Kapler high on Harper, Manny as fits for Phils

Manager also weighs in on Segura, Kingery, Herrera at Winter Meetings

December 10th, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- Gabe Kapler cannot say too much, but there is no question he would love Manny Machado or in the Phillies' lineup next season.

It is hard to imagine the Phillies not landing one of them.

The Phillies are expected to meet this week with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, at the Winter Meetings. Harper lives in Las Vegas, too, so it would not be a surprise if they had an off-campus meeting. If the Phillies have not already met with Machado, they could meet with him, too. The Phillies want face time with the players who could sign record-shattering contracts in the coming weeks.

Sources told MLB.com that the Phillies still want Machado, even though they acquired shortstop last week in a trade with the Mariners. Machado famously said during the postseason that he is not "Johnny Hustle" after he didn't run hard on a ground ball in the National League Championship Series. Players that don't play hard are not treated kindly in Philly, but Kapler does not sound worried.

"I think wherever he goes, somebody's going to get an incredible baseball player," Kapler said.

And Harper? He is incredible, too. It is just what the Phillies value more.

"Bryce Harper does a number of things well, but one of the things I found most fascinating about him last year was even through the times of his struggles, he still worked an incredible at-bat," Kapler said. "Now when he's going good, he's one of the more difficult players to get out in the game. And I love the way he plays. I think there's so much to like about what Bryce Harper brings to the table. His play on the field and then also what he brings to a clubhouse environment."

Kapler touched on numerous other topics during Monday's media availability. Here are the highlights:

Mr. Positivity

Kapler spoke positively about his players last season, even as they struggled down the stretch. Phillies president Andy MacPhail said that Kapler needs to speak more candidly at times, otherwise he will lose credibility.

Message received.

"As much as I illuminate some of the things we're doing very well, I can be a little more assertive in illuminating the things that we need to work on," Kapler said. "And I'm committed to taking that step.

"Andy did say that he thinks that holding players, staff members and the entire organization to a very high bar publicly is something that he thinks will work well. I agree with him. I think it's an easy adjustment for me to make and it doesn't have to be anything dramatic or forced. I think it's just a small adjustment. It's the turning up of the volume of just kind of raising the bar, holding the club and the organization to a high standard."

Kapler's clubhouse also will have more rules next season. More structure could be a good thing for players, whom Kapler hoped would police themselves last year.

"I thought our clubhouse was in incredible shape for most of the season last year," Kapler said. "There were times when it wasn't perfect. But I think that's true for any locker room environment."

Segura and Kingery

Kapler sees Segura hitting second, although that could change. So what happens then to , who played shortstop last season? He might not see much time at second base. The market is flooded with second basemen, so even if the Phillies wanted to trade , it might be difficult.

Kingery could return to a super-utility role, perhaps sharing time at third base with . Kapler believes Kingery can be a good third baseman.

"Scott Kingery is one of the toughest individuals I've ever been around," Kapler said. "When I called Scott and said, 'Hey, we just acquired this shortstop, you're most likely going to move around the diamond again,' he said, 'OK, I get it.' I think Scott Kingery can handle anything. I don't think it's too tough for him."

Herrera in shape a must

Phillies outfielder entered last Spring Training out of shape, but he hit like one of the best players in baseball through the middle of May (.353/.420/.558). Then he cratered, slashing just .216/.264/.365 the rest of the way. Kapler visited Herrera recently in Miami and is convinced he will enter Spring Training in shape and ready to perform.

"He was certainly inspired when I spent time with him," Kapler said. "He was certainly committed when I spent time with him. We're going to demand that [commitment] of Odubel."

An argument can be made that Herrera needs somebody to stay on top of him. and held that role in previous seasons, but when the Phillies jettisoned them, nobody took their place. Herrera got to be himself, but perhaps to his detriment.

"I always believed that bringing the best out of a player is not one or the other," Kapler said. "It's not leave him alone and it's not stay on top of him. It's trial and error until you find the sweet spot. And I think that's still a work in progress. Like how do we motivate an especially talented, gifted individual that for six weeks was one of the best players ... how do we get that outcome for the entirety of a season?

"I take responsibility for him coming into camp in better shape this year than he did last year. I've demanded it of him. He knows that I will accept nothing less. He has suggested that he will accept nothing less. And I think we have a large group of people who are consistently reaching out to him. Not to stay on top of him, per se, but to demonstrate that there's nothing more important to us than him coming to camp ready to really dominate."