Despite “Stupid” Comment, Phillies Have Played the Market Smart
They are the words that have followed the Philadelphia Phillies around all offseason. Phillies part-owner John Middleton told Bob Nightengale of USA Today, "We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.’’ However, despite that bold declaration in November, the Phillies have proceeded with their business showing great restraint. As the club appears to be heavy favorites to sign free agent Bryce Harper, you might say they were smart.
Middleton has openly talked about wanting to be active this free agent market. After last March's signing of starter Jake Arrieta, Middleton spoke after the press conference with a few outlets including 97.3 ESPN. Middleton made it clear that while he as an owner has his personal wants, he supports his general manager in letting him do it on smart terms.
Middleton wanted the Phillies to sign Arrieta. But would he have gone beyond three years to sign him? Maybe. But that is why he has general manager Matt Klentak.
"Part of my job is to understand my strengths and weaknesses...that's why Matt's negotiating", Middleton said.
And this offseason the same applies. MIddleton had a lot of names in mind, as he mentioned to reporters that day. In fact, as of that March 2018 morning he had several "circled" from this year's free agent class.
"Trust me...they are circled and have been discussed for a while...internally...among the three of us", referring to himself, Klentak, and president Andy MacPhail.
The Phillies may have picked up one of the circled names when they signed free agent outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million deal. The club also pulled off trades for All-Stars Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. The club also re-aligned their defense by moving Rhys Hoskins back to first base and finding a taker for first baseman Carlos Santana.
Manny Machado is set to be introduced as a member of the San Diego Padres tomorrow. But the Phillies do not seem to mind; some may actually be more interested in Harper's services. But despite all that, Klentak is still keeping it cool. Why? The Phillies appear to be in the driver's seat.
According to Todd Zolecki, Jamal Collier and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, the Washington Nationals are not inclined to get back into the Harper sweepstakes. They were once seen as a fallback option should Harper not find a deal elsewhere. But some of the other names are no longer options.
After signing Machado, the San Diego Padres are likely out. They would not rule out the possibility publicly (teams generally cannot outright say they are not interested in a player, per the CBA). But they might be tapped out with Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Machado on the payroll.
The Chicago White Sox, who really felt the sting of Machado, are "out" of the Harper sweepstakes, reports Nightengale. They will look to improve other areas. That leaves just one other potential team from the suitors oft-mentioned.
That would be the San Francisco Giants. But the Giants reportedly will only consider a short-term deal. And, while the Giants are said to be "still in" on Harper, this could be an attempt by Harper's agent Boras to keep the field from being down to one team. That team, of course, is the Phillies.
Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer now reports that the Phillies are "confident" that they will land Harper.
Some fans are panicking. Some are confident. And we do not know what the deal might look like in the end. It sounds like it will be 10 or 11 years, with the Boras Corporation looking for a total dollar amount more than the $325 million deal Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins.
The Boras Corporation will see that as a victory. The Phillies will too, should they land Harper in the end. And they will not look stupid at all.