This weekend Major League Baseball’s free agent market will officially open up. Across the Delaware Valley and beyond, many Phillies fans are excited. The general consensus is that the team is all in on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, this year’s big prizes.
Not to be one of those doomsayers, but let’s proceed with some caution. Already there has been some talk that the Phillies may be out on Machado. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports suggested on WFAN radio that a big market team was already out on Machado. Could that team be the Phillies?
During the World Series Harper’s Super-Agent Scott Boras suggested on YES Network that a deal was already done. Was that just Boras being Boras or was there some validity to the claim?
Machado would be the best free agent acquisition the Phillies could make. Even if he wants to play shortstop instead of third base, he would solidify the most important position on the field. No one around baseball, including Matt Klentak, was thrilled with Machado’s comments and behaviors during the playoffs but his numbers prove he is an amazing talent. Hopefully, he has learned something from the negative press.
Would Harper really come to Philadelphia? Would the Phillies acquiesce to Harper and Boras’ demands of a multiyear deal in excess of $350 million dollars? Would Harper even be willing to play for Gabe Kapler and his habit of lineup juggling, endless shifts, insistence on putting players in unnatural positions, and perplexing bullpen mania?
It is also quite possible that all the talk about owner John Middleton being ready to open up his wallet and dish out greenbacks could be just a cloud of expensive cigar smoke. Arrieta and Santana did not sign mega contracts and neither lived up to the expectations. So, it is not a definite that Middleton will be “Mr. Moneybags” when it comes to loading up the wheel barrow?
Giving Harper the big bucks could also be derailed by several other factors. He is not exactly the model clubhouse presence. His 3.5 WAR is off the chain, but his defense is mediocre. Also, his batting average in the 2018 season was only .249, and he has never really been an RBI machine. He is and always has been about himself first. All easy excuses to throw out there by a team controlled by multi-millionaires with low baseball IQs and a quick propensity to defend their reasons for not spending money.
To be fair, the same Phillies fans that clamor for the front office to sign Harper and Machado would be the first to blame the front office when there is no championship trophy in Middleton’s display case. And truth be told, it is going to take more than just one marquee free agent. There is a huge drop off from the top-tier free agents to the second tier.
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Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, and Michael Brantley are nice players, but they are not going to bring the trophy back.
Also, for the Phillies to be a championship caliber team, a quality left-handed starter is a necessity. It is a safe bet to say freea gent Patrick Corbin will be the player to replace Yankee CC Sabathia. Astro Dallas Keuchel has declined his option but he would need a stellar defense to be effective in Philly. J.A. Happ is 36 years old, enough said.
Middleton and Klentak will have their work cut out for them in order to restore quality baseball in Philadelphia. If they are unwilling to match the various offers for Machado and Harper, and that is certainly a possibility, it will take a really creative effort to make some constructive trades. Given Klentak’s track record, that could be daunting.
Perhaps the Phillies should go on a fishing trip for Trout in Los Angeles.