LAS VEGAS — Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his top lieutenants arrived at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for baseball’s winter meetings Sunday afternoon.
Klentak acquired shortstop Jean Segura in a trade with Seattle last week. The move, which sent Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford to the Mariners, improved the Phillies’ offense (greatly) and defense at the position and cleared a path for Rhys Hoskins to move back to first base.
Klentak is looking to turn an 80-win team into a playoff club and there is much work left to do this offseason. He will spend the next few days in Las Vegas looking for more improvements to the offense as well as the pitching staff.
“We need to get into that 90-plus win area and there are a lot of ways we can do that,” Klentak said before leaving Philadelphia.
“We’re open-minded to a lot of different things. We’re going to look in a lot of different directions. It could be in the form of a big-ticket free agent. It could be in the form of trades or other areas. The name of the game is trying to get better and that’s what we’re trying to do. I’m expecting an exhausting week.”
The Phillies’ search for more offense still seems to hinge on Manny Machado. The Phils have long liked him and have an interest in signing him to play third base, where he grades out as an elite defender. Phillies officials have been in contact with Machado’s representative, Dan Lozano, and they will surely speak again at the meetings. The question remains: Will Machado back off his desire to play shortstop — some believe he would for the right money — and his desire to play for the New York Yankees, who do have interest in him? Time will tell.
Free agent Bryce Harper will cast a large shadow over the meetings. The slugging outfielder hails from Las Vegas and there will surely be speculation that he could sign in his hometown. That seems unlikely, however, because Harper is seeking the richest contract ever — more than Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million — and a deal like that will take some time. Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, is always patient and willing to go deep into the winter to get his price.
The Phillies remain interested in Harper — who wouldn’t be? — and will surely meet with Boras this week. But at the moment, Harper appears to rank below Machado on the Phillies’ wish list. Of course, things can change in a hurry at this time of the year.
Michael Brantley is another free agent in the Phillies’ focus. The 31-year-old leftfielder, a three-time All-Star, hit .309 with an .832 OPS for Cleveland last season. It would not be surprising at all to see the Phillies end up with Brantley.
“I like the guys we have in the outfield,” Klentak said of Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. “We can mix and match with what we have. Having said that, we’re always looking for the areas on the roster where we can upgrade and make an improvement and I do think the outfield lends itself to that.”
As for pitching, the Phils would still like to add a lefty starter to balance out a righty-dominant rotation. The team is interested in free agent J.A. Happ and Arizona trade candidate Robbie Ray. The Phils would also like to add a lefty like Zach Britton or Andrew Miller to the bullpen. Both are free agents.
Klentak and his aides headed right off to the Phillies’ hotel suite (war room) upon arriving at the winter meetings Sunday afternoon. No wasting time. There’s a lot of work to do looking for those 10 more wins that could make the Phils a contender.
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