It seems like the Phillies have been connected to every free agent and every player available in a trade. What's going on here?
-- Matt S., Mt. Laurel, N.J.
The Phillies believe they have options. They are not a team with only one or two holes or only one or two ways to fill them. It is why they are connected to Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, and even players like Paul Goldschmidt. (The Phils want all the first basemen!) It is why they have reportedly made a contract offer to Michael Brantley and talked trade with the Giants for Madison Bumgarner and the Mariners for Jean Segura.
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MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote this on Monday: the Phillies seem unwilling to wait for Harper and Machado to sign, particularly if either wants to drag contract negotiations deep into the offseason (i.e., January or later) to squeeze every last dime from bidders.
It is a risk. Harper and Machado are the two best players on the market. They are "generational" talents, and when Phillies managing partner John Middleton said recently that the Phils' plan was to spend "stupid" money this offseason, even if he was joking when he said it, fans interpreted it only one way: Philadelphia will sign one of them.
But the Phillies' front office is a confident bunch. It trusts its process, although that process has it looking to trade Carlos Santana less than a year after signing him to a three-year, $60 million contract. The Phils believe they can spend money, make trades and improve the roster in significant ways without signing Harper or Machado.
Maybe they can.
A mix like Corbin, Brantley and Kimbrel would not jam the Phillies' season-ticket phone lines like Harper, but it would make them better and it would keep them well-positioned to pursue another big fish in a couple years, if he is available. (Yes, I'm talking about Carson Wentz's hunting buddy, Michael Trout.)
But if the Phillies believe moving forward without Harper or Machado in hand is a smart decision, they must hit. They know fans will be unhappy if they don't see Harper or Machado in Clearwater, Fla., in March, as they have expected one of them in red pinstripes for some time. But any anger or disappointment will be short-lived if the Phils win. Winning cures everything. It always does.
What do you think about the Braves' one-year contract for Josh Donaldson?
-- Jeff D., Philadelphia
I love it. Donaldson is a former American League Most Valuable Player Award winner and a high-caliber player when he is healthy. I would have happily bested Atlanta's $23 million offer to have him in a Phillies uniform next season. Donaldson is a risk because of his recent health history, but on a one-year deal, it is a risk worth taking.
Do the Phillies really think it's a good idea to sign a player like Machado, who says he doesn't like to hustle, and have him as our team leader for the next 10 years?
-- Mark J., Carlisle, Pa.
Machado's comments and actions in the 2018 postseason are on the Phillies' minds. They must be, because the last thing Philadelphia wants is to hand a player $300 million and not have him fit in with his teammates, organization and city. It would be disastrous. But Machado seems like the type of player that is not easily rattled or bothered by criticism. He might have the right personality to handle boos from Phils fans whenever he decides not to run hard to first base on a routine ground ball or flyout (or on a ball hit off the left-field wall).
Rumor has the Phillies interested in trading for Segura. Does this mean they are steering away from Machado? Signing just Harper and then trading for Segura would certainly give the Phils financial flexibility down the road, as opposed to signing both Harper and Machado.
-- Brett L., Broomall, Pa.
The Phillies have indicated a few times this offseason that they will not sign both Harper and Machado, if they sign either of them at all. But like I mentioned above, I think the Phils are trying to find creative ways to maximize their upgrades. A Harper-Segura combination would make sense. Segura is signed through 2022 with a club option for '23, and he is good: His 11.8 FanGraphs WAR over the past three seasons ranks seventh among shortstops. He is also relatively affordable, as he has $58 million guaranteed over the next four seasons, including a $1 million buyout on the $17 million club option.
But Segura also has been traded three times in his career, and twice in the past three years. Why? He obviously had serious problems with the Mariners last season, most notably getting into a fight with teammate Dee Gordon. Manager Scott Servais seems to have had his issues with Segura, too. But it is unclear how much the Phillies value a player's makeup when they make roster transactions, so they might not consider that an issue at all.