Tag Archives: Scott Boras

Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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Super agent Scott Boras again finds himself in the middle of much of the big Hot Stove season action

 

Welcome to the latest episode of the ‘Ring the Bell‘ podcast. For those simply reading this piece at the website, it doubles as the script for today’s episode.

As I discussed in yesterday’s episode which evaluated the Phillies current roster and payroll situations, the ball club has a number of important needs. General manager Matt Klentak will find himself increasingly under the glare of the spotlight as this Hot Stove season moves along and he attempts to fill those needs.

First, let’s take a minute to run down the list of what I see as those Phillies needs this off-season, in order of importance:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Center field
  4. Bench
  5. Bullpen
  6. Third base (?)

That was not a typo in listing ‘Starting Pitching’ twice. It is simply that important, first of all. And also, the club needs two new proven winning veteran starting pitchers, at least one of whom should be an “ace” level rotation arm. Now, let’s take a look at who is available on the free agent market.

STARTING PITCHING

There are two big names here, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. They should and will be the Phillies top two targets in free agency. Principal owner John Middleton has made the addition of top-level starting pitching a priority for the team, and is prepared to spend top dollar to secure such an arm.

The problem is not going to be one of either money or will power. The problem for the Phillies will be that they are not the only team in search of this level of pitching talent, not by a long shot.

The world champion and division rival Washington Nationals and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, are not simply going to let Strasburg and Cole respectively walk away from their ball clubs without a major effort to retain them.

Also, it is publicly known that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be shopping aggressively for this type of arm as well. Speculation is that the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves are among any number of other teams with the desire and money to land one of these top two starting pitchers.

It’s hard to know what is going through Strasburg’s mind. There has been some speculation that opting out of his contract with the Nationals was purely a strategy to get more money from the only organization he has ever known.

The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran was due to make another $100 million over the next four years in Washington. Some have speculated that he could get another $50 million and another year, at least, on the open market.

While it would not be a surprise to see the Nationals and Strasburg announce a new deal at any point, that is far from a given. The longer he hangs out there on the market, the more clubs are going to his agent, Scott Boras, with interest.

Cole is also represented by the Boras Group. The 29-year-old is the biggest name on the free agent market this winter. I expect to see Boras take him on a tour of interested teams and cities, similar to what we saw happen last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Don’t expect to see Cole sign with anyone until February.

While the Phillies will be in the mix for both, their money and genuine interest making them legitimate contenders, they should not be considered the favorites for either pitcher. Cole, a native of Newport Beach, is said to be interested in either a return to SoCal or a spot at the top of the Yankees rotation. Strasburg, a San Diego native, may also go the SoCal route if he doesn’t return to D.C.

It is going to be curious to watch the Phillies pursuit of a top arm, because as I said, what the rotation really needs is two more experienced, proven, veteran starting pitchers.

The longer that Cole remains unsigned, and Strasburg as well for that matter, and the longer the Phillies genuinely believe that they are in the mix for one or the other, then it becomes a somewhat dangerous game.

There is a large group of talented starting pitchers just below the talent levels of Cole and Strasburg. Most if not all of those pitchers are going to sign somewhere earlier than at least Cole will be signing. The Phillies are going to have to commit to one of the next level of pitchers by Christmas, possibly even within the next few weeks.

The most obvious target would appear to be 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turning 36 years of age two days after this coming Christmas, Hamels has already said that he would be open to a return to the club with whom he broke into the big-leagues and first became a star.

Judging by social media, Hamels remains popular with the fan base. And judging by his comments, the feeling is mutual.

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

I know Philly is finally trying to make that push. They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.

Hamels then went on to say, according to Zolecki, that he would even be willing to play on a one-year contract:

I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization…I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win. I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.

This just seems to make too much sense. Hamels is clearly interested in a return to the Phillies. The fans would love to have him back. He has the talent and experience that the club is looking for, and he has something else going for him – Hamels is left-handed. The club has not had a truly effective southpaw in their rotation since, well, since Hamels left in 2015.

No longer in his prime, this could absolutely work on a one-year deal with a club option for another year or two. The Phillies, as long as all the medicals check out, should waste no time with this decision. Klentak should be on the phone with Hamels agent today.

If they just can’t work something out, or don’t want Hamels for some reason, there are other interesting arms.

Available free agent left-handers include 30-year-old, 4x NL All-Star and former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner…32-year-old, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel…33-year-old Korean native and 2019 NL All-Star Hyun-Jin Ryu…29-year-old, 2017 NL All-Star Alex Wood.

Available right-handers would include 29-year-old, former first round MLB Draft pick Zack Wheeler…31-year-old, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello…30-year-old, 2019 AL All-Star Jake Odorizzi.

There are a few dozen other possibilities as well. But frankly, anyone other than the pitchers mentioned already would be a disappointing addition.

The Phillies would be wise to take Hamels up on this word, and wrap him up to fill the 3-4 slot in their starting rotation for 2020. Then they can concentrate all of their efforts into trying to land one of the really big fish.

CENTER FIELD

There are a lot of Phillies fans who seem to think that the club is okay here with either Scott Kingery or Adam Haseley. Frankly, if you truly want to be a contending team, I think that is just crazy talk.

Kingery has handled himself admirably out there for someone who is not a natural outfielder. Haseley deserves much credit for rising from Double-A to a regular big-league role last season.

But neither is the answer for a contending Phillies ball club.

Kingery needs to be handed his natural second base position and allowed to play it every single day, barring some situational need or emergency. Haseley would be well served getting more everyday plate appearances at Triple-A or serving a fourth outfielder apprenticeship in 2020.

There has been some chatter on social media about the team bringing back free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who excelled with the Phillies following his arrival from Pittsburgh at this past season’s trade deadline.

Yes, Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances with the Phillies. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you have something like a 35 homer, 120+ RBI campaign.

However, the 30-year-old Dickerson is a free agent for the first time. He is going to parlay that performance into a nice, well-deserved payday. And he is, unfortunately, not a center fielder. Just 27 of his 571 big-league games in the outfield have been played in center.

If you are thinking of putting him in left field and having Andrew McCutchen slide over to become the everyday man in center field for the Phillies, you really need to think again.

McCutchen is now 33-years-old and has not played center field regularly in either of his last two seasons. He is coming off major knee surgery as well.

While he can spot-start or slide over temporarily during a situational or emergency need, as he did for 10 starts and 15 total games this past season with the Phillies, he is no longer the player who won a 2012 Gold Glove Award as a center fielder.

Roman Quinn is also not the answer. I love Quinn’s tool set and have been publicly in his corner for a few years now. But even someone who is as big a fan as I am has limits. Quinn has proven that he simply cannot remain healthy long enough to be a reliable starting option.

No, what the Phillies really need is a new center fielder, someone from outside the organization. Unfortunately, there really are not quality options available this year in free agency.

You have a premier defender such as Juan Lagares. There is pure base stealing speed in Billy Hamilton. There is an aging veteran such as 34-year-old, 5x AL All-Star, 4x AL Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones.

None of those is a realistic option. Jones played just one game in center last year for the Dbacks, and two years ago with Baltimore he was rated as one of the worst regular center fielders in the game defensively by Fangraphs.

Lagares will turn 31-years-old in spring training and has just a .254/.297/.361 career slash line in 2,119 career big-league plate appearances. With a slash of just .242/.297/.326 over 3,089 plate appearances, Hamilton is even worse with a bat in his hands.

There is no answer available in free agency. If the Phillies want to improve in center field, it is going to have to come via trade.

During this past season, I wrote that a worthy trade target could be found in Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He turns 30 years of age early in the 2020 season and can become a free agent after next year.

If I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone looking to see if we can find a reasonable match in trade for the 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and ALCS Most Valuable Player.

THIRD BASE

Don’t count me among those who feel that the Phillies need a third baseman. Again, this is assuming the club does what I think it should do – give second base to Scott Kingery, and cut ties to Maikel Franco by not offering him arbitration.

If I’m running things, top offensive prospect Alec Bohm is starting at third base on Opening Day 2020. I let him know that right now.

When Bohm’s season ends following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament, at which he is Team USA’s starter at the hot corner, I tell him to go home and enjoy the holidays. Just keep working out and stay in shape. Don’t report to Clearwater until early February. And be mentally ready for your role as the Phillies starting third baseman.

Now, that’s me. The club could actually go in a number of directions. They could offer a contract to and bring back Franco as the starter, at least to begin the season. Then let him try to hold off Bohm for as long as he can.

Or the club could offer a contract to Cesar Hernandez, cut ties with Franco, give the third base job to Kingery, and fill center field some other way. Once Bohm is deemed ready, they could either slide Kingery back to center if no good option has emerged, or work out some king of position-sharing scheme involving the players. That option seems too messy.

Another option would be to cut ties with Franco and sign a free agent. There are a handful of interesting options if the Phillies try to take this route.

In order of talent, those free agent options would be Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon will be expensive and would tie up the position for years, meaning that the Phillies would either be banking on the NL getting a DH as soon as the 2021 season, or they would be considering a trade of either Bohm or Rhys Hoskins. I love Rendon as a player, but with Bohm nearly ready, this just doesn’t seem like the right move.

Donaldson just played on a one-year deal with Atlanta at a $23 million salary. He’ll turn 34-years-old a month from today. Perhaps the Phillies could lure him with a similar one-year offer? That would mean Bohm at least starts the season back at Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Moustakas is a bit trickier. He played with Milwaukee this past season at $7 million and received a $1 million buyout of his contract for next year, rather than the Brewers committing to his $11 million mutual option.

Moustakas is going to be seeking a multi-year offer from some team. He is still young enough that someone is likely to make that kind of offer in order to add a 35-homer bat to their lineup. I am betting it won’t be the Phillies.

Again, my choice here is to give the job to Bohm, spend your free agent money on pitching, and move on from the old, losing Franco-Hernandez infield combination.

BENCH

Putting together a bench group that includes at least a few veteran options for new manager Joe Girardi, preferably options that can hit the ball, will be another Klentak challenge.

The Phillies are already slated to have Jay Bruce return. He should help out as a pinch-hitter, on the outfield corners, and could even turn out to be a lefty-hitting backup first base option, giving Hoskins a blow against a few tougher right-handed pitchers. Girardi should be able to get him plenty of at-bats to keep him sharp and happy.

Assuming the Phillies move on from both Franco and Hernandez, as well as Odubel Herrera, that leaves other outfield depth options as Roman Quinn and Nick Williams. The infield would need help. There are a bunch of interesting options who could fit the bill:

The club could try to re-sign 30-year-old Brad Miller, who appeared in 66 games with the Phillies this past season. Miller played four different positions, mostly at third base and in left field, and produced a dozen homers in just 130 plate appearances.

38-year-old Ben Zobrist can play second base and an outfield corner. He even covered shortstop for one game last season with the Cubs.

Starlin Castro turns 30 at the end of spring training. He played both second and third this past year with the Marlins, and even held down shortstop, where he was a former starter, in three games.

At age 36, Howie Kendrick showed just how valuable he can be in a part-time role while helping the Nationals win their World Series. Kendrick, who played in 39 games with the 2017 Phillies, saw time at first, second, and third this year in Washington.

30-year-old Derek Dietrich ripped 19 homers in 306 plate appearances while covering first, second, and left field this year in Cincinnati. He even appeared in one game at the hot corner, and has played in 146 career games there.

33-year-old Eric Sogard hit .290 while playing five different positions between stops in Toronto and Tampa Bay this past season.

Former popular Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence turns 37 in April, and enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in which he was named to the American League All-Star team. His bat, outfield glove, and infectious enthusiasm could be a perfect mix for this team’s bench group.

The Phillies could use a reliable backup catching option, and yesterday I mentioned one of their former prospects as a possibility. That would be 31-year-old Travis d’Arnaud, who finally stayed healthy this past season and showed off his fine combination of offensive and defensive skills.

More veteran backstop options who could add an alternative to Andrew Knapp include 37-year-old Russell Martin, 34-year-old Matt Wieters, 32-year-old Bryan Holaday, 36-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 34-year-old Jonathan Lucroy and a half-dozen or so others.

These are just a representative sample of the dozens of names who could fill out a veteran bench for the Phillies.

BULLPEN

As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, assembling a bullpen is a tricky proposition from year to year. The Phillies pen was decimated by injuries this past season, but most of those arms should be back in 2020.

They could do nothing, and still end up with an effective group. However, adding someone as a strong, veteran back-end option couldn’t hurt. Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Steve Cishek, Will Harris, and Pedro Strop are just a few of the couple dozen veteran relievers available.

And how about this possibility: lefty Jake Diekman? Wouldn’t it be sort of ironic if the Phillies brought back both Hamels and Diekman, who they traded away together in 2015, in the same off-season? Diekman turns 33 in January, and struck out 84 batters over 62 innings this past season as a southpaw out of the pen.

Again, as with third base, I don’t feel this is an area of desperate need. But if the Phillies want another bullpen arm, there are plenty from which to choose.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, that’s a look at the free agent market. The Hot Stove season is officially underway. Free agents can sign with any team at this point, though signings of the bigger names are likely to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

And those free agent ranks are only going to swell when the December 2 deadline passes for teams to offer arbitration, which is the decision that the Phillies will need to make on Franco and Hernandez.

As we move through the off-season, this podcast will focus occasionally on rumors regarding the club, and I’ll certainly be talking and writing about any big signings.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about the MLB Award winners to this point, as well as the nominees for the major awards to be handed out next week, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards in each league.

Remember, you can follow any written pieces or podcast episodes through links at the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds @philliesbell. I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy. Until next time, God bless you and yours.

Phillies introduce Bryce Harper after biggest contract in sports history

Middleton, Klentak, Harper at intro presser
“During the great history of the Philadelphia Phillies there have been many acquisitions that have helped move the franchise forward, both on and off the field. From Steve Carlton and Pete Rose in the 70’s, Jim Thome in the early-2000’s, to the acquisition and eventual re-signing of Cliff Lee. The trade for Roy Halladay, to finally the signings and trades of current Phillies players like Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. Many have altered in such a positive way the fate of this incredible franchise. Today we celebrate a franchise-altering signing for our city and our organization as we introduce Bryce Harper to the city of Philadelphia officially.
With those words, Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy eloquently opened up this afternoon’s statements and press conference to celebrate what is, as general manager Matt Klentak would immediately follow and refer to it: “the largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
Harper would then go on to make his own impassioned and inspiring opening statement, one in which he emphasized the importance of his family and the familial presentation and representations of the Phillies during the free agency process. During that statement the club’s new right fielder stated “I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud!
Once Harper’s opening remarks had concluded it was time for the press to take their first swings at the 26-year-old superstar. The topics were wide-ranging, dealing with issues from money to baseball, from his old team to his new, from business to personal issues. Here are the highlights:
SOCIAL MEDIA
Harper was asked this right off the top by the King himself, Howard Eskin, whether he followed social media and what affect, if any, it had on his decision. In his response he made it clear that he did follow, but that family was the most important factor in the final decision:
Of course you look at it. You look and see what people are saying. But it’s a family decision for me. It’s where I felt comfortable throughout the whole process. I talked to my wife. I talked to my mom, my dad. And we all made the decision to do the things we could to get back to Philly…”

FAMILY
This was the over-arching theme of both Harper’s personal statement and his most important answers to questions. It became the specific topic of the second question asked:
Being able to sit down with John and Leigh (Middleton) and knowing how family-oriented they are, how they treat everybody in the Phillies organization from everybody in the clubhouse, everybody up in the offices, and also everybody around the ballpark.
I think it’s pretty amazing how many tenured Philly people that work with the team are with the organization for a long period of time. Every time I came to Citizens Bank Park, I felt that…talking to the guys in the elevator, or when we walked into the visitor side and talking to Butch that stands right there, he’s one of the security guys…other guys saying “Come here. Play here. Be part of our team. Be part of our organization.” That goes a long way. You feel the love. You feel the intent, the pureness of the people who come to the ballpark every day.”
FANS AND FORMER PHILLIES PLAYERS
JaysonWerth-793753.jpg

Former Phillies and Nationals star Werth was a teammate in Washington, and helped sell him on Philly.
“Of course, the first six years of my career coming to Philly, people behind me (out in right field) weren’t very nice. But I expect that, I love that. But the last year they were all super nice, saying “Come to Philly!” So that was a lot of fun, to be able to hear that as well.”
Of course, Jayson Werth, getting to hear him talk about it. Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins. All the guys that have had great success in Philly talk about how great the city is, that it’s an amazing city to be a part of, and I’m excited to get going.
NO CONTRACT OPT-OUT CLAUSE
“This guy (looking at agent Scott Boras) invented the opt-out. And I actually told him at the beginning of the process that I didn’t want one, wherever I went. I wanted to be able to make my roots somewhere. That was through the goods and the bads, the ups and downs of the team and the organization. It’s going to be tough for 13 years to win every single year, and I truly understand that.”
“Being able to sit down with John and Matt and everyone involved in the process was huge for me, because I know what it takes to have success, being in the playoffs for a long period of time with the Nationals. We didn’t get past the first round, but we were able to get there for a good run and do certain things in that organization that were very good.”
“I want to be able to do that here, and do well and play hard and have the team we do for a long period of time. Even through the bumps and bruises. I want to go through that as well. I want to be part of this organization. I don’t wanta go anywhere else. I want to be part of this family, this Phillies Nation.”
MISSING SPRING TRAINING TIME
“I enjoyed home for another two weeks. I enjoyed hanging with my friends and getting my work in as well. I’m hitting and doing all the things I need to get ready for the spring. I think the worst part is seeing guys going out there and getting back into that groove of being in the clubhouse atmosphere and being with the other guys.”
“But for me, you don’t really play that first week of spring anyways. So, if it was gonna take some time, then it was gonna take some time. I knew at the end of the day, being able to sign with Philly was the right choice for me, and we made it happen about 27 days before the season. So, I think I’m gonna be okay.”
NEW TEAMMATES
Rhys Hoskins hits a home run at the 2018 Home Run Derby

Harper and Hoskins struck up a friendship at the 2018 All-Star Home Run Derby / Photo: Brian Michael
The first thing I thought about signing with the Phillies was I don’t have to face Aaron Nola anymore. That was something that I was very happy about. This team is filled with perennial All-Stars. Being able to meet Rhys Hoskins a little bit through the process of the Homerun Derby and the All-Star Game, talked to him a little bit about Philly…about how he is and who he is as a person, he was a lot of fun to get to know. Arrieta, Eflin, a lot of the young guys on this team, Pivetta. The bullpen that they have, adding David Robertson. Jean Segura playing shortstop is an absolute stud. Maikel Franco…Odubel Herrera…I mean, you can go on and on about this team and how good they can be. And my favorite player in the game, J.T. Realmuto, that was huge as well. Matt did a great job this off-season to assemble that roster.”
“The thing about the East is, it’s a juggernaut. I’m not gonna tell ya that we’re gonna come in this year and win a World Series, or win the division, or anything like that. Of course, we all want that to happen. That’s your goal when you walk into spring training. That’s the goal of the fans. That’s the goal of everybody. But good things take time as well. We gotta mold as a team, mold as an organization, and really understand the guys in that clubhouse, and make that a family.”
“Every guy pulling on the same rope every single day, really becoming that. I think this organization…us…gonna be very successful for a long period of time. But it’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna take some time for guys to get going and understand how to win, and what it takes to win in the long haul of a 162-season, plus possibly 21 games in the playoffs. This organization has gone through that…has done that in years past. I know that guys wanta feel that now. I’m excited to be part of that. I’m excited to be part of the group…going to this clubhouse, and just be a part of this team.”
NEW UNIFORM NUMBER

Harper felt his former Washington number 34 should always belong to Halladay in Philly. (SD Dirk)
Of course, I wore #34. But I thought Roy Halladay should be the last one to wear it. He’s somebody in this game that is greater than a lot of guys who ever played it. He’s a Hall of Famer, somebody who played the game the right way. He was a great person, one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, playing across from him in 2012. So for me, it’s Roy Halladay. He’s 34. He’s what represents that number in Philly. When you go in there and see his name on that flagpole in center field, it’s something that he should be remembered for.”
“Maikel Franco, he wears #7, and he’s a teammate of mine. He’s someone that I didn’t want to ask for the number. I didn’t feel right doing that. I don’t know if that has any significance to him, being #7, but I didn’t want to find out. He’s #7 on the Phillies and he should be able to wear that number every single day.”
“The #3 is kinda like a family number for us. My brother wore it in high school. My dad wore it in high school growing up. My mom wore #13. My wife isn’t very happy about the number because she likes even numbers, so lookin’ down and seeing #3 is gonna be a little tough for her (Kayla laughed during this and shook her head) but it’s a family number and I think it looks okay.”
NATIONALS YEARS, AND NOW HAVING TO FACE THEM
“I love everybody in that clubhouse. I grew up inside that clubhouse. I grew up in that organization. I have so much respect for (Nationals GM) Mike Rizzo. He actually reached out to me and told me congratulations. That’s somebody that had my back for my whole career, somebody that maintained every single day. I did certain things for that organization that I truly won’t forget. Players in the clubhouse reached out and told me congrats, and were very excited for me as well.”
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing somewhere that I’m comfortable as well. And also in Philly. So that gives me two places in the East that I’m very comfortable at. So, I’m really excited to be able to face those guys…and also to watch from afar a little bit and see how they’re doing. Hopefully we can do some damage as well.”
$330 MILLION
“Baseball is worth about $11.5 billion dollars, so I think some of it should go back to the players as well. I’m making $26 (million) a year, something like that, so I think that’s gonna be able to bring some other guys in as well that will help this organization win. I know there’s another guy in about two years (Mike Trout) who comes up off the books. We’ll see what happens with him.”
“I’m excited to be in Philly. I’m excited to be able to be part of this organization. And for me, the game’s changed a lot. The game’s changed in that it’s a different time, it’s a different world. Big social media. Everybody knows what’s going on. Everybody knows what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of fans that love to come to the game that are spending about $16 for a beer that used to be about 25 cents for a beer. So I think that all around, it’s changed.”
WHY PHILLIES OVER THE DODGERS
“Throughout the whole process, I wanted to leave my door open to wherever I wanted to go. But for me it was all about the long haul. It was about being able to dig my roots, plant somewhere where I wanted to be for a long time. I said that in D.C. when I was there as well, that I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. We went through that process, and it just didn’t work out. It just didn’t happen. Philly was able to do that for me.”
“And when I met with the Middleton family, I felt that. I felt that commitment. I felt that when we went to dinner in Vegas with Leigh and John. Me and my wife walked away and, wow, we were blown away by these amazing people. That they could really understand where we were coming from. Understand the family aspect of our life. Understand the city of Philly and what it’s all about.”

Harper received encouragement on Philly from other local stars like Carson Wentz (Keith Allison/WikiCommons)
“Having that relationship with them as well. For me, I wanta have that relationship with my organization. I wanta be able to be a family, be able to be a unit, and be able to go through the ups and downs with everybody. Stay as even keel as we can, no matter what. John wants to win more than anybody. I saw that passion. I saw that fire. He talked a little bit about him wrestling in college, and the commitment he made to that, and the commitment he made in his daily life, it was just amazing to hear.
“To be able to see that and to feel that. To feel the love from Philly and the fans…I haven’t played there yet, but to feel it on social media. To feel how excited they are. To feel the love from other guys from other teams in the city. Ben Simmons. Carson Wentz. Guys that have reached out. It’s amazing to see. When you play in Philly as a visitor, you see the Eagles right there, you see the Flyers, you see the Sixers and all the big-time memories that all those teams had. The Flyers, they were an expansion team just like the (Las Vegas) Golden Knights (Harper’s hometown hockey team), and they were able to win. It’s an amazing thing to see.”
“This whole city, it’s a winning city, it’s an amazing city. J-Dub (Werth) always talks about Broad Street, and his stupid little thing he had, the red glove or whatever it was (giant red plastic fist that Werth wore in the 2008 parade), it’s something that I want to be a part of for a very long time, and we have an opportunity to do that for a very long time. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen this year or next year or in years in front of us, but I hope it does.”
“I want to be a part of it. I want to be a part of this organization. I want to be a part of this organization and help out anybody I can. That’s the feeling that I get with this whole organization. It’s about the family. It’s about what we can do as a city, the community. How we can make a community better. How we can make Philly better as a place, as a city of winning, and I want to be a part of that.”
IMPORTANCE OF MAKING HISTORY
“I think you’re always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than in Philly? This place is somewhere were fans, blue-collar people, thrive on winning and being a family. I come from a blue-collar family. My dad woke up at three o’clock in the morning to tie rebar every single day in 130 degree heat in Vegas, and that’s where I get my work ethic. That’s what I want to do every single day. I want to work hard. I want to work out. I want to do the things I can to prolong my career and to play for a very long time and to be successful for a very long time.”
“For me, it’s all about winning. That’s what you’re remembered for, that’s what it’s all about. Personal accolades and things like that, they’re great. But for me, if our team plays well, our team plays together, I find joy in my teammates success. I love that, I love seeing that. I was able to see that for a long time in D.C. with Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto this year as well. And you see that with the Phillies.”
“I want to find that joy. If I’m 0-4 or 4-4, that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what we can do to get that extra run to win the game, and to win for a long period of time. If we can do that, then we’ll win a lot of games. I think we have the pitching and have the defense to do that for a long period of time. I’m excited to be a part of it, excited to get going and make that run.”
HOW THE PAST PREPARED HIM FOR THIS DAY
“I think the biggest thing coming out of high school and college and finally getting drafted, from day one when I got drafted, it was all about “He’s going to the Yankees. He’s going to the Dodgers. He’s going here, he’s going there.” After six years, “he’s going here.” That’s all anybody talked about. That’s all anybody wanted to talk about, this moment. For me, going through this process, it was where can I be with no opt-outs, with a no-trade, where I can be for a long time and not have to worry about going anywhere else.”
“Because for me, when I was in D.C., I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t want to be part of two organizations, or anything like that. That just didn’t work out for me. But now, being able to be a part of an organization for 13 years, and be able to put all my faith and trust in everybody in this organization, I’m very excited bout it. Because nobody in the next 13 years are gonna talk about “Oh, he’s going to the Yankees, he’s going here, he’s going there.””
“I mean at 39, hopefully I can prolong my career, that would be great. But for me, it’s about being somewhere for a long period of time. Making my family. Digging my roots. For the good, for the bad. I’m not gonna tell you that I’m gonna win an MVP every single year. Is that my goal, is that my success, to do that? Absolutely, I want to do that every single year. But there’s gonna be down years. There’s gonna be big years. There’s gonna be years that are gonna be just okay.”
“For a team, for an organization, we’re gonna go in and do everything we can to win, and play hard, and play well. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I wanta do…I wanta be on Broad Street on a freakin’ boat or whatever, a thing, a bus, whatever it is, and have a trophy over my head because that’s what it’s all about.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to go to sleep and know that I gave it my all and was able to bring back a title to the Philadelphia Phillies organization, to Mr. Middleton, to Mrs. Middleton, and to the whole city of Philly, to the fans, to everybody that’s a part of this. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want my legacy to be: all about winning, all about playing the game the right way for a great organization for a long period of time.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Bryce Harper press conference highlights

Phillies brass and Scott Boras on the Bryce Harper signing process

Middleton, Klentak, Boras with Harper at presser
While Bryce Harper was the star of Saturday’s press conference, his co-stars on the dugout rooftop dais also fielded questions. The answers to those queries from the media shed a great deal of light on the actual process that unfolded which ultimately enabled the parties to agree on the largest contract in American professional sports history.
Here are some of the topics brought up by the media and the responses from the key players.
KLENTAK AND BORAS, ON CLOSING THE DEAL
KLENTAK: “I think throughout the process there were ups and downs. But I don’t think that makes it all that unique. I think in most negotiations, whether it’s the largest contract in the history of baseball or something far smaller, you’re always gonna have those moments. I won’t comment on Wednesday night specifically, but I think that throughout the process we had some encouraging moments and some not-so-encouraging moments. The bottom line is that at the very end, we got where we needed to be. I said earlier, it takes compromise, both parties, and I think what was so special about this one was that all parties listened to each other, and ultimately got to a resolution that made sense for everybody.
BORAS: ” I know from our end…Bryce and Kayla had dinner with Leigh and John Middleton. I think they came away from that dinner with an understanding of a family and a community and an owner who has a strong, strong passion for winning, and continued winning. John did an amazing job of answering all of Bryce’s questions. You can see the melding of what Bryce hoped to find out in free agency in the fact that he and Kayla were gonna be in a community for a long time, and that was an important aspect.”
“Then the next day, John and Leigh cancelled their flight, decided to have lunch again with the Harper family, and wanted to express that they listened, they understood, they heard things. They took the extra time and commitment to make Bryce develop a level of trust that Philadelphia is gonna be an environment that he can win continually, which is his primary goal in baseball.”
“And to bring an illustration of the fact that Bryce wanted to recruit players to a city, to a community. That’s why he didn’t want an opt-out. He wanted to do his best to make sure that he could put on his team and his locker room a commitment that he was a part of, as a player, and not only the team and the ownership, which is rather unique in professional sports.”

“The union of John and Bryce’s objective, certainly Bryce instructed me to, where with Matt and I, while at times we certainly ended phone calls, there was always a reason to pick up and make another one. And that’s really what got this deal done.”
MIDDLETON ON THE CLOSING PROCESS
“I think one of the things you have to learn to do, working on deals all your life, is not allowing yourself to get too high and never let yourself get too low. You have to kinda understand, as Matt said, that there’s ebbs and flows to these. When things are going smoothly and quickly, that’s a positive sign. But you know there’s an inevitable bump in the road, so you just have to kinda take those things in stride.”
“What I think was clear to me coming out of that last weekend in Vegas – we really had three meetings. We had a dinner meeting Friday. Scott and I had a long four-hour meeting Saturday morning. And then we had an hour-and-a-half meeting that afternoon that frankly would have gone even longer if we could, but we ran out of time. And I came away from that convinced that everybody wanted this to work.”
“And so when you go through those periods when you hit the bumps, and you have that commitment and sense that commitment from the other side, you just kinda work through it. You just put your shoulder down, push, and you trust each other. There’s a lot of sharing of information that allows people to get to the optimum answer for both parties.”
MIDDLETON, ON ‘STUPID’ MONEY
“Does it look like stupid money to you? I think Matt’s had a pretty good off-season. don’t you? First person in the history of baseball, I’m told, to sign three prior All-Stars from the previous year. And that doesn’t include what he’s done with Aaron’s (Nola) extension and signing David (Robertson) and signing Cutch (Andrew McCutchen) who is a former MVP.”
“I wanted to signal that I wanted to be aggressive, and was gonna be aggressive, and I think Matt did a spectacular job. He made himself, and me, look really smart.”
BORAS, ON BRYCE DESTINED FOR GREATNESS
“You know, I had a conversation with Kayla (Harper’s wife), who was unbelievable in this process – much better than I – about when Ron and Cheri (Harper’s parents) first came to me and we saw Bryce play when he was 14, he hit a home run to left field. The ball went well beyond the fence. And then he was walked five straight times. And he was the youngest player on the field by about two or three years. You knew that something was really extraordinary. In addition to the fact that I’ve never seen a baseball player in my life that at that age had forearms like Bryce Harper. It’s the largest forearms of any youth athlete that I’ve ever seen in a baseball uniform.”
“But the key aspect of it with Bryce though that you knew that he was going to be special was…he had to take a GED exam, leave high school after his sophomore year, and he did all that in two months without a blink. And then he goes to junior college with players that are literally two or three years older, with a wood bat (he had used aluminum to that point), and becomes the top collegiate baseball player in the nation at the age of 17. So you knew, there was just never anything about him that was of the norm. It was always this.”

“And yet, in spite of all that success, and frankly expectancy, that Bryce had to deal with, his love and passion to always be better, always be respectful, always be greater those are the things where you learn that he learned how to manage success, respect the game, respect the elders in it and the people who run it and operate it. Those are factors that tell you he was raised right. There’s a lot of great athletes in this world where things can go really, really wrong. Probably the greatest credit that I can give Bryce and his family is that he sustained and, advanced that unique ability. He has been able to use his skill and his talent to create great art. I’m so glad for the game that we get to see 13 more years of it in Philadelphia.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Scott Boras, John Middleton, Matt Klentak on the process

Bryce Harper signs with Phillies and can’t wait to get going

Bryce Harper meets the Philly media
On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon on top of the home dugout at Spectrum Field, the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida the team introduced their most exciting free agent acquisition in years.
Bryce Harper, the 26-year-old superstar outfielder took the dais with his agent, Scott Boras. They were joined by Phillies principal owner John Middleton and general manager Matt Klentak for a question-and-answer session with the gathered media.
After a quick introduction from broadcaster Tom McCarthy, Harper delivered a personal statement prior to the actual press conference. In his statement, the new Phillies right fielder even mentioned Phillies Nation!
Here is the full text of Bryce Harper’s pre-presser statement:
“I just wanta thank my parents. Thank my wife. This process has definitely been a long one, but it’s been a lot of fun as well. It’s good to feel wanted. It’s good to feel wanted by the Phillies organization, by the fan base, by the city as well. I love my family very much and Philly is going to be a part of that family for a very long time.”
“Also, I’d like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Middleton. From the moment that we had dinner together and talked it felt right. It felt like a home. It felt like somewhere I could be for a long time. And that was important to me. I’m gonna grow my family in this city, and that’s the biggest thing for me. I wanted to be somewhere for a long period of time. I wanted to finish my career somewhere, and they made that commitment to me, and I can’t wait to be a part of the Phillies for a long period of time.”
“Matt (Klentak), Andy (club president MacPhail), Ned (assistant GM Rice), being able to sit down in meetings with you guys as well and knowing how committed you guys are to the Phillies organization, to the minor league side, to the big-league side as well. Being able to see that from afar for a long period of time, for the last seven years, I’ve grown to love playing in Philly. I love playing in Citizens Bank Park. It feels good to know that they are very committed to this organization and to the fans and to the city, and that means a lot.”

“Also, I’d like to thank Scott (Boras) – we’ve been through it. We were just talking, I’ve been with Scott for about 12 years now. Not officially at 14 (chuckles by he and Boras), but at 17. It’s been a long ride. It’s been a lot of fun. Scott’s been through a lot in this process, and also Mike Fiore, Bill and Tyler as well, and everybody with the Boras Group, whether it’s Luis or Champ or anybody. Kurt Stillwell at the beginning. It’s a big family as well.”
“So, I’m very happy, very proud to be able to put this uniform on, and I can’t wait to get on that field and do Phillies Nation proud, and do everything I can to bring love to the city, and do the things I can to help in the community and bring that family-oriented thing to the clubhouse and be part of that group.”
“I’m excited to get started, and here’s to a new chapter. Here’s to a new phase in the life of everybody in Philly. I’m excited to be part of it. Thank you.”

It’s time for the Phillies to finish off the Bryce Harper negotiations

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Middleton (L) hasn’t had a slugger like Howard in years

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
This was the statement made by Philadelphia Phillies principal owner John Middleton at the Major League Baseball owner’s meetings back in mid-November. His statement lit a spark that blazed up Hot Stove logs in the fireplace of Phillies fans everywhere.
We believed all along that Middleton was the ultimate answer to the Phillies returning to the consistent glory that so many in that fan base had come to expect. Remember, this was the man who, after the club had dropped the 2009 World Series in six games to the New York Yankees, made the following statement to Ryan Howard“Ryan, I want my fucking trophy back. It’s fucking ours!” 
From 2001 through 2012, a period of a dozen seasons, the Phillies were playoff contenders nearly every year. But then the bottom dropped out, and for five years the team and those fans wandered through the darkness of a bleak losing wilderness.
For the first decade after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004 those fans swarmed to the beautiful South Philly ballpark. More than three million tickets were sold in eight of those 10 seasons, including a half-dozen in a row. The ballpark was the place to be, a social happening every single game.
But as the losing began and club management and ownership seemed to give up on putting out a winning product, fan interest waned. The Phillies didn’t even draw two million for three straight years from 2014-17.
Things appeared to be turning around last season. The club was a surprising contender for much of the summer, leading the division for more than a month from July 6 through August 12. Fans responded to the winning and some strong promotional events by filling more than 30,000 seats for 18 games between late-June and mid-August.
But as the team collapsed to a 12-28 record over the final six weeks, fan interest dried up. The Phillies drew that 30,000 figure just five more times. All of those were on weekends, with three specifically for Sunday promotions.
The message from last year when viewed against the previous handful of seasons is clear to Middleton. Do your job and put a winning team on the field and fans will respond. The message from a decade ago is also clear. Put players on that winner who those fans can relate to and who excite them, and they will come out in droves.
General manager Matt Klentak has performed well thus far. In what has been by far his best off-season to date the GM has signed free agents Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and swung trades to bring in Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Middleton does understand. He is one of us in this regard: he is also a fan. He is driven. He wants to win. That is why he fueled up his private jet with the red Phillies “P” branded on the tail and had the pilots fly him out to Las Vegas, hometown of the biggest fish in this off-season’s large free agent lake, Bryce Harper.
But it isn’t enough. Look around at the other National League contenders. The Phillies are improved, but so are any number of other teams that already appeared to be ahead of them. The fans realize that this team has a chance to contend for a Wildcard spot now. But that is not what spending “stupid” money is supposed to get you.
The players added thus far by Klentak are respected by most of the fan base. But to really fill up the ballpark again it is going to require star power. Even with the additions and maturation of players like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, it is lacking marquee star power. There is no Mike Schmidt or Jim Thome.
After the other big free agent whom the Phillies took a run at this off-season, Manny Machado, signed with the San Diego Padres, Klentak stated “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.” This is not one of those times. In fact, sometimes you have to be willing to go beyond mere numerical valuations.
That is where Middleton comes in at this point. Harper is the big fish, the top prize. He would bring the tremendous raw power to the lineup that has largely been missing since Howard’s 2006-09 peak years. He would bring star power not seen around these parts since ‘The Big Piece’ and his teammates began to age-out and break up earlier this decade.
After meeting with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras this weekend, Middleton flew home on Saturday night due to a prior engagement. While he was gone, representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly slipped into Vegas on Sunday and tried to take one last shot at luring Harper with a short-term deal.

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Would Bryce Harper be interested in a short-term, high AAV deal with the ?@Ken_Rosenthal discusses the Dodgers reported interest in Harper on .

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I have never met the man, but I believe that I know John Middleton. He is not going to let this get away from him. At least not over money and desire. I fully expect the Phillies owner to be back on his plane and heading back out to Vegas to close this thing out. It may be happening as you read this, in fact.

It is time, and he knows it. When a big game is on the line at the end, you send in your strong-armed closer. When an important business deal is getting down to the brass tacks of final negotiations, you send in the big guns to close. John Middleton is the closer, the big gun. It is time to close out Bryce Harper.