A Pirate’s life for Klentak: What did we learn from the Phillies trade at the deadline?


I spent much of the early part of my day yesterday doing one thing. Sitting in front of the same TV screen in the living room that I had been posted in for the previous four hours, my eyes were glued to MLB Network as if I couldn’t pry them away, even if I had wanted to. I couldn’t miss a second of the trade talks. As a baseball writer and general game fanatic, July 31 is like a personal holiday for me, akin to Christmas Eve for young children who are shrouded in excitement as they wait for the coming day. Except my Christmas Day happens in the blistering heat of the summer, culminating in the passing of the trade deadline.

As I sipped a rare afternoon cup of coffee, I watched as the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s in an attempt to stave off the Red Sox and Rays, the Dodgers loaded up with pitching by bringing in Yu Darvish and Tony Watson, and the Nationals picked up their third closer-like relief pitcher in Brian Kintzler from the Twins. While Major League players, prospects and international bonus pool money from several teams went flying off the shelves like they were buy one, get one free at the store, the Phillies remained awfully quiet.

With the Phillies making most of their calls earlier in the week, I expected very little, if anything to be accomplished before the trade deadline passed. So as the clock on my screen ticked under ten minutes, I allowed myself to peer away for a few moments. Of course, as such things go in this world, that’s when the Phillies struck. Matt Klentak was able to make one final move on the afternoon, shipping relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was surprising that the Pirates, who still remain on the outside looking in despite some improved play as of late, would appear to be sellers by shipping Tony Watson out of town, but then turn around and trade for a lesser caliber reliever in Benoit. Regardless of the team’s reasoning, the Pirates acquired Benoit from the Phillies, making it the eighth team the newly turned 40-year-old pitcher will play for in his career.

In return for Benoit, the Phillies received yet another Single A prospect. This time, it was 23-year-old right hander Seth McGarry. McGarry was drafted by the Pirates in the eighth round of the 2015 MLB Draft after a two year career at Florida Atlantic University.

The 23-year-old appeared in just three games at Rookie ball in 2015, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and allowing just nine baserunners in 12 innings pitched before being called up to the Short Season A West Virginia Black Bears for the remainder of the 2015 season. There, he started in all nine games he pitched in, going 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA. After making the jump midway through the season, McGarry’s WHIP more than doubled from 0.75 to 1.36, as walks surfaced as an issue for the righty, as he allowed 23 free passes in 39 innings. Those walks, paired with the 30 hits he allowed, caused struggles and a subsequent higher ERA.

Despite the struggles in the New York Penn League, McGarry was promoted to Full Season A ball in 2016, remaining in West Virginia, but this time, playing for the Power. The Power moved McGarry to the bullpen, where he has remained ever since. He appeared in 38 games in the South Atlantic League, going 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA. Hits remained an issue for McGarry, as he allowed 58 in 59.1 innings pitched, but the walks began to clear themselves up. McGarry walked just four more batters in 2016 as he did for the Black Bears in 2015, despite throwing 20 more innings. He also struckout 15 more hitters than in 2015 while throwing just eight more innings. 2016 was clearly a big step in the right direction for McGarry. McGarry acted as the closer for the Power, picking up nine saves in 13 opportunities.

The Pirates were confident in McGarry’s progression, and as the 2017 season started, McGarry found himself promoted once again, this time, to Advanced A Bradenton, of the Florida State League. Before being shipped to the Phillies, McGarry appeared in 31 games for Bradenton, again, all out of the bullpen. He was 1-0 with an impressive 1.34 ERA. Despite moving up a level, McGarry was called upon again to be the Marauders closer. In 40.1 innings pitched this year, McGarry was given 15 opportunities at a save, slamming the door shut in 14 of them. Walks continued to fall and McGarry allowed just 20 hits in his time at Bradenton, holding opposing hitters to a .146 average.

While already 23, McGarry has shown improvement in a vast amount of statistical categories over the last three seasons. He’s risen through the ranks quickly, moving from Rookie ball to Advanced A in just three years. I’d expect the Phillies to keep him on par for now and place him in Clearwater to finish out the season.

The trade works for the Phillies for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Phillies like this kid. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have made the move. Matt Klentak spoke very highly of McGarry yesterday, noting his 73% groundball rate. He can throw in the low-to-mid 90’s and has been extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to .099 average this season. That’s something the organization cherishes. Secondly, trading Benoit frees up a much needed spot on the 40-man roster for the upcoming offseason. There are a handful of guys who are out of minor league options in the system that could be plucked by the Rule 5 Draft if the Phillies were not to protect them. This gives the club another space to save. By dumping four Major Leaguers (Neshek, Benoit, Hellickson, Kendrick) and only bringing back one in return (Hyun-Soo Kim) that likely won’t be on the roster next season, the Phillies have given themselves some leeway to either protect certain players they feel will be snatched up if they don’t or to begin the process of turning this rebuild around and making a splash in free agency.

Either way, the sheer fact they were able to get any team to bite on Benoit is a small miracle. He had posted a 4.07 ERA in 44 appearances for the Phillies and looked to be headed for free agency at the end of the season. Getting anything for Benoit was more than I anticipated. As the trade deadline has come to pass, I think Matt Klentak did an excellent job of getting the best he could for the talent he had. He was able to land five minor league pitchers, a young, talented shortstop and Hyun Soo Kim for four Major League players that were part of a roster of known-sellers this season. It’s difficult to have leverage when you’re not dealing from a position of strength, but Klentak did a mighty fine job this July.


Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports