LAS VEGAS -- Bryce Harper lives in Las Vegas, which is convenient, considering the Winter Meetings are here this week.If the Phillies want to meet Harper, they can expense a car service.But the Phillies will meet this week anyway with Scott Boras, who is Harper's agent, and Dan Lozano, who
LAS VEGAS -- Bryce Harper lives in Las Vegas, which is convenient, considering the Winter Meetings are here this week.
If the Phillies want to meet Harper, they can expense a car service.
But the Phillies will meet this week anyway with Scott Boras, who is Harper's agent, and Dan Lozano, who is Manny Machado's agent. The Phillies remain interested in both superstar players, and have had ongoing discussions with both agents throughout the offseason. Sources have said the Phillies prefer Machado, envisioning him at third base and Jean Segura at shortstop.
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But circumstances can change. If the Yankees sign Machado, for example, one can bet that the Phillies will give their undivided attention to Harper, who hopes to sign a record-breaking contract that would exceed $325 million and an average annual value of $34.4 million.
The Phillies will sign only one of them, if they sign one at all.
"I'm not going to telegraph our intentions here," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Monday afternoon. "We are trying to get better and we're trying to move the needle wherever we can. At the same time, we're not going to sit around and be held hostage by one or two players. 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."
Is some of that public posturing to let Boras and Lozano know that the Phillies want to move sooner than later? Sure. Teams, like agents, try to influence negotiations in various ways.
But there is truth there, too. The Phillies remain in pursuit of free-agent left-hander J.A. Happ, who would help the rotation. They would love to add a left-handed reliever like Zach Britton or Andrew Miller. The Phillies need another outfielder with Rhys Hoskins returning to first base. They could turn to free-agent outfielders like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock.
The Phillies could go big and send the Marlins a package of prospects for catcher J.T. Realmuto, too.
It would be foolish for the Phillies to pass up those opportunities because they want to wait on Machado or Harper. Besides, internally the Phillies believe any money saved this offseason will allow them to pursue Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next offseason, or Michael Trout or Mookie Betts two offseasons from now.
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Of course, there is risk there, too. Machado at third base or Harper in right field in 2019 is worth more than the possibility of Arenado or Rendon in 2020 or Trout or Betts in 2021.
But to sign Machado or Harper could mean at least a 10-year commitment. Would the Phillies go that long?
"Ten years is sort of an arbitrary number, but I don't like to ever rule us out of anything," Klentak said. "All of you have heard me talk about my distaste for signing starting pitchers to long-term contracts, and yet a week ago we were bidding pretty aggressively on a long-term starting pitcher [Patrick Corbin]. That's just a way to illustrate [that] you don't ever rule anything out, because sometimes there will be opportunities you want to pursue.
"I think in the history of the game, the mega contracts don't tend to end very well, and that's not a secret. We can go back and look at all these. If you feel like you're getting enough of a boost to your club in the early years of that deal, it may be something you consider."
Phillies managing partner John Middleton is not in town this week, which is noteworthy because when teams pursue superstars like Harper and Machado, the man controlling the purse strings often likes to meet the person.
"There have been a lot of people that have volunteered to help us in our recruiting efforts this year, and some of whom we've taken them up on it so far," Klentak said. "We had what turned out to be a pretty public courting of Corbin a couple weeks back. We're not going to telegraph what we're going to do. We're not going to broadcast who we're involving in the process. I think these things naturally have a way of becoming public. Sometimes, it's because we're a little careless with what we put up on the scoreboard, and sometimes it gets out for other reasons. I'm not opposed to those types of things becoming public, but it's not really my style to publicly declare what we're doing."
Other teams have been more vocal. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that they have not closed the door on Harper, just days after Nationals owner Mark Lerner said they do not expect Harper to return. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman dismissed a question Monday afternoon about his team's interest in Harper, rattling off the names of the Yankees' outfielders and reiterating that he does not see Harper playing first base for them.
For what it is worth, Klentak thinks there is a chance the Phillies acquire somebody this week. It probably will not be Machado or Harper. But it could be Happ. It could be a relief pitcher.
"Sometimes, the conversations that you have here may not lead to something here but will lead to something shortly thereafter," Klentak said.
The Phillies continue to engage Harper and Machado, and as long as they are talking to them, they will remain the favorites to sign one.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.