The most hotly anticipated Phillies offseason in years is upon us.
Bryce Harper is out there. Manny Machado is out there. Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Nathan Eovaldi are out there, too. Bats and arms. All are available on the free-agent market. The Phillies have money and they are ready to mix it up just like they did when Jim Thome and Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay (OK, he technically came in a trade, but there was a contract extension tagged on) were out there.
Free agents can begin signing as soon as 5 p.m. Saturday, but the market will take longer than that to unfold. Groundwork for signings has already taken place and more will at next week’s general managers meetings in San Diego.
So which way will the Phillies go?
That is difficult to say. First, the organization plays things very close to the vest. Second, things can change at this time of the year. Remember last offseason? Early on, team officials were lukewarm on the idea of signing Jake Arrieta, who started off seeking a deal of five-plus years. A few months later, he was on Air Middleton, jetting to Clearwater with a three-year deal.
If you’ve listened closely to comments made by general manager Matt Klentak over the last few months, you know he is not locked in on one way to improve the club this winter. There are scenarios in which he could go the pitching route and be in on the top free-agent arms. He has the money to do it. Or he could go all-in on one of the two big bats, Harper or Machado. He would probably be best served trying to pull off a combination because the Phillies need offense and starting pitching. Some of this is unpredictable because many other teams will be in the mix for these aforementioned players and you’d better have Plans A, B, C, D and E (as well as trade scenarios) as the music stops and players pick their chairs.
For a couple of years now, the Phillies have been connected to Machado. Loaded with talent and just 26, he would fit well into the construction of this roster. Yes, he made some troubling comments about not hustling last month, and yes, those comments have given Phillies officials a lot to think about. But the Phils remain open-minded on Machado and will be in on him. His talent mandates that the team stay in on him and see where it goes. Machado, the good and the bad, is the same player he was in Baltimore and the Phillies wanted him badly in July. One bad month isn’t changing that. Some fans will never forget his troubling comments and that’s understandable in a town that adored Brian Dawkins and Chase Utley. Others will forgive and forget when he hits .380 in June and launches a ball into the upper deck to win a game.
But Harper, also 26 and dripping with talent, is just as realistic a possibility as Machado. With his power and on-base skills, he fits what this front office is trying to do with its lineup. These are players that could cost $250 million or more, depending on how the market goes.
The Phillies are ready to spend. They are open to all sorts of possibilities.
The most hotly anticipated Phillies offseason in years is here.
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