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July 31, 2017

Sizing up Matt Klentak's trade deadline after dealing fourth Phillies veteran in six days

On Monday afternoon, with the imaginary alarm about to sound, general manager Matt Klentak continued a clean sweep of the Phillies clubhouse, shipping off nearly every healthy veteran on an expiring contract and turning them into A-ball lottery tickets.

Before the arrival of the 4 p.m. deadline, but after the first pitch of a matinee with the Braves was thrown at 12:36 p.m., Klentak agreed to send right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit to the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with cash, for 23-year-old pitching prospect Seth McGarry.

The right-handed McGarry, the Pirates’ eighth-round pick in 2015, was 1-0 with a 1.34 ERA, 0.843 WHIP, and 38 strikeouts and 14 walks in 40 1/3 innings over 31 games (all in relief) for Class A Bradenton. He’s held right-handers to a .099/.200/.113 slash line in the Florida State League this season.

“He's having a really good year and one of the things we're really excited about is he has a 73 percent ground ball rate,” Klentak said. “So I think he's a guy that will fit in very well in our system. He's another player that does not need to be protected in the Rule 5 draft this year, which is a positive for us."

The trade was the fourth Klentak made in six days. In the week leading up to Monday’s deadline, the second-year GM sent All-Star reliever Pat Neshek to Colorado (for three prospects), veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson to Baltimore (for a pitching prospect, an outfield bench guy, and international slot money), veteran infielder Howie Kendrick to Washington (for a pitching prospect and international slot money), and Benoit to Pittsburgh.

The Phillies didn’t have any big ticket items to sell off to the highest bidder this deadline (as they did with Cole Hamels two years ago). What they did have was an attractive piece in Neshek and more than a couple of “maybes,” maybe as in “maybe someone will have an interest in this guy?”

Klentak turned four players who wouldn’t be with the organization in a little more than two months and got value back, whether it’s a prospect or two panning out or the roughly $1 million in international slot money being spent wisely by the international scouting department that’s found its share of bargains (from Sixto Sanchez all the way back to Carlos Ruiz and everyone in between).

Given what he had to offer, Klentak deserves a nice solid ‘A’ for his second trade deadline. It’s a nice jump up from his first trade deadline, a year ago when he had little more than Hellickson to move, when he probably deserved a ‘D’ or an ‘incomplete.’ (He did move Carlos Ruiz in August).

“Part of it is the way that a lot of our young players have performed,” Klentak said of being more active this year compared to last year. “And I think another part of it, and this is probably the biggest part, is that the players we traded performed really well in the first four months. They're really the ones that put us in the position to be able to do this. If a player's hurt or he's not performing well, it's hard to move him.

“I talked about this with Neshek and Howie and Jeremy and I'll say it with Joaquin as well – these guys delivered. We brought them in here to play a role for this team, they did it, and now they all find themselves in playoff races for the next two months.”

Although the Phillies can still trade players if they clear waivers in August (as they did in each of the last two years with Ruiz and Chase Utley, it’s probably unlikely to happen this season. Most players who move in August are higher-salaried players who are able to clear waivers because of the money.

The final two months of the Phillies season, with four veterans off the roster, will allow Klentak and the front office and Pete Mackanain and the coaching staff to continue to evaluate the young talent on the roster and, perhaps, some of the prospects who could arrive from Triple-A Lehigh Valley before long.

The most intriguing of those prospects who could make his major league debut before the end of 2017, Rhys Hoskins, would still appear to be blocked from a full-blown big league audition, though. Although the four vets were moved, the Phillies did not come close to trading any of their younger, controllable players, like current first baseman Tommy Joseph.

“Tommy Joseph had three more hits today,” Klentak said. “He had a couple of big hits on this homestand. Tommy’s having a pretty good year. We’re not going to rush anything while we’re getting pretty good production out of first base. Rhys is having an outstanding year himself. There will likely come a time where we’ll make a decision on that but for right now we’re getting productivity at first base – both in the big leagues and at Triple-A – and that’s just fine.”

Perhaps a timeshare is on the way come September or sooner (worth noting: the Phillies will need a designated hitter in each of their next three games in Anaheim, Calif., against the Angels). But not long after September, the trade season will heat up again in baseball’s hot stove league, and Klentak will be back on the clock with some important decisions looking at first base (and second base and shortstop, too, among other positions).

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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