Phillies GM Matt Klentak’s Job Should Be On the Line

By Frank Klose, Sports Talk Philly editor 

I am not the type to arbitrarily state that the general manager should lose his job.  Many years of "Fire Ruben Amaro. Jr." I often did not take the side of those who wanted to send the son of a Phillies alumnus packing after each and every move.   But despite all of my good will towards the Phillies general manager, I feel I must be unequivocally clear: this bullpen is enough to cost general manager Matt Klentak his job.

Those who read and 973 ESPN know that I have been very kind to the young general manager.  Before he was named, I stated on-air that the "young general manager from Anaheim (briefly forgetting his name) should be the next Phillies general manager.  The young one who worked for Phillies president Andy MacPhail in Baltimore was probably the one to lead the team. 

But this bullpen is too much.

For the most part, I was okay with new manager Gabe Kapler's tactics to manage a team.  For the non-stop pitching changes, the constant left/right changes in the lineup, and the starters leaving the game arbitrarily before their time was up if a lefty or right was batting, I was on board.  But Kapler did not survive the second year.  That means all eyes are on the general manager.

The Phillies brought in a world-class manager, under the direction of representative owner John Middleton.  The Phillies did not shop in the "let's see what a young, innovative manager can do" aisle.   They went for one of the best.  They shopped in the "won a World Series" aisle, and one whose strength was managing a bullpen.

But then, Klentak cared so little to put together a bullpen.

After last year's fiasco, the Phillies signed just one major league free agent bullpen arm, and it was the one who finished a two-year contract with the Phillies.  Tommy Hunter re-signed for an amount way less than the last contract.  But beyond that, the Phillies did not bother to add a single major league arm.

Hector Neris was poor in 2018.   After going 1-3 in 2018, the Phillies decided that Neris, lucky enough to make the team in 2018, would be one of the lesser arms in the bullpen in 2019.  But yet, in the face of a poor bullpen in 2019, Neris managed to work himself further back in the bullpen in 2019 until he became the closer again. 

Neris mostly reclaimed the job in 2019.  Even though 2018 was poor, he showed he had a little left in the tank.  But yet, the Phillies added no reinforcements in 2020.

Klentak decided that despite a shaky 2018, he should put the whole Phillies bullpen's luck on the guy who compiled a 5.10 ERA that year.  And in 2019, despite not even opening as the closure. the final results of 3-6, 2.93 ERA were good enough to not add another veteran arm.

Instead, Klenak decided that instead of adding veteran arms besides Neris and Hunter, the club would  keep mostly-reliable relievers Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan, and then just bring in a bunch of veteran relievers who might just stick.

The names included former (and I mean long ago) Nationals closer Drew Storen, starter-turned-reliever Bud Norris, reliever Anthony Swarczak, and lefty Francisco Lirano.  Klentak thought that, instead of adding a veteran who was reliable to help this Phillies team, one of them might step up and help.

We are at August 21.  Even though there was a COVID-19 shutdown, none of those aforementioned veteran relievers made the Phillies roster.

Even worse, none of those selected to join Phillies Spring Training, or the "Summer Camp" variety later, made the major league roster.

Last season's bullpen president Andy MacPhail lauded down the stretch in 2019.  But of the additions, Mike Morin, Nick Vincent, and Jared Hughes were let go.  Only Blake Parker returned.  Parker did not make the 2020 Opening Day roster,and has been one of the best arms in the bullpen in his first week back in the majors.

I could name many relievers present and past in 2020 that have no business being on a major league roster:

  • Deolis Guerra
  • Cole Irvin
  • Austin Davis
  • Ramon Rosso
  • Trevor Kelley
  • Connor Brogdon
  • Nick Pivetta
  • Vince Velasquez

Velasquez and Pivetta have long proven they don't belong in the starting rotation.  Had not COVID-19 gotten the best of Ranger Suarez, they both would have not made the starting rotation months ago.  But yet, they were still around, and worse off, exacerbating tough bullpen outings.

Here is a list of who cannot.  But who can?

Neris was good in 2019 but not 2018.  Sometimes relievers go back and forth.  Was Neris good enough to count on as the dominant reliever in 2020? Many would say no. 

Jose Alvarez has been excellent, allowing runs in just one outing.  But who knows the effects of a 105-mile-per-hour batted ball to the groin. 

Other than that, only mop-up reliever Neil Walker has gotten the opposition down quickly.  Walker is the lone 0.00 ERA on the Phillies. (He plays second base but is a utility player who plays other positions, just so you know).

But with so many question marks coming into the game, Klentak simply hoping that someone would step up is not enough.  The Phillies currently have one of the worst team ERAs at 5.58.   Only the Seattle Mariners, the Detroit Tigers, and the Boston Red Sox are worse in 2020.

By Friday afternoon, the Phillies had reportedly acquired reliever David Hale from the New York Yankees, and were reportedly discussing a Brandon Workman trade with the Boston Red Sox.  The Phillies need two arms, plus a healthy Ranger Suarez to get some sort of normalcy here.

That could be a start and what takes a .500 team and makes them a contender.  But if the Phillies miss the playoffs in this very expensive season over this bullpen construction, all eyes will be on Klentak.    This has been full-on neglect and if Klentak cannot find immediate solutions, he should lose his job.