Phillies

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. —  The saga involving Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is now 3½ months old.

At Phillies camp, it is becoming a little annoying, a little amusing, a little exhausting.

The players are tired of being asked about it.

Team officials simply shrug.

No one knows when it will end.

General manager Matt Klentak says he is comfortable that the team has put its best foot forward in the pitches it has made to both players.

“It takes two to tango,” he has said.

“We’re just half the equation,” club president Andy MacPhail has said.

The Phillies entertained Machado at Citizens Bank Park several days before Christmas. Team officials visited with Harper in Las Vegas in January.

The club went into the offseason favoring Machado because he would make a difference not only in the batting order, but also at third base, where he is an elite defender. That’s not to say the Phillies don’t like what Harper’s left-handed bat and box-office appeal would bring. After all these months of waiting, and with spring training underway, it’s now a jump ball between Machado and Harper: Whoever wants the Phillies’ money — come get it.

But when will it happen?

When will the Phillies' love be requited?

All sorts of rumors and could-be’s and should-be’s and might-be’s have floated around all weekend. Internet sleuths monitored private jets headed from Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas to the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport.

Meanwhile, amid the ridiculousness, Phillies camp goes on. The first full-squad workout is Monday. 

There are lockers available.

Machado’s No. 13 is available.

Harper’s No. 34 is available.

Rhys Hoskins still thinks one of them is coming. But even he — one of the most good-natured guys around — is sick of being asked about it.

How 'bout you, Gabe Kapler?

“I know that the conversations (between the Phillies and both free agents) are happening, but I don’t ride the waves up and down,” the manager said. “I’d be thrilled if we had either of those guys in our camp. The roster right now is a much improved one and our guys are focused on that right now.”

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

Where will Didi Gregorius hit in the Phillies' order? How will the infield defense be aligned? Are the Phillies done? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on Wednesday's At the Yard podcast.

• Surprised it was a 1-year deal?

• Why a 1-year deal carries so much value for the Phillies.

• Will Kingery play 2B or 3B?

• Could Segura be dealt?

• Where might Didi bat in the order?

• An interesting Phillies-Yankees trade idea from Jim.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Didi Gregorius is a fun addition for the Phillies. His personality and the joy he plays with will quickly make him a fan favorite. He'll improve the clubhouse dynamic and he'll improve the Phillies' infield defense and lineup.

At one year, what's not to like? It's a one-year, $14 million contract for Gregorius, according to Jim Salisbury, which gives the Phillies an entire year to figure out their infield. Where does Jean Segura fit? What about Scott Kingery? When will Alec Bohm be ready? Can Rhys Hoskins, the most important hitter of them all, turn it around in 2020?

By tying themselves to Didi for only one year, the Phillies can pivot quickly if this does not work out, or if a second base/third base combo of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery does not provide enough offense. Bohm is the other major factor in all of this — if his defense can hold at third base for even a few years during the early part of his career, and if his power and control of the strike zone can translate to the majors, he could be the run-producing five-hole hitter this Phillies team needs.

Before Bohm arrives, though, the question is whether the Phillies' eight projected everyday players represent a contending lineup. It will likely shake out like this. Focus more on the names than the batting order because of how many variations there could be:

1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
3. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
6. Jean Segura, 2B (R)
7. Scott Kingery, 3B (R)
8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

Given the current composition of the rest of the Phillies' roster, this looks like a mid-80s-win team at first glance. A team that projects for 85 to 87 wins with a chance to crack 90 if many things break right. 

If Hoskins rebounds. 

If Kingery becomes a valuable everyday offensive contributor. 

If McCutchen has a full season as productive as his pre-injury work in 2019. 

If the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo combines for 400 innings with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

If Bohm and Spencer Howard force the Phillies' hand by playing well.

If we see second-half Realmuto and Harper in 2020.

If Jake Arrieta can be more of a No. 3 than a No. 5.

If the Phillies find and settle on a reliable 8th inning-9th inning combination.

The Phillies are unquestionably better now than they were at the end of the 2019 season. Gregorius is a better and more impactful than the player he's basically replacing, Cesar Hernandez. Wheeler is the No. 2 starter the Phillies desperately needed. New manager Joe Girardi may be able to add a win or two here and there with good decision-making.

They are better. The question is how much better. Good enough to push the Nationals and Braves for the division? That would seem an optimistic viewpoint of this Phillies roster, but they can still tinker with their core throughout the offseason by adding another starting pitcher like Wade Miley, a high-upside reliever like Dellin Betances and another good hitter for the bench.

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