All winter, the Phillies have been marred by confusion and overall lack of direction from their so-called leadership. Since
firing demoting ex-general manager Matt Klentak to some still largely unknown front office role, the Phillies seem to have more questions than answers.
Following a disappointing third-place NL East finish and their ninth consecutive season without a playoff berth, the Phillies were in desperate need of roster improvements and a change in brain trust. So far, the team has practically gotten the polar opposite.
Phillies owner John Middleton, along with the rest of the incumbent front office, have struggled mightily to fill their vacant general manager position. And, frankly, their inability to find a suitable replacement has a lot to do with their pre-existing lack of vision and direction for the franchise.
External candidates are likely dissuaded by the presence of ex-general manager Matt Klentak and probably aren’t thrilled about inheriting the Phillies’ lackluster farm system.
This makes John Middleton’s decision to demote Klentak, which was viewed as a mind-boggling and bizarre move to begin with, all the more frustrating with the advantage of hindsight.
Operating with glaring vacancies at key positions and currently under a front office administration that moonlights as invested baseball competitors, the Phillies seem destined for implosion if a change doesn’t occur soon.
Unsure of how to navigate the Realmuto extension talks, Middleton has floundered about this winter, spouting out lofty claims of colossal financial losses and their influence on his decision-making.
Owner of the eighth-highest valued MLB team, according to Forbes, Middleton has acted like anything but as his penny-pinching mindset has limited the Phils.
The same mindset plagued the team last year when they handed out a mere two major-league contracts. Predictably, the Phillies didn’t amount to much the following season. Now, they risk regressing even further at the hands of Middleton.
All offseason long Middleton has attributed COVID-impacted financial loss as a potential cause of failure to extend star catcher J.T Realmuto. Although the team’s wallet did absorb a hit this season, it was not anywhere near to a severe enough degree to justify letting Realmuto walk.
While Middleton is busy senselessly crying out broke, he doesn’t seem to realize that there is only one thing the Phillies can’t afford to lose right now- J.T Realmuto.
Not only would Realmuto’s departure severely diminish the team’s offense, but it would also make the polarizing trade to acquire him in the first place a complete and utter failure. When the Phillies traded former top prospect and budding star pitcher Sixto Sanchez to the Marlins, they did so with the intention of signing him to a long-term deal. In fact, Middleton himself stated that the swap was completely contingent upon an extension.
“The fact of the matter is, at the time it was being considered, my position was, I’d be willing to trade Sixto as long as you extend J.T. And if you don’t extend J.T., I wouldn’t trade Sixto,” Middleton stated in an October presser.
Now, with free agency upon us, the affluent owner has a chance to make good on his promises and rightfully extend Realmuto. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem especially likely as the Middleton-led Phillies continue to express financial limitations.
On Sunday, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the team is open to trading starting pitcher Zack Wheeler as the franchise looks to shave costs.
The report has since been denied by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who claims that the team is “not shopping or even entertaining” offers for the right-hander.
Whatever the case may be, the fact that yet another report citing the Phillies financial limitations and it’s potential to cost them star power is incredibly alarming.
I’m not sure what the Phillies plan is, or if they have one, but what I do know is that their current course of action is costing them dearly. Their unwillingness to pay their talent won’t go unnoticed by players and agents alike and their seeming decline is clearly not enticing many front office executives.
After entering this offseason with a hope of a more promising future, the Phillies are now caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty.
Following a series of self-inflicted wounds, the Phillies are on the verge of reaching their tipping point. If things are to improve in Philly, the front office will first have to get out of their own way. Sadly, though, things may get a lot worse before they get better.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire