Phillies Front Office

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Klentak: 'We’ve had an objectively great offseason'

Tim Kelly
February 14, 2019 - 12:09 pm

Probably no one wants a resolution to the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sagas more than Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

For his part, the fourth year general manager says he feels good about the effort that the Phillies have put forward in their pursuit of the two 26-year-old stars. He also added Patrick Corbin—who the Phillies welcomed to Citizens Bank Park in early December—into the mix of players who he felt like the Phillies have done a good job of selling on the organization, even if they weren’t ultimately willing to guarantee a sixth contractual year to keep from signing with the division-rival Washington Nationals.

But in their star-hunting quest this offseason, the Phillies haven’t waited on the decisions of Harper or Machado to build the rest of their roster.

Related: Nightengale: Down to Phillies and Giants for Harper​

They traded Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford to Seattle in a deal that netted them three players, including shortstop Jean Segura. It also allowed Rhys Hoskins to move back to first base.

With an opening in the outfield, the Phillies agreed to a lucrative three-year, $45 million deal with Andrew McCutchen.

David Robertson, coming off of his second stint with the New York Yankees, was added to a back-end of the bullpen that already includes Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris.

And most recently, the Phillies traded their No. 1 overall prospect, Sixto Sanchez, as part of a package to acquire All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Even without Harper or Machado, Klentak says the Phillies feel strongly that they’ve had a successful offseason.

“I want to try to temper the notion that a failure to sign one of these big free-agents renders this offseason a failure,” Klentak said Thursday. “We’ve had an objectively great offseason in my opinion. It doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying, we’re gonna keep pushing - our ownership demands nothing less than us continuing to push. But I think we’re comfortable with where we are right now, and we just have to play it out.”

While the rest of the Phillies division, save for the Miami Marlins, has seemingly improved, so too have the Phillies, who despite a second-half collapse, did enter last August in first place in the National League East.

But it isn’t that simple.

Phillies managing partner John Middleton, who was present at Aaron Nola’s extension press conference Thursday, made the defining quote of the baseball offseason in mid-November, saying that the club was prepared to “maybe even be a little stupid” about how they spent money this offseason.

Klentak and president Andy MacPhail, of course, probably didn’t care for that framing. Between trades, free-agent signings and Nola’s extension, the Phillies have committed over $180 million this offseason.

But while the club has certainly been improved this offseason, the Phillies have been connected to Harper and Machado for multiple years now. In a city that employs Carson Wentz, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Phillies do lack the star presence that would bring the juice back to Citizens Bank Park. Harper or Machado would give them that. The addition of either would probably also make the Phillies the favorite to win the division, something the club hasn’t done since 2011.

In a perfect (and still probably realistic) world, the Phillies will come away with one of the two stars, who have a combined 10 All-Star Game appearances. Mum has been the word on Machado recently, but Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported earlier this week that Harper is “not considering” short-term deals, which would seem to put a dent in the San Francisco Giants chances to land the former National League MVP. Without the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers involved on either—and the New York Yankees maybe only tepidly involved on Machado at this stage—it would seem that both Harper and Machado would have to turn down the highest total offer for the Phillies not to come away with one. It would be one thing for Harper or Machado to take a lesser deal to join an illustrious franchise, but in this case, at least one of them would seemingly be doing so to join the Chicago White Sox or San Diego Padres.

Still, the Harper-Machado saga has found its way into Spring Training. It’s now part of the 2019 season. If one of Harper or Machado doesn’t ultimately don red pinstripes this season, it will dampen what has, objectively, been a productive offseason.