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December 10, 2018

Angelo Cataldi: Phillies' GM Matt Klentak finally making good moves

Matt Klentak just had the best week of his three-year tenure as GM of the Phillies. 

That’s right. 

His biggest critic is admitting the novice executive did a couple of things right. After all the lousy free-agent signings, the botched trades, the tortured explanations . . . . Klentak made a couple of very impressive moves. 

His best maneuver actually reconciled his worst decision since he got here, the idiotic move to sign Carlos Santana to a $60-million, three-year contract last winter – a decision that moved the best player in the organization, Rhys Hoskins, from first base to left field, where he handled every fly ball like a hand grenade. 

The Santana signing is no second-guess, either. I said right here last year that it was ridiculous. Anybody with a brain drew the same conclusion. 

Somehow, Klentak got Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto to take the $35 million left on Santana’s contract along with overrated shortstop prospect J.P.Crawford for Jean Segura, James Pasos and Juan Nicasio, three established major leaguers. 

Segura is the prize of the deal, a .304 hitter last season who actually makes regular contact with the baseball. He is also a solid glove at shortstop, a position filled poorly last year by Crawford and Scott Kingery. Pazos and Nicasio are decent bullpen arms. 

Klentak exploited the Mariners’ obsession with removing long-term big-money deals from its books – Segura has four years and $66 million left on his deal – and was able to remove two players who would provide very little help to the Phillies. Santana and Crawford are best as drawing walks, an analytics requirement that Klentak seems finally to be abandoning. 

The other deal made no sense, at least from the Angels’ perspective. The Phils sent reliever Luis Garcia to the West Coast for lefty bullpen arm Jose Alvarez. Garcia’s ERA was 6.07 last season; Alvarez’s was 2.71. ERA supposedly is a relic of baseball’s statistical past, but that disparity seems significant even in a new era of launch angles and exit velocities. 

Bravo to Klentak for both moves. His move away from new-fangled analytics in favor of simple logic is an encouraging sign. Maybe the kid is finally figuring out how to be a GM.