CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak had just finished a press conference Thursday morning at Spectrum Field, where he discussed Aaron Nola's four-year, $45 million contract extension. He stretched his legs a moment before he sat back down to discuss anything else that happened to be on the
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak had just finished a press conference Thursday morning at Spectrum Field, where he discussed Aaron Nola's four-year, $45 million contract extension. He stretched his legs a moment before he sat back down to discuss anything else that happened to be on the minds of Phillies reporters.
Really, there is only one thing on anybody's mind.
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"I think I know where you're going with that," Klentak said, referring to free-agent superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. "I think if you look at our offseason, we have done just about everything we've set out to do. At the beginning of the offseason, we identified for sure that we wanted to improve the team defense. That was a flaw of our team last year and it was something we knew we needed to address. We wanted to address our ability to get good hitters out late in the game, particularly left-handed hitters. We think we've addressed that. We've addressed our offense in a couple of key places. And now we've taken care of locking up our best young player. A lot of years, that would be a very complete, thorough and successful offseason. And I really think that it is. The notion that we hear that if we fail to sign a big free agent then it's a failure of an offseason, I don't agree with that.
"Now, I say all that, I'm not trying to throw cold water on the idea that we may still sign a free agent. We are going to continue to explore that market because there's still several really good free agents out there."
The Phillies remain in contact with the agents for Harper and Machado. The belief in Clearwater is that the front office still prefers Machado over Harper because of Machado's combination of offense and defense.
The belief everywhere else, including players in the Phillies clubhouse, is that the organization will sign one of the two.
When? Nobody knows. Several prominent free agents did not sign until March last year. Perhaps the same thing happens with Harper and/or Machado.
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"What I can tell you is that I feel very good about the efforts that we've made thus far, from our meeting and dinner with Manny in Center City to our trip to Las Vegas to visit Bryce," Klentak said. "I'm really pleased with the fact that I believe we've put our best foot forward with these guys so far. I'm really pleased with the rest of our offseason. And that's why I want to try to temper or manage the message or temper the notion that a failure to sign one of these big free agents renders this a bad offseason. We've had an objectively excellent offseason, in my opinion."
The Phillies believe that the offseason additions of J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, David Robertson and others have boosted their chances to make the 2019 postseason. Does Klentak feel pressure to make the playoffs, following last year's late-season collapse and those acquisitions?
"Pressure is the wrong word," Klentak said. "I think if you sit in this chair or the manager's chair or an ownership chair and are feeling pressure, you're probably in the wrong line of work. What I feel is excitement. This is exciting. We have gone through several lean years. We did that to put ourselves in a position to later compete and make aggressive moves to put us into contention.
"We are motivated, we are driven, we are excited. This is the most excited I've been to come to Clearwater in my four years here, but I don't think you can go into a season feeling pressure. I think that's the wrong way to do it."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.