LAS VEGAS — Though nothing is definitive — and why would it be with so much offseason wheeling and dealing left to do? — Gabe Kapler said Monday that he is leaning toward using newcomer Jean Segura in the No. 2 hole of the batting order.
While that’s certainly interesting, it’s not the news you’ve been waiting to hear.
You want to know if the Phillies will be signing Manny Machado.
Or Bryce Harper.
Everybody wants to know.
And so Kapler was peppered with questions about the two biggest names on the free-agent market as the winter meetings kicked off Monday morning.
The Phillies are interested in both players, though at the moment they seem to favor Machado.
Who does Brother Gabe like?
“I think Manny has done a tremendous job in his career of establishing a reputation of being one of the top young players in baseball,” Kapler said. “He's in an incredible position to be able to choose from a wide variety of suitors. Wherever he goes, somebody's going to get an incredible baseball player.”
Kapler seemed even more enthusiastic about Harper.
In my opinion, Bryce Harper does a number of things well, but one of the things I found most fascinating about him last year was even through the times of his struggles, he still worked an incredible at-bat. He still worked the pitcher. He still made the opposition uncomfortable. And sometimes he'd end that at-bat with a walk, which I think there's a lot of value in that.
Now, when he's going good, he's one of the more difficult players to get out in the game. And I love the way he plays. I think there's so much to like about what Bryce Harper brings to the table — his play on the field and then also what he brings to a clubhouse environment.
There have been questions about what Machado will bring to a clubhouse, especially in light of his infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments in October. The Phillies do have concerns about Machado’s makeup, but they still seem to like the idea of signing him to play third base. Machado has said he wants to remain at shortstop. Time will tell if the Phils can sell him on the idea of third base. The Yankees could also get in the way because the player has always had a desire to play for that club.
Kapler would not speak in specifics when asked if he believed Machado could succeed in Philadelphia, a place where the fans demand players who get after it. (See: Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley.)
“The Philadelphia fan base is incredibly passionate and devoted, and they demand that their players play hard,” he said. “They set an incredibly high bar and are disappointed when players don't meet that bar. It's certainly a high bar, and it should be a high bar.”
Machado and Harper are both angling for deals that would top Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325 million package. Though the Phillies have interest in both players, they will not land both. They are unwilling to tie up that much payroll in two players. At the moment they favor Machado, but sources say they will speak with Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, at these winter meetings. The Phils also have interest in reliever Zach Britton, another Boras client.
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