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Baseball source: ‘John Middleton wrestles with some of the simplest decisions’ | Extra Innings

General manager Matt Klentak's job status remains unresolved as Middleton ponders his fate.

Phillies managing partner John Middleton could soon make a decision on general manager Matt Klentak's job status.
Phillies managing partner John Middleton could soon make a decision on general manager Matt Klentak's job status.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

As a second day passed without a resolution on Matt Klentak’s status as the team’s general manager, a baseball source with close ties to a lot of people in the Phillies organization gave a glum description of the mood at One Citizens Bank Way.

“There are a bunch of nervous employees in Philly, and it sounds like it is imminent that a GM change will be made,” the source said in a text Tuesday night. Phillies managing partner John Middleton, the source added, "wrestles with some of the simplest decisions.”

The employees are nervous because it appears as if layoffs are imminent after a letter to full-time employees Tuesday that offered a larger buyout package than the one they received two weeks ago. The Phillies are trying to avert as many layoffs as possible through their voluntary separation program.

“I was told they have way too many people after building up the analytics department,” the source said.

The source also believes that Middleton should part ways with Klentak.

“They have the ingredients there to win,” he said. “They just need to get the right guy in place.”

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Bringing back Didi Gregorius also vital for Phillies

It’s a well-known fact that Bryce Harper is the campaign manager for the movement to re-sign catcher J.T. Realmuto. His exact words after Sunday’s season finale were strong and unmistakable.

“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year,” Harper said. “Plain and simple. He’s the best catcher in baseball. He’s the best-hitting catcher in baseball. Anybody that’s the best at their position, hitting and fielding, needs to be signed, and that’s J.T. Realmuto.”

Impossible to argue against that logic, but bringing back Didi Gregorius also needs to be a top priority, because he was by far the best shortstop the Phillies have had since Jimmy Rollins was in his prime. Gregorius, who will turn 31 in February, led the Phillies with 40 RBIs and was one of eight big-league shortstops to hit at least 10 home runs. His .345 average with runners in scoring position was second on the team only to rookie Alec Bohm, who led all of baseball with a .452 average.

Gregorius was also a plus defender at shortstop in his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“Didi had a great year for us,” Harper said. “I think he’s proven himself as a big-league shortstop that can fit into our lineup and be a great player for us. I said to him, ‘I’m very happy for you. I’m very proud of you. You bet on yourself on a one-year deal. You came into Philly, and you did your job.' He’s going to have teams lining up to sign him next year. I can’t wait to see what we do or what another team does for him.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of deal Gregorius lands on the free-agent market after being paid $14 million on a one-year contract with the Phillies this season. It will also be interesting to see if the Phillies are willing to turn over the shortstop duties to 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott, who will be 23 next week but has never played above rookie ball at Williamsport. Stott did spend this season at the Phillies' alternative training camp at Lehigh Valley playing against guys with big-league and advanced minor-league experience.

The rundown

My favorite Matt Breen story of the season focused on pitcher JoJo Romero’s having to make his major-league debut without his parents in attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among Scott Lauber’s many great stories this season was this one about how scout Brad Holland got to spend some extra time with Alec Bohm in 2018 before the Phillies used the third overall pick in the draft on him.

One of my own favorite stories to write this season was looking back at former scouting director Mike Arbuckle’s drafts during his 16 years in Philadelphia. Arbuckle, who is retiring from his role with the Kansas City Royals after 40 years in baseball, had quite a bit of success.

Important dates

Today: Four National League wild-card series begin, and four AL wild-card elimination games are played.

Oct. 5: Start of American League division series.

Oct. 6: Start of National League division series.

Oct. 20: Game 1 of the World Series.

April 1, 2021: Opening day vs. Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.

Stat of the day

If the 2019 season had ended after 60 games and had eight playoff teams in each league, the Phillies would have qualified as the No. 3 seed and won the NL East with a 33-27 record. They would not, however, have been part of an eight-team playoff field at the end of the 162-game season because their 81-81 record was ninth best in the National League.

The Phillies would have also been a playoff team after 60 games in 2018 with a 32-28 record that would have made them a seventh-seeded wild-card qualifier. Again, however, they would not have qualified after 162 games because their 80-82 final record placed them 10th in the National League.

One final thing: The Phillies will have the 13th overall pick in the 2021 draft.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.

Question: The talk shows are all over Klentak for his alleged incompetence. Granted, the bullpen is atrocious, but if Klentak could have found decent pitching, would he not have acquired some? He tried. Let us not fail to recognize who he did acquire: Andrew M, Segura, Gregorius, J.T., Wheeler, Harper, Joe Girardi, etc.

Doesn’t he deserve credit for these players?

— Harmon S., via email

Answer: Thanks for reading, Harmon. You are one of the few readers who have come out in support of Matt Klentak, and you make some decent points about the players he has brought in. I would agree that the signings of Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius and Zack Wheeler were all good. The Andrew McCutchen signing has also been OK, although he has clearly lost a step in the outfield. The Jean Segura trade is a difficult one to analyze because the Phillies gave up both J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana for him. That said, I still think Segura is a valuable player. The Klentak regime also deserves credit for the drafting of Alec Bohm.

That said, Klentak’s overall record — zero postseason and zero winning seasons in five years — is impossible to defend, and his inability to build a bullpen was the biggest reason why in 2020. So, Harmon, we’ve laid out some of the pros and cons for John Middleton. Now let’s hope he can come to a decision soon.