If you follow Philadelphia Phillies social media as closely as I do, you have come to the same realization that I have over the last few days. Phillies fans are growing increasingly impatient with management’s failure to make really big moves so far this off-season.
The Phillies fan base was finally thrown a piece of red meat at the start of this week with the trade to acquire infielder Jean Segura and a pair of relievers.
In that deal the team also shed the contract and lineup albatross of Carlos Santana and officially gave up on J.P. Crawford as the shortstop of the future, a position to which he once seemed destined.
But tossing that piece of meat served as nothing more than chum in the waters for those victory-starved fanatics. The Phillies fan base wants something big done – really big – and Segura ain’t that.
In fact, from what I have read and heard, those fans want not something, but somethings, plural.
The Phillies are coming off a season in which they collapsed from a month on top of the division to finish in third place in the National League East, and only held on to that spot because time ran out on the New York Mets, who were charging up from behind at the end.
So far this off-season the two teams who finished ahead of them, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, have each made multiple big moves to strengthen their teams. And the Mets just pulled off a trade that could be considered even more impactful than the Phillies move to add Segura.
Despite making a significant trade with the Seattle Mariners just days ago, Phillies fans are not feeling very positive. The reason for that comes from a combination of three things, one of those being the aggressive actions of those divisional rivals.
A second reason for their frustration comes from the team itself. It was three weeks ago that I wrote here at Phillies Nation on multiple reports that owner John Middleton had stated the club “expected to spend money” and might even “be a little bit stupid about it“, implying major big-ticket additions.
The local Philly sports media has stoked the hot stove fires with statements such as this from Scott Lauber at Philly.com on Middleton:
“Officials from multiple rival teams have suggested, more seriously than not, that he’s (Middleton) prepared to offer a blank check to either Harper or Machado and have him fill in the number. There has even been speculation that the Phillies could drop more than $700 million to sign both players.”
There remains plenty of reason for Phillies fans to continue to hope during this off-season. That comes primarily from the simple fact that both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. Both impact hitters are still free agents and available for Middleton and the Phillies to sign.
That combination fits perfectly what this Phillies team needs to become a genuine contender in the National League over the next half-decade or so. Two impactful middle-of-the-order bats, one an infielder, one an outfielder.
Add those two players to what is already here, and the Phillies are on their way. Find a way to also add one more significant starting pitcher and you might be able to consider the Phillies as the favorites in what promises to be a vastly improved NL East in the 2019 season.
Earlier in this piece I mentioned that there were three things causing agita in the bellies of the fan base. The moves made by division rivals and the expectations built up by the team and the media were the first two. Those could be salved a bit by the continued possibility of landing these two big fish.
However, the third reason for all the frustration, stomach-churning, and social media angst is perhaps the most dangerous. That would be the fact that the Phillies are not the only team actively and realistically pursuing Harper and Machado.
The deep-pocketed and fearless New York Yankees have been repeatedly linked to Machado. The Los Angeles Dodgers recently made an aggressive push on Harper, sending partial owner Magic Johnson to help try and woo the superstar to La-La-Land.
The Chicago White Sox have been rumored as solidly in on both players, and have what it takes to land both. Across town, the Chicago Cubs remain involved in the pursuit of Harper. Perhaps as many as a half-dozen other clubs have interest in one or the other or both.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has not yet made a single move in his three years in the position that has put the Phillies in a position to contend for a division crown, let alone a National League pennant or a World Series championship.
With the pressure clearly on from the moves made by his divisional competitors and the statements of ownership, Klentak is now under the spotlight. If his job is not on the line this off-season in Middleton’s eyes, it should be. The time is now to be bold, as the team tried to sell as its 2018 motto. We’ll soon find out whether Klentak really has that quality in him.
Phillies fans remain frustrated despite a big trade this week. The reasons are understandable. But the two biggest prizes remain available. They perfectly fit what the team needs.
If the team can land both, Phillies fans will be flocking to Citizens Bank Park and the website to hungrily gobble up tickets. The excitement from such a one-two free agent signing punch would make 2010’s “Merry Cliffmas” signing of Cliff Lee look tame by comparison.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Hot Stove History: Phillies 1978 signing of free agent Pete Rose
- Curt Schilling says he would vote for Halladay and Rolen to Hall of Fame, but not Rose
- Once their top prospect and the face of their rebuild, J.P. Crawford’s tenure ends without a payoff
- PN MAILBAG: When will Harper and Machado make their free agent decisions?
- Phillies and Mariners have a trade history that has at times been significant