We are at the season-end edition of the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  We take your question all season long and answer them on the air.  This will be a key offseason for the Phillies, so be sure to check 973espn.com and 97.3 ESPN for all the latest in the Phillies rumors and acquisitions.

Klentak said today one of the reasons for the Phillies collapse is they didn't have the talent. Well isn't that a big part of his job description?
~Chris

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spoke to reporters such as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki yesterday to discuss the 2018 season.  What Klentak said about the talent was this:

"We know that this club needs to improve," Klentak said. "We are not just going to run back with the same 40-man roster next year that we finished this season with."

I think before we are critical about the talent, we must consider what he had to work with going in.

I have seen the same people complain about the talent former general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. left behind and yet at the same time blame the current administration for the talent under-performing.  But I think that 2018 was the first year we really got to see the last wave of Amaro's prospects rising into the major leagues.

Of those players, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are the real deal.  We see lots of talent in Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn.  But we also saw some players put together some question marks.  Even learning that some players were going to remain question marks was something important to the long-term plan.

If last offseason the Phillies passed on free agents that would have made a difference, then I might blame Klentak more. But the two he signed were two that caused no harm to the long-term plan.  Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta do not have contracts that will in any way impede the Phillies from building more later.  Their first round draft pick was protected, so they did not even lose that.

The one thing we know Klentak tried to do but was unable to was acquire outfielder Christian Yelich, who very well may win the National League M.V.P. award after winning a batting title and almost the Triple Crown.  The Marlins did get a nice stash of prospects in exchange for him though.

This offseason always was the key offseason.  The Phillies still have boatloads of cash to spend and there is no shortage of free agents available.  Klentak-era prospects Adam Haseley and Sixto Sanchez are still on the way.  Klentak will be (and should be) judged more so this upcoming offseason than last.

And, I think he did the right thing this season, trading for the types of players that did not cost them a lot in terms of players but could assist them down the stretch.  In the end they were not enough, but the Phillies showed great improvement overall in 2018 and we know who should not be on the roster next year.

Is it possible that the players were trying at the end to get Kapler fired?
~Eric

One reply to Eric's question came from David who said, "That locker room is split on this guy. No question".  I really am not sure that this is a conclusion that we can reach just yet.  While early on some players (probably Nick Williams) had things to say, I do not really think that there is a large continent of players unhappy with rookie manager Gabe Kapler.

But in terms of the Phillies losing on purpose to try to get their manager fired, I think that could not be further from the truth.  The mix of players on that roster included some newly-acquired veterans who were very interested in making the playoffs.  They are not invested in the club long-term (the likes of Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera) are free agents.

We did not see the likes of Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola quit.  But where the Phillies went wrong included performances of Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta that pointed the club in the wrong directions.  Odubel Herrera's slumps continued.   All of the three players named who performed poorly down the stretch have a reason to perform: their own fate.

So no, I do not think that any player would purposely play poorly so that they could get the manager fired.  If anything, the poor performance is more likely to get them fired.  Their own performance will affect their own fate more that it would the manager.  So there is no sort of conspiracy to get rid of the manager.

As for why things went bad: I think it was a combination of some players running out of gas, the law of averages catching up to players that just are not good, and not having enough impact talent.  The impact talent will come this offseason; I expect that.

How much does Eickhoff’s first and last start this year factor in to the role he will have next year?
~Zach

The Phillies got a really good snapshot of pitcher Jerad Eickhoff in his final (and only) start of 2018.  While he lasted just into the fourth inning, Eickhoff completed a remarkable feat: he struck out seven batters in a row.  The line does not look great in terms of ERA or number of innings, but it was a good impression.

The Phillies probably cannot totally count on Eickhoff as a reliable quantity going into next year.  I would expect the Phillies to add at least one starter, preferably from the left side, this offseason.  The Phillies will probably enter camp with seven or eight starters and let the best ones rise to the top.

That could mean that Eickhoff, Pivetta, Velasquez and Zach Eflin may all enter camp looking to fill two slots in the starting rotation.  From year to year, we never know who will be healthy.  Spring Training will often give us those answers.  In Eickhoff's case, he vanished last Spring Training and never came back.   Hopefully he will regain his health, because he has shown he can be a very effective pitcher when all goes well.