NASHVILLE - Matt Klentak is in his first year as general manager of the Phillies. But he is a veteran of the Winter Meetings, a conclave of baseball figures from clubhouse attendants to team presidents. And the one thing Klentak said he has learned at the Winter Meetings is that trades "can come together pretty quickly."
One of those moves could be Klentak's deal of Phillies closer Ken Giles, who is shaping up to be one of the most attractive relief pitchers on the market after Los Angeles acquired Aroldis Chapman from Cincinnati. Houston and the Chicago Cubs are two of the teams that have reportedly talked to the Phillies about Giles.
Klentak said there's a lot of interest, but nothing is imminent. But, as he knows, things at the Opryland Resort can happen fast.
"We like Ken Giles. We want Ken Giles on our team. We want more players like Ken Giles," Klentak said. "But we also have to be opportunistic when opportunities present themselves to make us better in both the short and long term. And we're going to explore that and other things while we're here."
Giles struck out 81 batters last season in 70 innings. The righthander used his 100-m.p.h. fastball and devastating slider to convert 15 saves after the Phillies sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington.
The market for closers has dried up in recent days, which could give the Phillies some leverage over a team that is desperate to fill their ninth-inning role. Darren O'Day re-signed with Baltimore on Sunday and Chapman was traded Monday. Papelbon is available via trade, as could be Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon. Giles, unlike Papelbon and Melancon, comes with five seasons of organizational control. The 25-year-old will not become a free agent until 2021.
"There's a lot of interest in him because he's good. And because he's young and because he's cheap," Klentak said. "We'll see. I don't know how that's going to shake out. If he's with us we'll be very happy he's still with us."
Klentak meets Howard
Klentak and Ryan Howard met for the first time last month. Howard was in Philadelphia before Thanksgiving for a charity event. Klentak, the first-year Phillies general manager, arranged to meet Howard and his agent at Citizens Bank Park.
The meeting lasted roughly an hour. And Klentak said the mood was positive. He said Howard is energized about next year, despite the possibility that the 36-year-old could platoon at first base.
"I think honesty helps a lot. Just laying the cards on the table and talking about the realities of our team and him and everything about him," Klentak said. "What he's been through with the Phillies, both good and bad. I think just sort of talking that through on a personal level is refreshing. Again, it was very positive."
Manager Pete Mackanin said he has not yet decided how he will use Howard this season. The two talked at the end of last season about Howard's struggles with lefthanded pitchers. Mackanin said he will wait until after Christmas to think more about the situation. He wants to tell Howard personally how he will use him.
"When I talked to him last year when he stopped playing, I gave him his reasons for not playing him and he said, 'I don't like it, but I get it,' " Mackanin said. "We went back and forth a little bit. He said 'I don't like what you're doing, but I understand it.' "