Padres (and other teams) in the mix for Bryce Harper — what's it mean for Phillies?

Padres (and other teams) in the mix for Bryce Harper — what's it mean for Phillies?

Those frisky Friars ...

The Padres are set to meet with Bryce Harper Thursday night, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

This comes a week after San Diego's interest in signing Manny Machado became public.

As we wrote then, it's not the end of the world for the Phillies that the Padres are also pursuing the top two free agents. San Diego has never entered a season with a payroll over $110 million. That doesn't mean they never will, but this is not an organization known for handing out enormous contracts.

As of now, the Padres' payroll is at about $94 million.

The richest contract the Padres have ever handed out came last offseason when they signed Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal. That's a big contract but nowhere near the type of money or annual salary it will take to land Harper or Machado.

Hosmer's contract is extremely front-loaded, paying him $100 million in the first five years and $39 million in the last three (with a $5 million signing bonus). Hosmer can opt out after that fifth year.

So, with Hosmer's big contract on their books and not a whole lot of talent surrounding him, it does make sense for the Padres to seek big upgrades. It's why we pointed out in mid-January that they were a team to monitor, even before the Harper-Machado rumblings surfaced.

The weakness of the NL West will only further embolden the Padres to swing for the fences.

Harper's agent, Scott Boras, told Rosenthal that they've met with other teams "in recent days." The identities of those teams are unclear. 

But this is the risk the Phillies run. Barring an offer from the Phils that just blows all others out of the water, it behooves Harper and Machado to wait. 

It's highly unlikely that two or three weeks from now, the Phils would decrease their offer or take it off the table. However, waiting two or three weeks could bring other teams back into the picture, which increases the bargaining power of Harper and Machado. So, from the Harper-Machado perspective, what's the risk in waiting even longer? Sucks for the fans, but these guys are focused on securing the biggest possible payday.

This also illustrates how tough it can be to close a deal of this magnitude when you are not yet regarded as a "destination." During that Golden Era of Phillies baseball, players wanted to be here. Players gave up more guaranteed money to be here. Roy Halladay, for example, was adamant about being traded to the Phillies.

Right now, the Phillies are a team on the rise but not necessarily a top destination for a superstar. Just keeping it real. If Machado got a huge offer from the Yankees, he'd probably sign there. If Harper got a huge offer from the Dodgers, he'd probably sign there. The absence of those two teams — at least thus far — could wind up helping the Phillies immensely.

That same reason of not yet being a destination also applies to the Padres and White Sox, who are farther behind the Phillies. The appeal of playing and living in San Diego is obvious, though, and it's much closer to Harper's hometown of Las Vegas.

In his 1-on-1 interview with Jim Salisbury on Wednesday, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said that the Phils don't really have a walk-away date in the near future in which they'd break off negotiations with the superstars.

"I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline," Klentak said. "We learned that last year with Jake Arrieta."

Phillies pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12. The first full team workout is Feb. 18. The first spring training game is Feb. 22.

And this ordeal might not be over by then.

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Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Tyler Gilbert to Dodgers for outfielder Kyle Garlick

Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Tyler Gilbert to Dodgers for outfielder Kyle Garlick

Trade! OK, maybe not the kind Phillies fans had been waiting on. The Phils acquired corner outfielder Kyle Garlick from the Dodgers on Saturday for left-handed reliever Tyler Gilbert.

Garlick, 28, was designated for assignment by the Dodgers last week. The Phillies made room for him on the 40-man roster by DFA’ing Nick Martini. Martini had been picked up off waivers from Cincy last month.

Garlick went 12 for 48 with four doubles and three homers for the Dodgers in 2019, his lone season in the bigs. He’s a right-handed hitter with power who went deep 82 times while climbing from Single A to Triple A in a crowded Dodgers system from 2016-19.

With the Phillies, Garlick will vie for a spot on the bench. He has a ton of competition. Jay Bruce, Nick Williams and Roman Quinn are on the 40-man roster, and non-roster invitees Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Mikie Mahtook, Matt Szczur, Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes are also battling for bench jobs. That's 11 players for, at most, four spots, considering the other bench player would be the backup catcher.

Garlick still has two minor league options left, which could provide useful flexibility to the Phillies if they choose to shuttle him back and forth between Triple A and the majors.

Gilbert, the lefty headed to the Dodgers, did not pitch in the majors for the Phillies. He was in camp as a non-roster invitee. He had a 2.83 ERA in 47⅔ innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season but found himself behind many other lefty bullpen candidates here.

The Phillies have Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Francisco Liriano, Ranger Suarez, Cole Irvin, Austin Davis and prospects Cristopher Sanchez, Zach Warren, Damon Jones, Kyle Dohy and JoJo Romero in camp. Lots of options to choose from.

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Phillies get an unplanned reason to slow down top prospect Spencer Howard

Phillies get an unplanned reason to slow down top prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies pitchers completed their fourth day of official bullpen sessions on Saturday, but one notable starter has yet to participate.

Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, tweaked his right knee in a pre-camp workout last weekend, manager Joe Girardi revealed after Saturday’s workout.

Howard had a precautionary MRI during the week and checked out fine. He has continued to participate in throwing drills and did some running Saturday, but his mound work – which he began before camp started – has been paused and there’s no timetable for its restart. Howard has also temporarily ceased doing pitcher fielding drills.

Howard said he tweaked the knee doing a broad-jumping exercise in the weight room last weekend.

“Just landed kind of funny, but no big deal,” he said. "The MRI was all clear.

"Nothing is like actually injured, just pretty much gives me an excuse to do nothing early.”

That fits into the Phillies’ big-picture plan for Howard, who will be on a workload/innings limit this season. The 23-year-old right-hander dealt with shoulder tendinitis last season and has pitched over 100 innings just once in his pro career. Phillies officials envision Howard making an impact at the big-league level at some point in 2020 and would like to save some of his budgeted bullets for later in the season.

“He’s been fine since he was checked out,” Girardi said. “But this kind of gives us the luxury of making sure that we don’t rush him.”

Howard was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. He has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor-league career.

Baseball America recently ranked Howard 27th on its list of Top 100 prospects. (Third baseman Alec Bohm ranked 28th.) Baseball America’s commentary on Howard included this: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

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