Phillies

Matt Klentak says Phillies will remain patient in pursuit of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper

Matt Klentak says Phillies will remain patient in pursuit of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper

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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Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

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Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s not the signing you want to hear about, but for those who like to follow prospects from the ground floor on up, it’s certainly interesting.

The Phillies, according to multiple reports out of Latin America, will land highly regarded Venezuelan outfielder Yhoswar Garcia when Major League Baseball’s international signing period begins on July 2.

Garcia is just 16. Word is he will receive a bonus in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. He is 5-11 and 180 pounds. He is an excellent athlete with speed, a strong throwing arm and a promising bat.

Young players like Garcia have miles to cover in the development process, but there is definitely something to dream on there and the player has obviously impressed Phillies scouts.

Two summers ago, the Phillies signed another Latin teen named Garcia for $2.5 million. Luis Garcia, a switch-hitting shortstop, has quickly risen to the top of the Phillies’ prospect chart. As a 17-year-old last summer, he led the Gulf Coast League in batting average (.369). He finished third in on-base percentage (.433) and RBIs (32) and was sixth in OPS (.921).

Luis Garcia projects to play at Single A Lakewood this season.

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Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera is a man of much interest in this Phillies camp.

He is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, one that led to management’s order to get into better physical condition.

Herrera arrived to camp early and in noticeably better shape. But that hasn’t made him immune to the injury bug — or speculation about his future in Philadelphia as the club negotiates with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Herrera pulled out of a first-to-third baserunning drill on Wednesday and hobbled off the field. A couple of hours later, he left the ballpark wearing a wrap on his left leg.

Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "mild" hamstring strain. Actually, it was a recurrence of a hamstring injury that Herrera suffered during workouts a few days before camp officially opened. Herrera had an MRI after the initial injury and had recovered to the point where he could participate in on-field workouts.

“It was tightening up on him during baserunning drills so we’re getting it checked out,” Kapler said.

Kapler was unsure whether Herrera would have another MRI.

There is plenty of time for Herrera to get healthy for the Phillies’ season opener. Or any team’s season opener, for that matter. The Phillies whiffed on Manny Machado on Tuesday and while that likely rescued third baseman Maikel Franco from the trading block, it may have put Herrera on it — or, at the very least, made him a consideration to be placed on it because he might fetch some value in a deal.

With Machado off the board, the Phillies are now 100 percent on Harper and there is enormous public pressure for them to land him and put an exclamation point on the Winter of Stupid Money. Harper, of course, is an outfielder. If the Phillies land him, they would likely have to subtract an outfielder.

If the Phillies were to land Harper, they could trade Nick Williams or send him to the minors. Both Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn are out of minor-league options, but one could be a trade candidate. It would seem likely that the Phils would want to hang on to Quinn, who has the speed and arm to be a difference-making centerfielder — if he can finally put together a healthy season. Quinn’s inability to do that makes it difficult to bank on him as the regular centerfielder and that could convince the Phillies to hang onto Herrera, who has started 524 games in centerfield the last four seasons.

And there’s another reason to hang on to Herrera: He is talented and at 27 could still develop the consistency needed to be a star — or the batting champion that former manager Pete Mackanin once predicted he’d be. Herrera also is a left-handed hitter, which the Phils are short on.

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016. He signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. Last season, his overall game — the physical and the mental — slipped badly in the second half and he lost playing time in center to Quinn. Herrera hit just .189 with a .530 OPS over the final two months of the season, prompting management to order him to get into shape and improve his focus.

At the moment, all indications are that Herrera is in the Phils’ plans for this season and beyond.

But something will have to give if Harper dons red pinstripes.

Phillies officials remained in pursuit of Harper on Wednesday. Out on the field, players went through early-camp workouts in preparation of Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

“My focus is on the camp,” Kapler said in response to a question about Harper-Mania. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of the things going on around us, but the focus is on crisp, efficient workouts.”

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