Phillies GM Matt Klentak maintains a conservative approach to MLB trade deadline

Phillies GM Matt Klentak maintains a conservative approach to MLB trade deadline

DETROIT — Big trade? Little trade? No trade?

Eight days before the trade deadline, what will the Phillies do?

Well, if you’re the wagering type, don’t bet on the team making no deals.

But don’t bet on a big trade, either.

Though he did not definitively spell out a strategy for the final week before the deadline, general manager Matt Klentak on Tuesday indicated that the team’s place in the standings could result in a conservative approach to the deadline.

“We’re legitimately looking for opportunities,” Klentak said before the Phillies-Tigers game at Comerica Park.

“I think the big reality that we need to recognize is that we’re 7½ games out of the division race. We’re a half-game out of the wild-card race, which puts us squarely in the mix for the playoffs. But I think when you’re 7½ games behind in your division, that’s going to lend itself to a slightly different approach than when you’re 7½ games up in your division.”

Klentak pointed to the 2007 and 2008 Phillies. In 2007, the Phils were still riding a 14-year playoff drought at the trade deadline. Though the Phils won the World Series in 2008, they were not seen as a World Series contender at the trade deadline.

Both of those teams made modest acquisitions at the deadline. It wasn’t until the Phils were slam-dunk World Series contenders in 2009 and beyond that they made headline-grabbing deadline deals for Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt, all potential finishing pieces in a championship drive.

In 2008, pitcher Joe Blanton, the classic marginal upgrade, was the team’s big acquisition.

Sounds like the Phils will have a similar approach leading up to this deadline.

“I think in a lot of respects, your record at the deadline and your proximity to the playoffs will dictate what you do,” Klentak said.

A decade ago, the wild-card team played in a division series. Now, wild-card teams play in a one-game playoff. That affects a team’s thinking when deciding whether or not to part with top young talent in a deal.

“We have to recognize where we are and we have to make moves that are appropriate,” Klentak said. “We’re going to continue to push. We’re going to continue to try. We wouldn’t have made the moves that we’ve made in recent days if we weren’t doing that. But as I have said to you before and I know (manager) Gabe Kapler has said this before, for this team to get where we want to go, the core players on this roster need to perform well. And that’s true of any team. Teams that do well have their core players perform well. We have the talent on the field to do that. Whether we get hot and pull that off in the next two months remains to be seen.”

The Phillies have many holes. They could use a bat. They could really use a back-end reliever and a quality starting pitcher or two.

Many teams are in similar situations.

The prices for pitching upgrades are exorbitant.

The Phillies do not have a deep farm system, but they have a handful of quality prospects, led by pitchers Spencer Howard, Adonis Medina and Francisco Morales. They also have a few quality position prospects, led by third baseman Alec Bohm.

Selling teams want players like this.

The Phillies will be protective of these guys. If they were in first place and on a fast track to the World Series, they’d probably part with one or two of these players to have a parade. But in their current state …

“I feel like our organization has enough talent that we can bid on the top names on the market,” Klentak said. “Whether we choose to go down that road or not remains to be seen. It's really about building an organization that can sustain its competitiveness for a long period of time. In order to do that, we have to preserve young talent. There are times when it makes sense to cash in young talent for veteran players. But you can't do that too often or your well will run dry and you'll be forced to tackle another rebuild at some point, and that's not something that our owners or our front office have an appetite for.”

Phillies fans saw the club add J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper in the offseason. Many would like a similar big score at the trade deadline.

Klentak was asked how he believed a conservative approach would sit with fans.

“I think our fans are very knowledgeable and will understand the reasons behind what we do or what we don't do,” he said. “On opening day, the Phillies were projected to win, in terms of number of games, something in the 80s. As we sit here today, we are projected to win something in the 80s. And that is without Andrew McCutchen for four months of this season. That's with the better part of a major-league bullpen on the disabled list and with some players that have not performed to their historical standards.

“There have certainly been ups and downs for the first four months of the season, and we've all seen that. Some of the downs have been very frustrating, some of the ups have been very exciting. But the notion that this team has performed wildly below expectations, I don't think is true. I wish we were better. Certainly we've left some wins on the table that we've felt like we could've had. But it's the end of July, we're a half-game out of the wild card, and we're in a position to explore the trade market. We're competitive. You're not going to run away with it every single year. The Boston Red Sox that went pole to pole last year and cruised through the playoffs. That rarely happens in sports. Right now, we are where we are. We have 62 games remaining, and we're going to have to play as well as we possibly can for the next 62 to put you in the October mix.”

Klentak said he has been on the phone pretty much nonstop talking to teams about every available player there is. He said the team’s approach to the deadline could change with one phone call, meaning a significant deal could become more likely if prices come down. Sometimes that happens closer to the deadline.

“As a general rule people respond to deadlines and there’s typically more activity as we get closer to the 31st,” he said. “That doesn’t mean a trade can’t happen now or in the next few days. But we have deadlines for a reason and they typically work.”

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National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

National League dominates MLB fan loyalty rankings, Phillies land in Top 10

Will baseball's 60-game return have enough oomph to keep fans interested? It's a question that scares some of the game's biggest names, but I have no doubt Phillies fans will be supporting their team in late July.

And according to a new ranking of MLB fans' loyalty, the Phils will probably fare better than most.

The new Forbes ranking, released Wednesday, attempts to rank each fanbase by its respective loyalty, a tall task. The ranking factors in things like local TV ratings, stadium attendance, ticket demand, merch sales, and social media reach, then adjusts for local population. 

It's an imperfect science, but it's not a bad approach. And the Phillies finished in the Top 10, so I'll take it - even if they could've been higher.

Phillies fans rank No. 9 in loyalty among all 30 teams, according to Forbes, and sixth among seven NL teams in the Top 10. Here's the Forbes explanation:

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Sales of right fielder Bryce Harper’s jersey set a record for any sport for any player during the first 24 hours after his signing last year, helping to make the team’s merchandise among the league’s best-selling. But Phillies fans are a notoriously tough crowd. After witnessing a 6-5 win at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates in late September, Phillies fans booed Harper and the team for not winning by more, prompting former utility player Sean Rodriguez, whose home run won the game, to call them "entitled" in the press. Because of the backlash he received from fans, he apologized the next day for the use of the word—proving the fans are always right.

You'll be happy to know the Phillies finish atop the NL East, just one spot ahead of the Atlanta Braves. That's enjoyable.

I won't take issue with the Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees, and Dodgers representing the Top 5. Those are basically immovable. But after that, things get a bit more interesting.

The Brewers, Giants, and Indians all have loyal fanbases, but I don't know if I'd argue they're any more loyal than Phillies fans. Every fanbase ebbs and flows with its team's success, especially teams that aren't traditional powerhouses. When the Phils are on top of their game, South Philly is a borderline Top 5 place to watch a ball game.

I could see the Phils landing anywhere between No. 6 and No. 9 on this list. Personally, I'd put them above the Indians and Brewers - but, again, this is all imperfect science.

Earlier this year, Forbes released a ranking of the 10 most passionate sports fanbases in the country, and the Eagles finished No. 5 overall, behind four other NFL teams. Not a bad year for the area's fan reputation.

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is scheduled to begin July 23.

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Bobby Bonilla will be paid more in 2020 than a dozen notable Phillies

Bobby Bonilla will be paid more in 2020 than a dozen notable Phillies

Even in one of the strangest years in human history, Bobby Bonilla gets his money.

It's July 1, Bobby Bonilla Day, the date he gets his annual payment of just under $1.2 million from the Mets. The Mets will pay Bonilla that amount each year until 2035, at which point they'll have paid him about $30 million. The Mets came up with this deal in 2000 to avoid paying Bonilla a $5.9 million buyout in one lump sum.

Turned out to be an awful deal for the Mets, whose owners, The Wilpons, would go on to lose a ton of money in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons, two decades later, are trying to sell the team. The Mets have reportedly lost more than $60 million in each of the last two seasons and have hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. This was not the financial position the franchise foresaw when it deferred all that money to Bonilla.

The highest-paid player overall this season could also turn out to be a player who hasn't played in years: Prince Fielder. Fielder is owed $24 million in the final year of his contract with the Rangers, four years after he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Big-leaguers in 2020 are set to make 37% of their salaries since only 37% of the regular season (at most) will be played. For Bryce Harper, it means about $9.4 million instead of $25.4 million. The biggest salary in the majors in 2020 belongs to Mike Trout at $36 million, of which he'll make about $13.3 million.

Any major-leaguer who was set to earn less than $3.2 million this season will, in fact, make less from their contract than Bonilla in 2020. 

Here are some of the Phillies players who will earn less in 2020 salary than Bonilla:

Rhys Hoskins
Zach Eflin
Nick Pivetta
Adam Haseley
Roman Quinn
Adam Morgan
Tommy Hunter
Jose Alvarez
Andrew Knapp
Seranthony Dominguez
Ranger Suarez
Nick Williams

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