Matt Klentak, the Phillies first-year general manager, said last week that his team will be opportunistic at this week's Winter Meetings as they work toward the organization's goal of improved pitching and defense.
The Phillies, Klentak said, will "look at any ways" to make that happen.
The general manager's pursuits could cause the Phillies to leave the four-day meetings in Nashville without their closer. Ken Giles, who excelled last season after being promoted to the closer's role, will be one of the most talked-about players at the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday. A closer is expendable on a losing team, and Klentak should have plenty of suitors.
ESPN reported last week that the Phillies discussed trading Giles with the Houston Astros. The Phillies, according to the report, asked Houston about young pitchers Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez.
Parting ways with Giles would obviously hinder the team's bullpen in 2016, but it would be a significant step toward the goal of improving the franchise's long-term pitching depth. It could be the right trade for a team in the early stages of a rebuild.
Giles struck out 151 batters in 1152/3 innings over the last two seasons. The righthander converted 15 saves last season after the team traded Jonathan Papelbon.
Giles' fastball sits in the high-90s and his biting slider can be devastating. His fiery attitude is intimidating. But the 25-year-old will get more chances to showcase those traits on a winning team, which would give Giles more chances to close out meaningful games. A return of McCullers and Velasquez is probably wishful thinking, but it could be a good starting point for Klentak to open a negotiation.
"We're still trying to make our club better," Klentak said. "That's been the organizational goal from the very beginning of the offseason. I think we head into the winter meetings with that still as our goal. We want to do what we can do make our club better in both the short and the long term."
Along with fielding trade offers for Giles, Klentak will be tasked with adding durable starting pitching to fill out this year's rotation. The Phillies signed Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley last winter on inexpensive, one-year contracts with hopes that they would consume innings and take some of the burden off the team's bullpen. Expect the Phillies to follow a similar path this year as they could enter next season with young starters still on innings limits.
Klentak's final task of the Winter Meetings will come Thursday morning when the Phillies select first in the Rule 5 Draft. The general manager said he stayed up late last week and reviewed the list of players eligible for selection. The Phillies are hoping to find this year's Odubel Herrera, who stayed with the team all season and was one of baseball's top rookies after being selected last winter.
"There were a number of guys, in particular everyday big-leaguers, that happened to stick last year," Klentak said. "I don't have a hypothesis for that one, but I'm happy that we ended up with the guy that we ended up with."