A year ago, the Phillies entered September at 10 games over .500 and only two games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Sunday night they entered September nearly two weeks worth of wins behind the first-place Braves and clinging to their wildcard lives.

But at least in one regard, general manager Matt Klentak still felt better about this team than he did about last year’s squad as it entered the regular season’s final month.

“We’re in a position to play meaningful games in September, as we were a year ago," Klentak said. “I think what I like about this year’s team is that it’s a team that’s built to compete not just this year, but it’s also a team that’s built to compete in future years. A lot of the players that we added -- [Bryce] Harper, [J.T.] Realmuto, [Jean] Segura -- these guys are in their 20s, still in their prime years, still under control for some time.”

Klentak also listed ace Aaron Nola, an improved Scott Kingery, and first baseman Rhys Hoskins as players who figure to be around as the Phillies’ core well beyond this season.

Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak left, and Manager Gabe Kapler talk to media about firing their hitting coach John Mallee and hiring Charlie Manuel to replace him, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Tuesday, August 13, 2019
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak left, and Manager Gabe Kapler talk to media about firing their hitting coach John Mallee and hiring Charlie Manuel to replace him, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Tuesday, August 13, 2019

“All of these players are going to be here for some time and, with all that said, we still have a lot of [payroll] flexibility this coming winter to address other areas,” the general manager said. "Now, I don’t know that we have another $330 million contract up our sleeve, but we certainly have the flexibility to be aggressive and make additions to plug the holes we have. We’ve talked for years about opening a window that extends a long period of time. We don’t just want to spike for a single year and then restart the rebuild. The goal has been to be competitive for a long stretch.

“Failing to reach October baseball last year was disappointing, but it certainly was a competitive season for us and this year we’re competing through the month of September and I hope we play in October. If not, we’re going to dedicate ourselves to improving the club again this offseason and put forward our best effort for next year.”

As Klentak kept talking, he realized he was entering territory he’d prefer to talk about after the season is over.

“I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that ... we still have some really important baseball games ahead of us this month,” he said. “It’s going to take a really impressive September run for us to overcome the Cubs and/or Washington. We all know that."