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Inbox: Can Phillies nab free-agent superstars?

Fans ask about signing Harper, Machado and possible trade targets
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

In the end, do you think the Phillies will sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? Who do you want?
-- Tyler C., Philadelphia

I would not bet my mortgage on either player, but in the end I believe the Phillies will sign one of them because I just don't see enough teams with the same financial flexibility as them. And, quite frankly, I just think the Phillies need one.

In the end, do you think the Phillies will sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? Who do you want?
-- Tyler C., Philadelphia

I would not bet my mortgage on either player, but in the end I believe the Phillies will sign one of them because I just don't see enough teams with the same financial flexibility as them. And, quite frankly, I just think the Phillies need one.

There is real debate inside the Phils about how far they should go to sign Harper or Machado -- $250 million? $300 million? $350 million? More? Either would be a tremendous upgrade at their respective positions, with Harper in right field and Machado at third base. Harper is a 27.4 WAR player over seven seasons with the Nationals, according to Baseball Reference. Machado is a 33.8 WAR player over that span with the Orioles and Dodgers. These guys are potential Hall of Famers, folks. And because both are just 26, it is likely they have not hit their primes. (For comparison's sake, prime Chase Utley posted a 49.3 WAR from 2005-11 and prime Jimmy Rollins posted a 30.9 WAR from 2002-08.) If the Phillies want to make at least a 10-win improvement from last season's 80-82 squad, nobody this offseason can make a bigger impact than Harper or Machado.

Yes, both players carry some risk, which is where the Phillies' internal tug-of-war comes from. Harper has had injury issues and his defensive metrics last season were troubling. (Harper's agent, Scott Boras, insists a healthy Harper will return to his typical defensive standards in 2019.) Machado is a risk because of his "Johnny Hustle" comments and postseason antics. It would drive Phillies fans nuts if he were to stroll to first base on a ground ball, pop fly or ball smashed off the outfield wall. If the Phils are going to give a player $300 million to become the face of the franchise, it would be nice if they knew the fan base will love him.

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If I had to choose one? Selfishly speaking, as somebody that covers the team on a daily basis, I think Harper would be the more fascinating story. Harper not only is a special talent, but he is the rare player that can elevate an entire franchise. He will sell tickets and merchandise. He will bring more eyeballs to TV and more ears to radio. That does not mean Harper is going to be better over the next 10 seasons than Machado. In fact, I think there is a strong argument that Machado could be better based on the fact he is a better defender. But Harper has that it factor.

Do the Phils have a fallback plan should they miss out on Harper and Machado?
-- Andrew B., Philadelphia

I think we are looking at it. They acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio, James Pazos and Jose Alvarez. I suspect they will sign at least one more back-end reliever (Zach Britton?) and potentially acquire a starter. It would be an impossible sell for the Phillies, but it would give them roster and payroll flexibility for the future.

Video: Matt Klentak on why Phillies signed McCutchen

Why are the Phillies interested in Mike Minor? If they want a left-handed starting pitcher, they should explore a trade for Robbie Ray. Minor will not move the needle at all.
-- Brett L., Broomall, Pa.

The Phillies like Minor because they believe he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter or pitch effectively out of the bullpen. If the Phils traded for Minor, I'm sure they would say he will enter Spring Training competing for a job in the rotation, but if it did not work, he could be a weapon in the bullpen.

Because they don't have a bona fide first-string catcher, why aren't the Phillies showing interest in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto?
-- Kathy H., Topton, Pa.

The Phillies have talked to the Marlins about Realmuto, but the price remains high. The fact is the Phils like Jorge Alfaro. So, while there is no question that Realmuto would move the needle, Philadelphia believes it has greater issues than catcher.

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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