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It seems almost strange, but Matt Klentak is no longer part of the Phillies organization. After five seasons as a general manager and one year as strategy and development officer Klentak accepted a position as special assistant for the Milwaukee Brewers last Sunday.

The Brewers made the role official Tuesday and clarified that Klentak would be taking leadership over the Brewers' international scouting department.

Klentak joined the Phillies in late 2015 as a 35-year-old out of the Los Angeles Angels organization, following the departure of Ruben Amaro Jr. Over the subsequent five years Klentak tenure was marked by some minor failures and a few catastrophic blunders.

While his time with the Phillies was marked most by the arrival of 2021 MVP Bryce Harper, it seems in retrospect that signing had more to do with Phillies majority owner John Middleton than it had to do with the front office.

Yet, between the debacles that occurred in the Phillies front office there were sporadic success stories. Perhaps the most prominent of which was one of Klentak’s final major moves as Phillies GM, the signing of Zack Wheeler.

Since joining the Phillies on a five-year/$118 million contract in December of 2019, Wheeler's ERA is 2.82. Over 284.1 IP, the big righty has rarely missed a start. Klentak’s recognition of Wheeler’s talent is especially surprising given that his career ERA with the Phillies is lower than his ERA in any other single season as well as the fact that Klentak has failed to recognize veteran starting pitcher talent on numerous occasions before.

The most prominent of these occasions was the signing of Jake Arrieta for three-years/$75 million. In a Phillies uniform Arrieta alienated himself from his teammates and pitched to 4.36 ERA in 352.2 IP, missing huge chunks of 2019 and 2020. But don’t let that signing entirely overshadow Charlie Morton’s brief career in Philadelphia.

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Morton was traded to the Phillies in 2016 for David Whitehead. In only his fourth start of the season he sustained a hamstring injury which ended his 2016. The Phillies decided to decline his $9.5 million option for 2017 so Morton signed with the Astros and reinvented his career, winning three pennants and two rings with the Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves.

Pitching-wise Klentak also decided to fire Rick Kranitz following the 2018 season, a year in which the Phillies young pitching core excelled behind the best seasons from Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. Just days later Kranitz signed on as pitching coach for the Braves and won three straight division titles while Klentak hired and fired his protégé, Chris Young, in 2019.

Following that season Klentak made one of the savviest moves in his time with Philadelphia. In February 2019 he signed budding-star Aaron Nola to a four-year/$45 million extension with a club option for 2023. Even given Nola’s recent struggles, the $16 million the Phillies are slated to pay him in 2022 is well below market rate for a pitcher of his caliber.

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Though Klentak did hand out his best contract after the 2018 season, he delivered his worst contract earlier that year.

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Scott Kingery was supposed to be a “can’t miss” prospect, he was ranked #35 on MLB.com’s pre-2018 prospect rankings after slashing .304/.359/.530 in 603 PAs between Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2017. Thus, Klentak saw fit to bestow upon him a major league deal before he’d seen a single day of MLB service time.

That deal is still paying guaranteed money through 2023 and the Phillies will have to pay a $1 million buyout for his 2024-2026 options. His contract, alongside Carlos Santana’s  three-year/$60 million deal signed in December 2017, hamstrung a youthful Phillies team in 2018, forcing Rhys Hoskins into left field and Scott Kingery to shortstop, a position he had seldom played before reaching the majors.

Even at the trade deadline that year Klentak compounded his mistakes. Despite some of the blunders he had already made, the 2018 Phillies were 59-48 in first place on July 31, 2018. Instead of pushing the gas, Klentak pumped the brakes, refusing to deal prospects for top talent and instead signing veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, Aaron Loup, Luis Avilan, Jose Bautista and Justin Bour.

Klentak refused to show faith in his youngsters and they floundered in August and September, finishing 80-82, 10GB of the first place Braves.

Many of those youngsters have now moved on from Philadelphia, as the Phillies have one of baseball’s older clubs. Yet, two players from Klentak’s tenure still wait in the wings, one of whom remains from Klentak’s first months in Philadelphia, the other from his last months.

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The older of the two is Mickey Moniak. Klentak has been oft criticized for selecting a ”bust”, Mickey Moniak, with the first overall pick in the 2016 MLB amateur draft. This is countered with the fact that few high ranked players from that draft have succeeded in the majors. Moniak was selected to give the Phillies extra draft capital in later rounds, but the Phillies next two selections, Kevin Gowdy and Cole Irvin have never produced for the big league club.

Klentak’s final first-round pick may have an even bigger impact than the failure of his first amateur draft at the head of the Phillies. Mick Abel is the current Phillies top prospect, ranked #41 by Baseball Prospectus. Selecting high school talent in the MLB draft is always a high-risk decision, especially so for pitchers. Yet it seems Klentak’s evaluation paid off in Mick Abel.

The 6’5” fireballer looks to be the Phillies next ace. He sports a devastating 12-6 curveball and a plus slider which propelled the 20-year-old to a 13.3 K/9 at Clearwater in 2021. If Abel develops into the star the Phillies hope he can be, Klentak will remain in Philadelphia’s past, but he will part of the Phillies future as well.

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