j.a. happ

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

LAS VEGAS — The Phillies lost out on another starting pitching target Wednesday when J.A. Happ turned his focus on returning to the New York Yankees.

Happ, 36, was seeking a three-year contract and the Phillies were reluctant to do that.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies lost out on Patrick Corbin when he spurned their five-year offer for a six-year deal with Washington.

So what are the Phillies going to do to upgrade their starting pitching rotation?

Could they stand pat with the guys they have?

It's possible.

In that case, they would attempt to improve their "run prevention" by upgrading the bullpen.

According to sources, the Phillies remain very much in pursuit of accomplished left-handed relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller. Both pitchers are getting a lot of action from teams and the Phillies, according to sources, are right in the thick of the chase. Britton has been a longstanding target of the Phils, but two sources suggested on Wednesday night that the Phils were hot on Miller's trail, as well.

Stay tuned on that one.

The Phils would love to add a high-end lefty reliever because most of their back-end, high-leverage relievers (Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter) are right-handed.

Both Britton and Miller have closer experience. The Phils did not have a defined closer last season. Landing a Britton or a Miller could lead them to consider defining a closer.

"I think when you have a Mariano Rivera type on your team, you use him as a closer and that helps shape the rest of your bullpen," general manager Matt Klentak said. "I think if we have that guy, whether we develop that player or acquire that player from elsewhere, I think we would use a dedicated closer. We have a very deep and high-floor bullpen with a lot of players who have different strengths, complementary strengths. I think that lends itself to the type of bullpen management we implemented last year. I'm very open to having a closer but I'm not going to force that if the personnel doesn't dictate that."

Though he said it was not imperative that he add a starter, Klentak is going to keep trying to do that. He'd still like to get a lefty. Robbie Ray of Arizona remains a trade possibility.

"Our starting pitching was the strength of our team last year," Klentak said. "I know that it faltered at the end. I'm not trying to hide behind that. I know that they struggled late. But for most of the season, the starting rotation was the strength of the team. For us to make an acquisition, we have to be very confident that it is moving the needle and that it's a sound investment. I'm not certain where we'll wind up on that.

"There's always been some chance that it comes through a trade. But I'm hesitant to say it's likely. There's still a bunch of free-agent starters available. There's still several guys on the trade block. And I'm still pretty comfortable with the group we have."

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Phillies will meet with agents for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but won’t wait forever

Phillies will meet with agents for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but won’t wait forever

LAS VEGAS — The Phillies will have face-to-face meetings this week with the representatives for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two megastars of this winter’s free-agent class.

The Phillies would like to sign Machado and play him at third base, according to sources.

They seem lukewarm on Harper but haven’t completely ruled him out.

Machado and Harper are both angling for the largest payday in baseball history — more than $325 million — and contracts like those take time to come together.

But the Phillies won’t wait forever.

“We’re not going to sit around and be held hostage by one or two players,” general manager Matt Klentak said on Day 1 of the winter meetings Monday. “If there are moves to make in the short term that make sense for us, we’re going to do that. If it works out that there are players that fit for us down the road and it makes sense, then great. But we’re not going to sit around and wait.”

It would not be surprising to see the Phillies move on a free-agent starting pitcher and an outfielder before Machado and Harper sign.

The Phils would like to add a lefty to their rotation and J.A. Happ is very much in their sights.

The Phils seem committed to upgrading in the outfield and there are indications that they could get a deal done with leftfielder Michael Brantley.

Happ is 36 and Brantley turns 32 in May. Neither would require anything close to the length of deal that a Machado or Harper would. Machado and Harper are both 26 and could command deals of up to 10 years. Two years and an option might get Happ done. Three years and an option might get Brantley.

“Ten years is sort of an arbitrary number, but I don’t like to ever rule us out of anything,” Klentak said. “I think in the history of the game, the mega contracts don’t tend to end very well and that’s not a secret. You really have to take it case by case whether you’re in the rebuild stage or the stage we’re in now. I think you have to stay open-minded and make sure you’re properly balancing the present and the future implications.”

The Phillies have the payroll flexibility where they could actually sign Happ and Brantley and still sign Machado.

“It's still very viable that we can and will add an additional outfielder,” Klentak said. “The guys that we have there right now have demonstrated with their talent or their production that every one of them is probably a candidate for regular reps in certain circumstances. But I do think outfield is an area where we could add.”

Could the Phillies make a move this week?

"I think there's a chance," Klentak said.

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Lefty-hungry Phillies turn attention to J.A. Happ and others after Patrick Corbin picks Nationals

Lefty-hungry Phillies turn attention to J.A. Happ and others after Patrick Corbin picks Nationals

The Phillies did not get Patrick Corbin, but they will still see plenty of him.

The free-agent left-hander will sign with the Washington Nationals, according to the Washington Post and several other sources. The deal, which is contingent on a physical exam, is for six years and $140 million, according to reports.

The Phillies hosted Corbin and his wife at Citizens Bank Park last week and subsequently made offers to the pitcher, according to sources. The Phillies are reluctant to give lengthy contracts to pitchers and likely had serious reservations about going to six years for Corbin, who turns 30 in July and has Tommy John surgery in his past.

Corbin had previously been with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now that he is in the National League East, he will see the Phillies 19 times per season. Corbin joins three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in a formidable Washington rotation.

The Phillies would still like to add a lefty to their starting rotation and remain interested in a reunion with J.A. Happ. Happ was drafted by the Phillies in 2004, debuted with the club in 2007 and was traded for Roy Oswalt in 2010. Happ, who split last season between the Blue Jays and Yankees, turned 36 in October. The Yankees, who were also in pursuit of Corbin, are interested in bringing back Happ so there is competition for his services.

Other lefties that intrigue the Phils include Yusei Kikuchi, who is about to come over from Japan. The Phillies have scouted Kikuchi and they like him. However, there are indications that Kikuchi may prefer to pitch for a West Coast team.

On the trade front, the Phillies would have interest in acquiring Robbie Ray from Arizona.

An investment like Corbin probably signals that the Nationals are moving on from Bryce Harper, who is seeking the richest deal in the history of the game.

The Phillies have interest in Harper but, at the moment, are prioritizing Manny Machado.

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