Matt Klentak sat down with our Phillies insider, Jim Salisbury, Wednesday afternoon to discuss Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the speed of free agency and a week filled with social media hysteria.
Here's what the Phils' GM had to say:
Where do things stand with Harper and Machado?
Klentak: "We've been pretty upfront about our pursuits of the high-profile free agents this year. Phillies fans know we had Manny Machado in here at the end of December for a full day of meetings in the office and a dinner out in Center City and had a great day with him.
"A couple weeks later, after the holidays, a smaller group of us flew out to Las Vegas and spent the day with Bryce Harper. That's been pretty well-covered. They were both great days, really productive and energizing. Beyond that, I tend to keep the information about the status of negotiations pretty guarded. I don't think it's in our best interests to disclose much about that.
"The fans are well aware that we're pursuing the top end of free agency. When that's going to resolve itself, we don't really know."
Are the fans right to be antsy?
Klentak: "Fans have a right to think whatever they're gonna think. I have no opinion on that. I will remind people this is not 100 percent within anybody's control. Not with the Phillies, not any other team, not the player or the agent. To reach a deal, it really takes multiple parties coming together to do that.
"I am guided by what took place last year. That doesn't mean this year is going to be exactly the same, every free-agent market is different, it develops for its own reasons. But I look back to last offseason and Jake Arrieta signed on March 11 with us. Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez and Greg Holland, all of them signed after teams had already reported for spring training. It doesn't mean that's exactly how things are going to play out this year, but it's very possible that that is our new normal.
"All of us, myself, the agents, the players, the fans, media, we're all kind of learning at the same time about free agency and why it's developing the way it is. But our job as management is to be patient with that and understand the ebbs and flows of the free agency process and be ready to strike whenever that time is. I can assure you we're ready whenever that time comes."
Confident one of these guys will be a Phillie?
Klentak: "I've had optimism and I have confidence we've put our best foot forward with these guys and in the subsequent dialogue we've had. It's impossible to predict where someone's going to land or how much money they're going to make. I don't know the answer to that. But I'm very confident in our approach and in our communication style with these guys."
The social media hysteria this week ... we assume you saw it?
Klentak: "I'm definitely amused by it. I see a lot of it second-hand. I try to stay out of the fray. I woke up yesterday morning to a bunch of congratulations texts. I was like, what are you congratulating me for? Then I figured it out. I'm plenty aware of it, whether it's my friends or family or colleagues, everybody's talking about it. It's an exciting time for the Phillies."
Was it like this when you, as Angels assistant GM, pursued Albert Pujols?
Klentak: "Very different because at that point we were actually the quote-unquote mystery team. I don't think there were any rumblings that the Angels were in on Pujols at all. After the fact, after we signed him, it was a pretty exciting time, an outdoor press conference in the parking lot at Angels Stadium, it was pretty cool. The lead up to that was much quieter."
Has the slowness of negotiations affected your other moves?
Klentak: "The timing is tricky in all of this and that's why, I said a few times, we're not going to sit around and wait. We're not going to be held hostage by one or two free agents. Fortunately, we didn't. We got out pretty aggressively and made that trade with Seattle, and then signed Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, acquired Jose Alvarez, kinda addressed the places we needed to address. We addressed the offense, addressed the defense, got more left-handed in our bullpen, we've done the things we've set out to do. That doesn't mean the offseason is over, but we didn't wait around.
"I think that puts us in a position to play the market and not feel like we're under any sort of artificial time pressures.
"There are more than two free agents out there now. I don't know how the timing of these are all gonna play off one another. In a more traditional offseason, we'd feel really good about what we accomplished and be ready to go to spring training. That doesn't mean we're not going to keep looking and pursuing what's out there, but we've accomplished a lot of what we wanted to accomplish this winter."
You said at the winter meetings there is a walkaway point in negotiations. Is that point nearing?
Klentak: "I think when I answered that, I was talking more about how you can't enter any negotiation feeling like you have to have this player or else. You have to have the backbone to walk away if the parameters are stretched to a certain area you're not willing to go. And I still maintain that 100 percent.
"What we try not to do is have the timing push that. And that's where what we did earlier in the offseason has allowed us to be in the position to where we're not letting the time pressure us into doing something. We're still open-minded in contract term and structure and working with the representatives on that. But I don't think the start of spring training, for example, serves as any deadline. We learned that last year with Jake."
Is it difficult for you to be patient with a move like this?
Klentak: "Not for me. And by extension, our front office and ownership. We're pretty aligned on that."
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