The Phillies announced on Saturday that Matt Klentak has stepped down as general manager and will be reassigned to a new role within the organization after five seasons as the team’s head of baseball operations:
Phillies announce Matt Klentak has stepped down as General Manager. pic.twitter.com/YanLLDkhUP— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 3, 2020
Klentak, a 40-year-old Dartmouth grad, was part of a wave of younger, analytically inclined general managers educated at elite East Coast universities who took over front offices en masse during the mid-2010s. While many of those heads of baseball operations have found success, Klentak never really achieved his goals in Philadelphia, as the team finished with a 326-382 record during his five-season tenure.
While he was successful in adding upper-echelon contributors such as Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Jake Arrieta, and Zack Wheeler, Klentak’s Phillies teams consistently seemed top-heavy and were exposed late in seasons year after year for their lack of depth. That was particularly true in terms of pitching, and even more specifically in the bullpen. While Klentak added high-profile relievers such as Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, David Robertson, David Phelps, and Brandon Workman over the years, those pitchers ultimately regressed after coming to Philadelphia, and Klentak failed to find low-budget reclamation projects to help eat relief innings. It’s very possible that the Phillies may have been a playoff team this season if their bullpen didn’t allow a disastrous .946 OPS and 7.06 ERA.
While starter Aaron Nola and first baseman/outfielder Rhys Hoskins — both of whom were drafted while Ruben Amaro Jr. was Philadelphia’s GM — did turn into legitimate starts during Klentak’s tenure, his front office generally struggled with turning young players into valuable contributors. Third baseman Alec Bohm, who posted an .881 OPS over 44 games as a rookie this season, may be the only player who turns into a star after being drafted during the Klentak administration.
While the Phillies’ next hire figures to be very analytically focused — virtually everyone in major-league front offices is these days — it’ll be interesting to see if it’s someone who is as bold in his or her methodology as Klentak was. Klentak’s first managerial hire was Gabe Kapler, who at the time was perhaps the most saber-intensive manager in major-league history. While he eventually pushed Kapler aside (under the guidance of owner John Middleton) in favor of the more traditional Joe Girardi, Klentak certainly was willing to be bold during his tenure in Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see whether his successor is a little bit more old-school or is similarly innovative.