Buster Olney believes Phillies could snag Bryce Harper from Nationals

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Buster Olney believes Phillies could snag Bryce Harper from Nationals

The Phillies' organization has the bankroll, they have the payroll flexibility and they want to compete ASAP. That is to say: they're players for the big guys.

That was put on display this offseason with the likes of Carlos Santana and more recently Jake Arrieta.

Phillies owner John Middleton said earlier in the week he had Arrieta's name circled for years as a potential free-agent target. Middleton also has big names circled for the future.

But who?

"That’s a conversation for another day," Middleton said in Clearwater. "But, trust me, they are circled."

A betting man would guess that Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper's name has some bright red sharpie all around it in Middleton's notebook.

Speaking of betting men, ESPN's Buster Olney would wager a hefty sum that Harper ends up in Philly or stays in D.C. Here's what Olney had to say on his "Sign Of The Times" podcast Tuesday when asked about Harper getting a $400 million deal next offseason.

"Just before I recorded this podcast, I bumped into Jake Arrieta's agent Scott Boras who is of course the agent for Bryce Harper. I didn't ask Scott this, but I guarantee you what he would say is, 'Buster, teams pay for talent.' And Bryce Harper is a transcendent talent. I still think he has a chance to push the deal to $400 million. I would bet the family farm that Harper ends up with the Phillies or back with the Washington Nationals."

So you're telling us there's a (legitimately decent) chance!?

Phillies fans might be irked by what the Nationals did

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Phillies fans might be irked by what the Nationals did

Surprised Gabe Kapler didn't think of this one first.

New Nationals manager Dave Martinez had every player on his team practice their walk-off trot to prepare for the inevitable game-winning hit this season.

"I tell them, just like everything else, we work really hard, I also want them to have fun," Martinez told the Associated Press.

This is the new normal in baseball. Martinez is a disciple of innovative Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who has always focused on fun in the clubhouse, both in Chicago and Tampa Bay.

Phillies fans will probably be irked by Martinez having his guys practice walk-offs. It's like telling the world that you're practicing your acceptance speech before actually winning the award.

But this is all in good fun. The days of things like this being a "disgrace to the game" are ending quickly. Players are letting their personalities show now more than ever before, and the list of managers embracing that is growing.

Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

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Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

The Nationals are obviously the class of the NL East. Most stars, best lineup, best rotation, much better bullpen than they opened 2017 with.

There's still a lot of offseason to go, but after the Phillies' Carlos Santana signing and Stage 1 of the latest Marlins fire sale, the Phils on paper measure up well with the other three teams in the division.

There still could be a trade in the Phillies' near future that turns an outfielder into a starting pitcher. If the Phils didn't have such a glaring need for starting pitching, one could see them entering 2017 with all three of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr in addition to LF Rhys Hoskins and figuring out the playing time based on hot/cold streaks and injuries. That need for arms to fill out the rotation, though, makes a trade more likely.

Knowing what we know now, let's take a trip around the NL East, excluding the clear favorites in Washington. This takes into account projected opening day lineups as of the first week of January. The Mets, for example, have Michael Conforto coming off shoulder surgery and Steven Matz recovering from elbow surgery. Neither is likely for the start of the season.

Infield
Phillies: 1B Carlos Santana, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco

Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Ozzie Albies, SS Dansby Swanson, 3B Johan Camargo

Marlins: 1B Justin Bour, 2B Starlin Castro, SS J.T. Riddle, 3B Brian Anderson

Mets: 1B Dom Smith, 2B Wilmer Flores, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Asdrubal Cabrera

Freeman is by far the best player among these 16. Santana is next.

The Phillies have the best infield of this quartet, with above-average on-base skills at three positions and power at two. 

Outfield
Phillies: CF Odubel Herrera, LF Rhys Hoskins, RF Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte, LF Nick Markakis, RF Ronald Acuña

Marlins: CF Christian Yelich, LF Martin Prado, RF Derek Dietrich

Mets: CF Juan Lagares, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Brandon Nimmo

The Marlins have the best centerfielder.

The Mets have the best leftfielder (though Hoskins could have something to say about that in Year 2).

Right field is between the Phillies and Braves. Acuña is a very intriguing 20-year-old who hit .325 with 21 homers, 31 doubles and 44 steals last season across the three highest minor-league levels.

In totality ... again, you have to give this edge to the Phillies. On-base skills at two of three outfield positions and power at two. 

Catcher
Phillies: Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp/Andrew Knapp

Braves: Tyler Flowers

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto

Mets: Travis d'Arnaud

Realmuto is the stud of this group, an underrated catcher who's hit .290/.337/.440 the last two seasons with averages of 31 doubles and 14 homers. He also has good wheels for a catcher. He or Yelich would be next if the Marlins make another trade.

Alfaro has potential but a lot to prove, offensively and defensively. Still, he's not far behind the injury-prone d'Arnaud or longtime backup Flowers.

Rotation
Phillies: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively

Braves: Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir

Marlins: Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Ureña, Dillon Peters, Justin Nicolino

Mets: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo

First off, I'd be shocked if that is the Phillies' opening day starting rotation. At the very least, they'll grab one veteran with a better short-term upside than Pivetta or Lively.

Second ... this is clearly a drastic edge to the Mets. Everything — everything — went wrong for their pitching staff last season.

If the Phils add a decent No. 2 or No. 3 starter, they'd be on par with the Braves. Atlanta has more proven commodities, but let's not act like McCarthy or Kazmir are locks to make even 25 starts.

Bullpen (key arms only)
Phillies
: Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia

Braves: Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez

Marlins: Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough

Mets: Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins

Advantage goes to the Phillies after the offseason additions of Hunter and Neshek, two solid setup men you can pencil in for ERAs between 2.00 and 3.00. With the emergence of Garcia, the Phillies have a strong core four in the bullpen. They just still need a good lefty. (Can Adam Morgan carry a strong second half into 2018?)

The Mets have a solid back-end with Familia and Ramos, but the bullpens of the Braves and Marlins will likely struggle this season.

• • •

The Phillies' additions of Santana, Hunter and Neshek make a ton of sense when you look at the non-Nationals landscape of the NL East and consider the number of games there to be won — 57 in total against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.

The Phils went 39-37 against the division last season. That number should grow closer to the mid-40s in 2018.