For those “stupid money” fans out there, you may enjoy this report.
According to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, “team executives” have “visions” of the Philadelphia Phillies signing the trio of outfielder Bryce Harper, starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel. (It’s not clear whether “team executives” refers to executives in the Phillies organization or is another way of saying “league executives.”)
Fancred‘s Jon Heyman added to the idea that the Phillies would pursue multiple free agent stars after adding their top target, adding A.J. Pollock’s name to the list. Pollock might only be an option if the Phillies sign Manny Machado instead of Harper (given that the outfield would be a logjam of Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera and others).
Landing all three of those players would surely fulfill managing partner John Middleton’s claims he made to Nightengale, when Middleton said the team was ready to spend money and “maybe even be a little stupid about it.”
The idea of signing all three is something new, but the Phillies interest in all of them isn’t. The hunt for Harper has been well documented. Back in late December, MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi said that the Phillies were unwilling to meet Keuchel’s demands for a five-year deal, but that suggested some interest. Morosi also reported the Phillies interest in Kimbrel in early November. Since then, however, there has been very little news pertaining to the Phillies and the duo of Keuchel and Kimbrel.
Kimbrel is the only player who had (appeared) to have been affected by the Phillies prior moves this offseason. The Phillies signed reliever David Robertson to a two-year, $23 million deal back in December. Couple that with manager Gabe Kapler saying that the Phillies didn’t intend to use Robertson as a “traditional closer” per Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Matt Breen (instead being used in high leverage situations and perhaps forming something of a committee with Seranthony Dominguez), and it felt like the bullpen was largely a finished product. The Phillies still have a need in the starting rotation (as shown by their failed pursuits of Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ), although recent comments by pitching coach Chris Young to Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Scott Lauber suggest the Phillies are content with the rotation they have now. The Phillies were always going to be a destination for Harper regardless of what moves were made beforehand.
There’s a definite trend among these three players: their markets have not developed to the degree we expected this offseason. Harper’s main pursuers as of now seem to be the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. Nightengale even said the Phillies are now the “clear-cut favorites” to sign Harper after the team met with the All-Star on Saturday in Las Vegas. Heyman seemed to confirm that report, saying the Phillies are expected to make an offer soon, if it hasn’t been done already.
One could make the argument that the Phillies would continue their pursuit of Keuchel and Kimbrel regardless of whether they sign Harper or fellow free agent Manny Machado. Kimbrel’s market has only been made worse with the signings of relievers such as Robertson, Andrew Miller and Zach Britton. Teams such as the Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers have been connected to Keuchel (per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe), but there have been no reports of offers having been made. Keuchel has been hurt due to signings such as Corbin and Yusei Kikuchi. It’s important to note Keuchel and Kimbrel declined qualifying offers, which could also hurt them to an extent.
Back in December, The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark reported Kimbrel had been seeking a contract over $100 million, which would be the largest contract ever received by a closer. It’s not known what Keuchel is currently seeking, but MLB Trade Rumors pegged him to receive a four-year, $82 million deal this winter in their free agent rankings (they proposed a four-year, $70 million deal for Kimbrel). Obviously, the longer the two wait to sign, the less likely it is they are able to gain the contracts they desire. But it’s clear that if the Phillies want to sign the trio, it will cost an upwards of $400 million. But the lack of interested clubs throwing out possible contracts could make it easier for Philadelphia to sign these players to deals that are more team-friendly.
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