There’s a barbershop near my home that offers haircuts for 10 bucks -- a bargain, if I’ve ever heard one. I asked my 30-year-old son recently whether he had ever been there, and he scoffed at the suggestion.
“Have you read the reviews of the place?” he asked.
I had not.
“One said, ‘You get what you pay for,’ ” my son said.
This brings us to the subject of the 2019 Phillies and the Major League Baseball trade deadline. Forty-five minutes after the trade market closed for business, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was asked whether he had had any conversations for some of the elite players that were dealt to other teams.
“We explored all that, and obviously we got what we got,” Klentak said. “Today was the culmination of two months of roster building.”
As culminations go, the Phillies’ acquisition of Pittsburgh reserve outfielder Corey Dickerson did not create quite the same buzz as Houston getting pitcher Zach Greinke from Arizona, the Chicago Cubs getting outfielder Nicholas Castellanos from Detroit, or Atlanta getting closer Shane Greene from Detroit and reliever Mark Melancon from San Francisco.
In Klentak’s view, he has been building roster depth for two months, starting with the June 2 acquisition of Jay Bruce for minor-leaguer Jake Scheiner.
Since then, the Phillies have:
June 13: Purchased utility man Brad Miller from the New York Yankees, signed pitcher John Curtiss as a minor-league free agent, and signed Fernando Salas as a minor-league free agent.
July 15: Signed outfielder Logan Morrison as a minor-league free agent.
July 20: Purchased reliever Mike Morin from Minnesota.
July 21: Signed pitcher Drew Smyly as a free agent.
July 27: Purchased infielder Jose Pirela from San Diego.
July 29: Traded minor-league catcher Austin Bossart to the New York Mets for pitcher Jason Vargas and cash.
July 30: Signed free-agent pitcher Blake Parker.
That’s 11 transactions, and only twice did the Phillies actually give up a minor-leaguer to get a player in return. The cash expenditures also were likely modest by MLB standards. To be sure, the Phillies opted for the 10-dollar haircut in season after their high-end makeover during the offseason.
When the trade deadline was over, Klentak repeated his mantra that started in June.
“You’ve heard me say this before, but for this team to accomplish what it wants to accomplish, we’re going to need the stars in that room to carry us,” Klentak said. “We have the talent. We had a very splashy offseason. We brought in a lot of talent, and those guys are going to have to do what they do to push us into October.”
Most agree that the group Klentak is talking about will have to do more than they’ve done so far to make that happen. The question is this: Could the general manager have done more to help them?
Bruce, Miller, and Smyly have given the Phillies some valuable contributions since joining the team. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether the starting pitching, with the modest additions of Smyly and Vargas, is good enough. There’s no denying that Klentak and his team of decision-makers overestimated what they had in the pitching department before the start of the season.
There’s also no denying that the general manager, with his team trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by a week’s worth of games, opted to play it safe with his prospects.
“There was no player out there that we didn’t have the talent to acquire,” Klentak said.
It’s easy to say that, but much harder to pull the trigger on a big-time deal. I’m not sure the Phillies could have matched the four-player minor-league package Houston sent to Arizona for Greinke, but it would have been nice if they could have given up a little less in the form of players by paying more of the money that Greinke is due in the next two years. Arizona will pay $24 million of the roughly $80 million the six-time All-Star pitcher is owed through the 2021 season. Could the Phillies have paid it all and acquired Greinke?
The excitement level at Citizens Bank Park would have risen to Bryce Harper-acquisition proportions if Klentak could have pulled off that deal. The Phillies definitely had the minor-league talent to match the offer that got Marcus Stroman for the New York Mets on Sunday. Maybe they would have had to give up a Mickey Moniak and an Adonis Medina. It would have been worth it.