Q&A with Pat Gillick
Here is an extended version of the Q&A:
Question: So for fans thinking about coming to the ballpark this year, what’s your sell?
Gillick: It’s going to be a little bit different. I think what I think is going to be exciting about it is the fact that we’re going to have some new young players on the field. As we’ve talked here in Spring Training, we had a core of players, the Rollins’, the Utleys, the Howards, Pat Burrell, etc., we’re trying to develop a new core. I think it’s exciting to see these young players develop. We think many of them will develop. There will be some that won’t develop. But again, I think it will be an interesting, energetic, energy filled club that we’re going to put on the field. I’m not saying we’re going to win every game and we’re going to have a challenge probably scoring runs, but I think it’s going to be a team that’s going to go out and certainly try to win every game.
Question: From what you’ve seen this spring, do you think the rebuild if further away than you anticipated, closer or still in that 2017-18 window?
Gillick: I think it’s probably somewhere in that window. We’ve had some good acquisitions, I think. Some of the trades that Ruben (Amaro Jr.) made over the winter have brought us some good pitching talent. We were fortunate enough to pick up two or three other people along the way. We don’t know if it’s going to work out, but certainly (Andy) Oliver and (Odubel) Herrera and (Elvis) Araujo, we’ve picked up in addition to the players we acquired in the (Jimmy) Rollins deal and the (Marlon) Byrd deal. They all look like they’re going to be in Phillies uniforms at some point.
Question: How do you assess the rebuilding process to date?
Gillick: The one thing that we really have to concentrate on is more bats and more position players. The players that we’ve received back in the different deals that we’ve made and the drafts we’ve made it’s more pitching. Pitching and defense are very important, but at the same time we’re going to have to score some runs. I think the next wave that we have hopefully it’ll bring us some position players.
Question: What do you think about the bats in the system right now? Do you see anybody coming up?
Gillick: I do, but I think they’re probably a couple years away. We’ve got a void at the Triple-A level as far as anyone that you would say is on the doorstep and ready to step in. We do have some players that we’re interested in. We do have some players we’re excited about. But I don’t think they’re ready to play in the Major Leagues at this moment.
Question: You have new amateur scouting director in Johnny Almaraz. What do you think is going to be different about future drafts? Is there a philosophy change?
Gillick: Not saying that our former director (Marti Wolever) didn’t like players, but our new scouting director likes players. People might not understand that, but sometimes you look at a player and you can talk about his minuses or you can talk about his plusses. Our new scouting director, he talks about players’ plusses. He wants to concentrate on what this player can do, not on what he cannot do. So I think it’s a little bit of a different approach.
Question: Does that mean more baseball players and less “high-ceiling athletes?”
Gillick: To some extent. We’re still looking for high-ceiling guys and athletes, but it’s the right round to take him in. So consequently there might be a different philosophy about where to take the high-ceiling guys. You might take someone that’s a little closer, a little better baseball player, a little earlier than you normally would and there might be a high-ceiling guy available in the second or third round.
Question: What do you think the organization has learned about the situation it’s in right now? If you could do it all over again, are there steps you could have taken to avoid this rebuilding process?
Gillick: You know what? It’s one of those calls you’ve got to make. A gut call. You win over 100 games in 2011. Ryan (Howard) goes down and you want to see if he’s going to recover. Hey, let’s see what happens through 2012. So it didn’t happen. Our players were getting a little bit older. So maybe 2014 we maybe should have started what we’re doing now. We’d be into our second year. But as I say, you know the players, their skill levels are declining. I’m talking about the veteran players. But you still think they’ve got a little gas left in the tank. The type of players we had, the Rollins, the Utleys, the Howards, they still can play, but you’re hoping they can still maintain that higher level they did in ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09 and through that period.
Question: In the past you’ve said you prefer not to give pitchers more than three-year deals. You’d prefer not to give no-trade clauses. When the time comes to sign a free agent can you realistically do that? Would it be tough to compete with other teams that are willing to do that?
Gillick: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s tough. All you’ve got to do is pay more money. That’s the thing. If somebody is going to get $20 million, if you want to pay him $30 million for three instead of $25 million for five you might have a good chance because … just as an example, say, ‘I’ll take $90 million for three years and then I’ll go back out on the market. Because I’ve got an offer for $125, well, those other two years I might make more than difference between $90 and $125. I might more than $35 million.’
Question: So you feel that gives you more flexibility? You’d rather pay more for a shorter period of time than stretch it out?
Question: Do you like the way you have handled the Cole Hamels situation? It seems everybody on the outside is saying the Phillies should pull the trigger, etc.
Gillick: Any of our players on our roster, as we’ve said before, if it will improve the ball club we’ll listen on anyone. But some of the more valuable pieces that we do have … I mean, we haven’t heard the things that make us jump up and down and say, ‘Hey, we want to do this. Let’s go. Let’s grab this deal and run with it.’ We haven’t gotten one of those deals yet.
Question: Before Spring Training started you thought interest might pick up once teams got a better look at their weaknesses. Have you seen any of that?
Gillick: Well, I do. I think there are some teams out there that I think could use some of our players. Maybe they haven’t come to the reality or haven’t come to the gut check that they need them, but maybe we’ll have to wait to get into the season. We’re not in a situation where we have to get rid of players. We don’t have to dump players. Our owners have always spent money, so this is not an emergency situation. If it’s the right baseball deal we’ll think about it and evaluate it and we’ll jump on it if we like it.
Question: It’s like high-stakes poker, really. I’m sure other teams think you’re going to bend eventually and give up Hamels for what they want to give up.
Gillick: Well, you know what? I always like to do deals where both sides win. I don’t like to do deals where one side is a winner and the other side is a loser. I like to do deals where both teams are happy, so all we’re looking for … and people have talked that Ruben is looking for too much in his deals. I don’t think it’s true at all. I’m in the meetings. I know what he’s talking about. I think what he’s trying to do is be fair and reasonable with the different teams in regards to all our players. But at the same time we have some players that have received interest and we can’t give them away.
Question: How confident are you that you will get what you consider fair value for those players?
Gillick: I think at some point we will. I really do.
Question: Why? Gut feeling?
Gillick: Well, that. Plus, you have situations where the Rangers lose (Yu) Darvish. The Mets lose (Zach) Wheeler. (Marcus) Stroman went down in Toronto. So as people start losing people and they try to fill those voids and they can’t fill them, then they have to look at what’s best for the team. And so consequently, I think unfortunately because of injuries, interest will pick up.
Question: Do you think you’ll be team president at this point next year?
Gillick: It just depends on the ownership, what they want. I told them that I’d step in here for whatever period of time that they wish for me to do it. Consequently, that’s up to the determination of the ownership.
Question: Ruben’s contract expires at the end of the season. Will you address that before the end of the season?
Gillick: I think it’s something that could go through the end of the season. At this point I don’t think it’s going to be addressed. I think it would probably be at the end of the season.
Question: You’ve maintained your support for him throughout. Does that still hold true?
Gillick: Absolutely. Absolutely. As I’ve said, we’re in this together. He has to make the ultimate decision. He’s the point guy. He’s the one that gets all the heat, but we’ve all had a hand in making these decisions. So consequently I think we all share responsibility.
Question: What’s your opinion about Ryne Sandberg and his abilities to lead this team?
Gillick: He managed the last part of 2013 and last year, when he really had the job full time. I think he learned a lot about himself and learned a lot about the players. I think in 2015 with the team we’re going to have I think you’re going to see a little bit different style of baseball.
Question: Do you think the next team president will be a baseball guy? That seems to be the way teams are going.
Gillick: I think a lot of the guys coming in now are analytics guys. The hire they made in LA there (Andrew Freidman). He’s a general manager and president there. He came from Tampa Bay. The gentleman, (Matthew) Silverman, whom he left, they’re from the analytics side of baseball. I think there’s more a trend now to go with someone that has his philosophy than guys like myself who … look, I’ll say this and I’ve said it before, we gather all the information we possibly can. Certainly statistics. We have an analytics department. We look at those things. We ask them for trends. We ask them for different suggestions in that department because we need as much information as we possibly can. But we’re seen predominantly as visual evaluators. We evaluate talent on a visual basis as opposed to an analytics basis. But again, I like to use all avenues and all information to make a decision on a player.