New Phillies GM Matt Klentak preaches a 'balanced approach'
Matt Klentak said it's "not entirely accurate" that the Phillies hired simply an "analytics guy" as their new general manager.
Matt Klentak had no trouble dispelling the notion that the Phillies hired solely an "analytics guy" as their new general manager. In his first day with his new organization, Klentak stressed balance as crucial to the team's ongoing rebuilding process.
"Teams that lean too far in one direction, whether it's analytics or scouting or free agency or whatever it may be, those are teams that tend to get in trouble," he said. "I want to make sure that we are looking at all avenues, all pieces of information, and [we] create a nice, balanced approach to player acquisition."
Klentak, introduced to his new city Monday through a news conference at Citizens Bank Park, could not offer a timetable for when he expected the Phillies to return to competitiveness. In his mind, the development of their players - many of whom are still percolating at the minor-league level - will dictate the length of the team's transition from rebuilders to perennial contenders.
"This game is not about the guys who wear the ties and sit up at the table. I know that," he said. "It's about the players. It's about the fans, and it's about winning. We will win as soon as humanly possible for us to win."
Klentak, who at 35 is the youngest of the 11 GMs in Phillies history, will work directly under new club president Andy MacPhail in building the team. The new leadership duo has the benefit of the No. 1 pick in June's amateur draft, the most bonus pool money with which to work in both the draft and on the international market, and top waiver-claim priority.
The Phillies are coming off a season in which they lost a major-league worst 99 games, the franchise's most since 1969. They traded franchise cornerstones in Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley and afforded younger players opportunities to play. The likes of Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola provided fans reason for optimism, but the team still has a ways to go before it returns to relevance.
MacPhail, hired in June to succeed Pat Gillick, chose Klentak to help lead the rebuilding process after interviewing what he deemed a "wide spectrum of candidates." (Out of respect for the process, MacPhail declined on Monday to identify an exact number of interviewees.)
Klentak, who spent the last four seasons as an assistant GM for the Los Angeles Angels, was MacPhail's top lieutenant with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008 to 2011. In listing his lengthy criterion for the hire, MacPhail said he needed a GM willing to disagree. Klentak showed in Baltimore he was not afraid to do that, MacPhail said.
As far as final say on personnel decisions, MacPhail said "it's important that [Klentak] has some autonomy and authority."
"And if it's done correctly, there isn't a decision that isn't made that is not sort of vetted on its way up," MacPhail added. "Any questions that need to be asked need to be asked before we get to the yes [or] no part. We work together. We've done it before. We made many transactions when we were in Baltimore - most of them good - and there's got to be a free flow of information."
Decisions regarding the 2016 roster loom for MacPhail and Klentak, who later Monday opened the Phillies' annual organizational meetings at the team's facility in Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies are not expected to be major players in free agency just yet, as they first wait for more of their presumed future core to matriculate at the major-league level.
As it stands, the Phillies are better stocked with high-caliber position-player prospects than pitching prospects.
"Not to call it a deficit, but if you can pitch, you have a chance to win every single night," Klentak said. "The New York Mets are demonstrating that right now. They're riding it all the way to the World Series and perhaps to a championship.
"If you can pitch, you have a chance. That will absolutely become an organizational focus for us."
In his opening statement Monday, Klentak stressed several key focal points for the organization moving forward.
A disciplined approach is needed in the front office, he said, as is everyone working together on the same page. He assured that the Phillies "will use every form of technology and information available to us to be at the forefront of information in this industry" - analytics are "a critical piece of the puzzle," he said later - and described creating a culture that best allows the players to succeed.
Then he came to his final point: winning.
"That's ultimately what this is all about," he said. "I know that. You know that. The fans of Philadelphia know that. That's why I'm here. I would not have left [Angels superstar] Mike Trout in his prime to come here if I didn't believe we could win. I promise you that. I look forward to contributing and helping this franchise get back to its winning ways."