Phillies

GM Matt Klentak: Phillies made a strong run at Manny Machado, will continue to seek upgrades

GM Matt Klentak: Phillies made a strong run at Manny Machado, will continue to seek upgrades

The Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park on Friday. Manny Machado was not in their clubhouse.

A drama that consumed much of the All-Star break ended when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Machado, beating out the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers.

“We made a pretty strong run at it,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The Phillies built their offer around pitching prospects, but Klentak would not reveal the names of the players that were on the table.

Six weeks ago, the Phillies were only on the periphery of the Machado sweepstakes as they were reluctant to part with young talent for a player who could become a free agent at season's end.

Phillies players forced the front office to pursue Machado by staying in the NL East race throughout a June schedule loaded with tough opponents and eventually moving into first place as the All-Star break approached. The Phillies entered Friday night leading the division by a half-game over Atlanta.

“Being active in the rental market is not the best place to be,” Klentak said. “But we felt in this particular case that this player represented a pretty unique opportunity for us and that’s why we did get aggressive.

“I would be surprised if we strongly pursue rentals, high-priced rentals, in the future. It’s just not a good market to be in, but every once in a while it does make sense to pursue something like that. We’re always going to explore opportunities and we explored that one right down to the very end.”

Klentak is still actively looking to upgrade the roster for the stretch run.

“If I had to bet, I would guess we would make a move between now and July 31,” he said.

It is still possible that the Phillies could trade for a player scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, but not one that would cost the level of prospects that Machado would have. The Phillies are known to have interest in Minnesota infielder Eduardo Escobar and Baltimore closer Zach Britton. Both will be free agents this winter.

Escobar leads the majors with 35 doubles and has an .834 OPS. He can play third base and shortstop. If the Phillies traded for him, they could use him at shortstop and shift Scott Kingery to a super-utility role. Third baseman Maikel Franco, on the trading block not long ago, may have saved himself, at least until the end to of the season, by hitting .352 with a 1.106 OPS in 22 games leading up to the break.

“What Maikel is doing right now and what he has shown in the couple weeks leading up to the break is very reminiscent of what he did in 2015, and it’s a heck of a lot better than what he had done in ‘16 and ’17,” Klentak said. “And he’s still 25 years old. So that’s what makes the trade deadline process difficult is trying to not only evaluate what’s available outside, but also to evaluate what you have internally.”

The Phillies pursued Britton as part of a package for Machado. They remain high on the lefty. Adding him would help the Phillies to shorten games.

The Phillies, according to sources, have shown interest in lefty starter J.A. Happ. In a perfect world, however, Klentak said the Phillies would not seek a starting pitcher before the deadline.

“Right now starting pitching has been the strength of our team this year," he said. "We’re very encouraged about not only the five here but also what we have in Triple A, and we’re hopeful that that’s going to mean that we can stay out of the starting pitcher trade market at the deadline because, if you can avoid it, that is definitely a market to avoid.”

The Phillies have long coveted Machado. The in-season window for acquiring him has passed. The team is expected to go hard after him in the offseason when he will be a free agent and the price will be money and not prospects. Of course, Klentak could not comment on that possibility because Machado is someone else’s player and that would be tampering.

“I won’t go there,” Klentak said with a laugh.

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Virus has Phillies in holding pattern with J.T. Realmuto and Seranthony Dominguez

Virus has Phillies in holding pattern with J.T. Realmuto and Seranthony Dominguez

Because of the coronavirus health crisis and the delay in starting the Major League Baseball season, the Phillies remain in a holding pattern on a couple of significant baseball matters, general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday.

It's still unclear whether reliever Seranthony Dominguez will opt to have his injured right elbow surgically repaired. The health crisis has prevented Dominguez from getting a second opinion from orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. Dominguez is currently with family in his native Dominican Republic.

"Medicine is not always black and white," Klentak said. "There's a possibility it may head down that (surgical) road, but until he gets the second opinion, we have no firm declaration. For a lot of players, surgery is a last option, particularly when the surgery keeps you out as long as Tommy John surgery does. Before we go down that road, we want to make sure everyone is in agreement on what the right course of action is."

Dominguez saw Andrews shortly after injuring his elbow in early June last season. Surgery was not recommended at that time, but Dominguez missed the remainder of the season. He had a setback in August and again in March and all signs point to his needing surgery. Andrews would be a likely person to handle the surgery, but he is not seeing patients at the moment because of the health crisis.

Surgery, whenever it happens, would sideline Dominguez for more than a year.

The other matter currently on hold involves All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and the team's effort to sign him to a contract extension before he becomes a free agent in the fall. The two sides had begun negotiations in February, but those talks, by mandate from Major League Baseball, are now on hold because of the health crisis.

Could the freeze on negotiations and the uncertainty of whether or not there will be a 2020 season hurt the Phillies in their quest to keep Realmuto off the free-agent market?

"Whenever we resume playing, we'll see what the circumstances are and re-engage," Klentak said. "Nobody can predict what the parameters will be at that point or what will happen, but I think everyone knows we love J.T. and he's a player we'd love to have for the long haul."

Thursday would have been the Phillies' home opener. They had been scheduled to play their first seven games on the road before MLB suspended action on March 12 and encouraged players to head home. Training facilities have subsequently been closed except to a handful of players who are rehabilitating from injuries. 

MLB still hopes to have a season in some form, but nothing is certain. Like the rest of the world, it is at the mercy of the virus.

"I don't have enough information to know what's going to happen and I'm not sure anyone does," Klentak said. "What I am confident about is owners, players, front offices, fans, media, everybody is aligned in wanting to play baseball as quickly as we can. When all parties are as aligned as that, it gives me confidence that we'll get back as soon as we can get back. But I'm not in a position to make any predictions as to when that might happen.

"We'll do the best we can in the interim to prepare for the season. If it's a traditional season, we'll be prepared. If it's a modified season, we'll be prepared. I have a lot of confidence in league operations."

A resumed spring training would be required before any type of regular season, but Klentak would not speculate on what that might look like.

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Layoffs? Pay cuts? Phillies hope to avoid measures like that with full-time staff

Layoffs? Pay cuts? Phillies hope to avoid measures like that with full-time staff

The suspension of the Major League Baseball season due to the coronavirus health crisis has already hurt the revenues of all teams and will continue to do so as long as the game is shut down.

This has some people who work for teams all over baseball concerned about their jobs. 

Every MLB team, according to sources, has informed its full-time employees that business will run as usual through the end of April at which point teams will assess their respective situations.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak on Thursday was asked about the potential for layoffs or salary cuts within the organization.

"That's a situation that is not unique to baseball, unfortunately," Klentak said. "A lot of decisions will be made above my pay grade, obviously. For all of us, we are hopeful that we'll resume and not have to take measures like that. We trust that the Phillies are owned and run by very good people — and have been for a long time. Everybody is trying to do the best thing right now."

Layoffs and salary cuts were a big issue during the work stoppage in 1994-95. Some teams did cut full-time staff and pay. The Phillies did not.

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