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Phillies headed for another losing season in 2017, but don't blame Klentak
by Scott Butler 12/28/16

Phillies

I'm a bit surprised by the number of people with bitterness towards the Phillies for doing very little to improve the club in 2017. Not that I can blame them. By making no major moves - and no, trading for slowest working pitcher on Mother Earth Clay Buchholz does not count as a major move - the Phillies are all but guaranteed to be sitting on their couches in October for their sixth straight non-winning season. 

Don’t blame Klentak for that. Save your daggers for Ruben Amaro and David Montgomery for holding onto the fleeting memory of the 2008 parade and bleeding their stars of any talent left in their aging bodies.

With a little bit of foresight, Amaro and company could have been ultra balsy and started their rebuild in 2012 with monster returns for Halladay, Lee, or Hamels through trades. Howard had the Achilles thing, but Pence, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz all would have brought back better returns. That would have taken some sort of stones though, especially considering Lee and Halladay both came here with an understanding the Phillies would compete for championships.

Amaro did trade Hunter Pence in 2012, as well as Shane Victorino (who was headed to free agency anyway), but after finishing the season .500 with an aging roster, they should have done more. The rest of the 2008 core still remained, as well as Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee (Halladay was already done).

Things changed from could trade to should trade in 2013.

It was downright egregious that no big trades went down in 2014.

Here's what the Phillies received for some of their big players who they should have traded sooner:

Ryan Howard: Nothing

Roy Halladay: Nothing

Cliff Lee: Nothing

Chase Utley: John Richy and Darnell Sweeney (in other words, nothing)

Carlos Ruiz: Tommy Bergjans, A.J. Ellis, Joey Curletta (again, nothing)

Jimmy Rollins: Tom Windle and Zach Eflin (decent return actually)

My intention is not to open old wounds here. Rather, it is to point out that the current situation is not a reflection on the MacPhail/Klentak regime being too passive. The Phillies were put in a position in which they had a bad farm system and no quality players left to trade, aside from Hamels.

The Phillies aren’t in a position right now to start signing free agents, and money is not the reason.

2017 is all about not blocking the progress of players like Quinn and Williams and Alfaro and Crawford and any one of their young pitchers. Of course, adding Clay Buchholz did block their young starters, but teams use seven starters in a season at the very least, so the youngsters will still get their chances.

Let’s say the Phillies just signed Dexter Fowler, who would look nice in a Phillies uniform and would drastically improve the outfield. Then what about Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr? Do the Phillies stash them in the minors while Fowler helps the Phillies win 75 games instead 70? And what about 2018 when Dylan Cozens might be ready? And 2019 when Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak are ready? It offers the Phillies no real benefit to sign a player just to appease fans. A Dexter Fowler will always be available in free agency, so spend your cash when it actually helps you.

Think of it this way: having Jim Thome and Ryan Howard playing the same position at the same time created a problem. The Phillies kept Howard in the minors too long because Thome blocked him in the majors. And when they finally decided to trade Thome, they probably earned pennies on the dollar since teams knew the Phillies were stuck. It’s obviously a good problem to have, but it’s one to avoid if there are better options.

Money is not a problem right now for the Phillies, who have only one player on the books beyond this season (Odubel Herrera). But money might become tight in five years when Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Hector Neris, Vince Velasquez, and plenty of others start making money. The Phillies have deep pockets, but they still have a budget, and it's at times like those when teams desperately need players still making close to the minimum - players like Quinn or Randolph or Moniak. Instead, the Phillies might be saddled with an aging and less productive Fowler who limits their financial flexibility.

Every free agent Matt Klentak allows to sign elsewhere is with situations like the one presented above in mind. He is turning his back on 2017 and that is exactly what he should do. He is doing his best to improve his club in 2017 - Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, Joaquino Benoit, and Pat Neshek are examples - without hurting the team long-term.

2017 doesn't matter, and that's the way it should be.

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