Hot Stove

Phillies could still outdo 2010’s “Merry Cliffmas” this holiday season



Signing both Harper and Machado would make the 2018 holiday season bigger than 2010’s ‘Merry Cliffmas’ celebration (Photo: Johnmaxmena2)

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.”

Phillies fans are still hoping that Middleton will spend some stupid money this Christmas season.

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.

cliff-lee-catches-popup-world-series-game-1-4fb7b002d3ee4cbc_medium.jpg

Lee became a surprise Christmas gift to Phillies fans in mid-December 2010

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.

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. mitchell nathanson

    December 6, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    I don’t usually think perception in the offseason matters but this year, with this club, I think it does. The Phils won 80 games last season and still nobody cared. They can spin their final attendance numbers all they want but the truth is that they only outdrew their miserable 2017 numbers due to some luck on a few days of the season — Utley’s retirement and the Yankees coming to town. Take those away and this city greeted last year’s team with a giant yawn. So they need to do something bold. Wasn’t their motto “Be Bold”? Yeah, right. If they don’t end up with either Harper or Machado they’re going to have a helluva hard time selling tickets next season no matter what they put out on the field.

  2. T

    December 7, 2018 at 1:33 am

    As a Philly Phan living in Seattle, while Jean Segura might not be the flashy name and put butts in the seats like Robinson Cano or Edwin Diaz, he will win the Phillies many, many ball games with his bat, speed and glove. Philly will LOVE this guy, trust me.

    • Matthew Veasey

      December 7, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Thanks for that input. I like Segura, and he is absolutely an upgrade over what we were getting here in Philly over the last handful of seasons. However, he is just a piece to a true contender. There needs to be two more big middle-order bats for the Phillies to be seriously considered a legit playoff, pennant, and World Series team. Also, from your end, plenty of upside still with J.P. Crawford. Hope he reaches even some of it.

  3. Mike

    December 7, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Is this the week that the Boros Middleton show debuts? These two have been linked since the pocketbook became available. The first play was Arrieta, now is the real show at the Winter Meetings. If this does not happen Santa Claus will not be the only guy being boo’d and run out of Philly…

    • Matthew Veasey

      December 7, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Hard to say. However, his son, John Powers Middleton, a massive Phillies fan who has Dad’s ear, Tweeted this today in regards to this week’s Segura addition: “One down this week, but a few more to go!”. So it sounds as if they are at least actively trying.

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