debut this year, you need to let them play and sort out who's who going forward and then try to fill in those things you don't have internally externally."
On what he's seen from Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera
"I would say they have flashes. Again, I don't want to get too deep into the baseball ops stuff. I see some encouraging things with Maikel in terms of hitting the ball to the other side, being a little more selective, walk rate up, strikeout rate down. If you believe in all the Statcast stuff about exit velocity and stuff, there are a lot of positive signs there. This is why we have more than half the season to play. We have to find those answers.
On if he'd be surprised if Klentak traded a young guy like Tommy Joseph or Hernandez
"His job is to not limit — he needs to keep a wide spectrum, wide horizon and any opportunity that makes sense for us going forward, he should explore.
There are no untouchables?
"I would say that's pretty safe.
At any level?
"We'll see. I think you've got to stay wide open to all kinds of different things."