By Sam Bush
The Phillies have had a very productive offseason, signing or trading for pieces that will undoubtedly help their NL East pennant drive this season:
J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, David Robertson and others have boosted their chances to make the 2019 postseason.
General manager Matt Klentak spoke to the media and didn’t dodge the elephants in the room, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper:
“I think I know where you’re going with that,” Klentak responded, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
“I think if you look at our offseason, we have done just about everything we’ve set out to do. At the beginning of the offseason, we identified for sure that we wanted to improve the team defense. That was a flaw of our team last year and it was something we knew we needed to address. We wanted to address our ability to get good hitters out late in the game, particularly left-handed hitters. We think we’ve addressed that. We’ve addressed our offense in a couple of key places. And now we’ve taken care of locking up our best young player. A lot of years, that would be a very complete, thorough and successful offseason. And I really think that it is. The notion that we hear that if we fail to sign a big free agent then it’s a failure of an offseason, I don’t agree with that.
“Now, I say all that, I’m not trying to throw cold water on the idea that we may still sign a free agent. We are going to continue to explore that market because there’s still several really good free agents out there.”
The Phillies remain in contact with the agents for Harper and Machado. The belief in Clearwater is that the front office still prefers Machado over Harper because of Machado’s combination of offense and defense.
The belief everywhere is that the Phillies will sign one of the two.
“Pressure is the wrong word,” Klentak said. “I think if you sit in this chair or the manager’s chair or an ownership chair and are feeling pressure, you’re probably in the wrong line of work. What I feel is excitement. This is exciting. We have gone through several lean years. We did that to put ourselves in a position to later compete and make aggressive moves to put us into contention.
“We are motivated, we are driven, we are excited. This is the most excited I’ve been to come to Clearwater in my four years here, but I don’t think you can go into a season feeling pressure. I think that’s the wrong way to do it.”