The Phillies’ offseason has arrived — and a lot sooner than anyone expected back in early August when the club was 15 games over .500 and riding high with the second-best record in the National League.
The team’s collapse — it lost 33 of the final 49 games en route to a sixth straight losing season — has been well-documented.
“There’s no other way to say it, the last six weeks have been awful,” general manager Matt Klentak said the other day in Denver. “It’s been miserable for just about everybody up and down the organization.”
So what’s next?
The Phillies have been focused on this offseason ever since Klentak was handed the baton to the team’s rebuild in late October 2015. The goal was to make progress in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and be ready to strike when one of the best free-agent classes ever hit the market just as Klentak’s three-year contract was coming up for review.
Despite the Phillies’ horrendous finish, there have probably been enough areas of overall progress — the team improved by 14 wins this season — to earn Klentak more time to turn this team into a winner.
How much more time?
That’s something club president Andy MacPhail will probably be asked when he speaks with reporters Tuesday. Klentak is scheduled to speak with reporters Monday.
Klentak is levelheaded and operates with a calm exterior. But he is too smart not to know the clock is ticking on him. He sees the reflection of those empty blue seats. He knows how badly owner John Middleton wants to win. He knows that his biggest decision to date as Phillies GM, the hiring of Gabe Kapler as manager, remains the source of much skepticism locally and throughout the game.
But Klentak remains resolute — and ready for a most important offseason. He has promised changes and they will go beyond free-agent additions, though adding a Bryce Harper, a Manny Machado or a Patrick Corbin would overshadow anything else.
“I'm not going to make decisions because of what they mean to me for my job security,” Klentak said. “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.”
Though the Phillies rebuild started before Klentak arrived, he views it as coinciding with his tenure. That leaves the Phillies three years in. Making the playoffs next season would fit the blueprint Klentak drew up when he arrived.
“I hesitate to use the word, 'rebuild' now because we're obviously a much more competitive team and our offseason behavior should suggest the same,” he said. “But in terms of our return to the playoffs, we are still very much on track.”
Will the Phillies get there in 2019?
Much of that will be determined by Klentak’s work this offseason. His fourth and most important winter as Phillies GM has arrived.