CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies president Andy MacPhail opened a 28-minute press conference on Friday afternoon at Spectrum Field with facts and figures about investments the organization made the past few seasons as the team wallowed at the bottom of the National League.
Then MacPhail talked a lot about Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as well as manager Gabe Kapler.
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The Phillies remain a candidate to sign Harper or Machado. Fans want Harper. Players have their preferences, but mostly they just want one of them because they know one of them improves their chances to win a World Series. But MacPhail said he is not worried about fan reaction if they are unable to land either.
"What they want to see is a winning team," MacPhail said. "If we provide them a winning team, like I said earlier, you can win the offseason. But if your record isn't where it should be on May 15, it doesn't matter, and you can have a very disappointing offseason. But if you're where you want to be May 15, that's all that matters. So that's our job. That's what we have to stay focused on."
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The Phillies have sold about 150,000 more tickets than at this point last year, a reflection of offseason acquisitions like J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson. Ticket sales could soar if Harper or Machado is signed, but probably more for Harper. Some fans called Citizens Bank Park a couple weeks ago and purchased partial season-ticket plans based on a bogus report that Harper had agreed with the Phillies. MacPhail said the knowledge that fans overwhelmingly prefer Harper over Machado has not complicated their thinking.
"Look, there has been no shortage of brain power devoted to trying to size up players that are available to us and what they bring," MacPhail said. "Just generally speaking, we are uniquely poised right now that there are some great talents out there and any one of those talents could go to any club and make a significant difference. You can make the case they bring different things, but I think they are both beneficial to your club."
MacPhail made a point to dispute the suggestion that there is no market for players right now. He said last year between Feb. 15 and Opening Day that teams signed 35 players at $543 million.
"Just because the market is moving slowly it doesn't necessarily mean there isn't interest," MacPhail said. "I have to consider the possibility that it could be that it is a strategy employed by some that think that that is in their best interest."
MacPhail also defended Kapler, following reports earlier this month that he failed to call police while serving as the Dodgers' player development director, after being told that two Minor Leaguers might have been involved in the alleged assault of a 17-year-old girl.
"In my entire history, there's never been a hire that was as fully vetted as this one was," MacPhail said about Kapler. "And all the stuff that was regurgitated again this winter, there was nothing in there that made me think that the vetting was anything but very thorough, very impartial and very fair. We were satisfied then when we hired him; we're satisfied today."