Jim Thome signed his big free-agent contract with the Phillies just after Thanksgiving.
Cliff Lee signed his before Christmas.
Now, here we are, in Super Bowl week, two weeks before mitts start popping in Clearwater, and the Phillies still don’t know if their pursuit of mega free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will hit pay dirt.
Fans are getting antsy.
But Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is not.
Even as spring training comes into sight, he is committed to being patient.
“And, by extension, so is our front office and ownership,” Klentak said Wednesday (see story). “We're pretty aligned on that.”
Klentak got a taste of what he called “the new normal” of free agency last winter when he waited out Jake Arrieta and finally signed him to a three-year, $75 million contract on March 11.
Who knows how long it will take for Machado and Harper to make up their minds. The Phillies have had face-to-face meetings with both players. They have had continuing dialogue with the representatives for both players. The Phils would love to land one of these players.
“I tend to keep the information about the status of negotiations pretty guarded,” Klentak said. “I don't think it's in our best interests to disclose much about that.
“The fans are well aware that we're pursuing the top end of free agency. When that's going to resolve itself, we don't really know. To reach a deal, it really takes multiple parties coming together to do that.”
And Klentak is willing to wait for that to happen. Sure, there are circumstances, he said, in which he’d walk away from his pursuit of a free agent. But those circumstances relate to money and term of contract. Timing is not a parameter that will affect his pursuit of top free agents in this market. So the Phillies will multi-task: They will look to sign Machado or Harper even as they prepare for spring training, even as they head south, even as they begin workouts and games, if that’s what it takes.
“Our job as management is to be patient and understand the ebbs and flows of the free agency process and be ready to strike whenever that time is,” Klentak said. “What we try not to do is have the timing push that.
“What we did earlier in the offseason (adding Jean Segura, David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen) has allowed us to be in the position to where we're not letting the time pressure us into doing something. We're still open-minded in contract term and structure and working with the representatives on that, but I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline. We learned that last year with Jake.”
Klentak is well aware of how antsy fans are getting to see the Phillies land Machado or Harper. Though he does not personally engage in the use of social media, he felt some of the shockwaves that overtook Philadelphia on Tuesday when word spread that the team had struck a deal with Harper.
That was news to Klentak.
“I'm definitely amused by it,” he admitted. “I see a lot of it secondhand. I try to stay out of the fray. I woke up yesterday morning to a bunch of congratulations texts. I was like, ‘What are you congratulating me for?’ Then I figured it out. I'm plenty aware of it, whether it's my friends or family or colleagues, everybody's talking about it. It's an exciting time for the Phillies.”
Harper or Machado? Rhys Hoskins recently expressed confidence that the Phillies would land one of them.
Klentak’s level of confidence?
“I have confidence we've put our best foot forward with these guys and in the subsequent dialogue we've had,” he said. “It's impossible to predict where someone's going to land or how much money they're going to make. I don't know the answer to that. But I'm very confident in our approach and in our communication style with these guys.”
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