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MacPhail: Big signing not only way Phils could go

Philly remains interested in Machado, Harper, but there are a 'lot of different ways to improve'
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will host Manny Machado on Thursday in Philadelphia, and sometime in the future, they may host Bryce Harper, too.

The Phillies remain in the hunt to sign one of the two superstar free agents, although internally, they continue to debate how far they should go to bring one of them to town.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will host Manny Machado on Thursday in Philadelphia, and sometime in the future, they may host Bryce Harper, too.

The Phillies remain in the hunt to sign one of the two superstar free agents, although internally, they continue to debate how far they should go to bring one of them to town.

"We have flexibility and we're still interested," Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said on Monday at Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place, an emergency shelter for 149 homeless men in North Philadelphia, where the club served an annual holiday meal. "We're not ruling anything out, or anybody out. It's a nice platform to operate on, because the floor has been significantly raised. We're still in position to improve.

"But there are a lot of different ways to improve. It's very important that you keep an eye on the future. There's going to be just as much pressure on us next year to improve as there is this year. And the same thing the year after that. So you've got to give yourself enough latitude to deal with each offseason as it comes."

The Phillies will introduce outfielder Andrew McCutchen at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. He signed a three-year, $50 million contract to play left or right field. Philadelphia previously acquired shortstop Jean Segura and relief pitchers Juan Nicasio, James Pazos and Jose Alvarez. Besides Harper and Machado, the Phils continue to pursue left-handed relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton. It would not be a surprise to seen one of them sign soon. The Phillies have talked to the Rangers about left-hander Mike Minor, whom they like because he can be a starter or reliever.

• Phillies interested in Rangers' Minor

"A lot of the things that I talked about at the end of the season were to improve the defense and get a little more balance left-handed," MacPhail said. "I think moving Rhys [Hoskins] back to first [and] getting Segura and McCutchen has had a very favorable outlook for our defense as compared to last year. And I think [GM] Matt [Klentak] has significantly improved the left-handed options available in the bullpen. We still have some flexibility, but in terms of filling an outfield corner spot, shortstop, improving the defense, getting a little more left-handed, he's off to a great start."

But Phillies fans want Harper or Machado. They almost expect it. Managing partner John Middleton said last month that the Phils could be a "little bit stupid" in how they spend their money.

"We just prefer not to be completely stupid," Middleton added.

Still, some fans took that as the Phillies will empty out the bank vault to sign one of them. But MacPhail, like Klentak, said everybody is on the same page.

"If you talked to John, while he did say that we could be spending a little bit stupid, he also went to great lengths to say that one of those two signings were not going to be a prerequisite for a successful offseason," MacPhail said. "You can have a very successful offseason and not include either one of those [players]. That may or may not be the case. But the way that it was portrayed put John in an awkward spot."

Sources have said the Phillies prefer Machado over Harper. Thursday's visit seems to confirm that, particularly because the Phils never met with Harper during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Harper lives in Vegas, and he reportedly met with other teams there.

One source told MLB.com that nothing should be read into that. The Phillies know Harper is going to take a long time to sign because his agent Scott Boras is seeking a record-breaking deal that could exceed $300 million and/or an average annual value of $35 million. Harper's decision is expected to drag into January.

The Phils still have time to make their pitch.

Of course, the Phillies could make a few more moves by that time and not have as much payroll flexibility. It might a hard sell to fans.

"Whatever happens in the offseason is going to be forgotten on May 15, and the only thing that is going to matter is wins and losses," MacPhail said. "You can have a great offseason, but if the wins and losses aren't there in May, you're in trouble. You can have what's not perceived to be an exciting offseason, but if the wins and losses are there in May, you're in good shape. That's what we have to keep in mind."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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