It sounds like John Middleton, the visible face of the Phillies ownership group, may be getting a little antsy. As the Major League Baseball owners’ meetings wrapped up in Atlanta, Middleton told USA Today that the Phillies are going to be spending a lot of money this offseason, presumably referring to free agents like Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. What followed was a sentence that was, well, stupid…
“And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it [spending],” said Middleton. Now, to be fair, he did follow that up by saying “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.”
As my buddy, Jed Donahue, of the Pennsylvania Sports Network likes to point out, “it only takes one [owner] to throw free agency into craziness.”
Yes, the Phillies have a bunch of needs this offseason and there’s no denying that Harper and/or Machado would instantly fill a couple of needs. But would they necessarily put the Phillies into the playoffs? If those are the only two moves of the offseason, likely not. Odds are though that there would be other moves – perhaps one that could put the Phillies into the stupid zone – that would be made. Even if the moves would get the Phillies into the postseason now, it would be at the expense of planning ahead.
Players like Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola and others are going to be coming into bigger paydays before too long. If there is too much money wrapped up in this year’s crop of free agents, then it’s going to be more difficult to afford the accompanying pieces to put around Harper and Machado long-term. Plus, it could negate the chance of the Phillies going after favorite son Mike Trout when – or if – he hits free agency in a couple of years.
Instead, the Phillies would be better served to look to get just one of those players or another high priced free agent like Patrick Corbin and then do a number of smaller signings and/or trades to fill other spots. If the Phillies sign Harper, then a deal of Odubel Herrera or Nick Williams would be a possibility, especially considering the emergence of Roman Quinn late in the 2018 season. If they sign Machado, then they could easily deal Maikel Franco or Cesar Hernandez, with Scott Kingery moving to one of those spots. If they’re sold on Santana playing third, they could deal both.
Yes, the Phillies are awash in money thanks to a $2-billion TV deal, but keep in mind, that money isn’t all ticketed for player contracts. There are other routine bills to pay, player development enhancements and other costs that will eat up a huge chunk of that money. Keep in mind too, that eventually, young players demand bigger paydays, so it will be necessary to keep some money aside for the future.
The Phillies can spend a lot of money this winter and do it in a smart way that will make the 2019 version of the Phillies much better and still not be “stupid.” How it all plays out will be interesting to see. It will also be interesting to see if GM Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail look to keep their owner from just going nuts financially, and whether he will listen.