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The Phillies most important off-season in recent history is now here

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It’s time to make the team better, guys.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally here.

Folks, we’ve been looking forward to 5pm on Saturday, November 3rd for a long time. That is the time players like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel and a slew of others hit the open market, and players on teams looking to re-tool, re-load, or rebuild, are potentially made available in trades.

The Phillies have long been rumored to have interest in Harper or Machado, and it is highly likely the team will pursue at least one, if not both. But they won’t be the only players the team goes after this winter.

If you’re crawling out of your skin with excitement you’re not alone.

Here’s what we know so far...

On WIP Thursday, general manager Matt Klentak talked about Manny Machado’s controversial postseason, and said it was something that was certainly on their radar.

Does that mean the Phils won’t go after Machado? Probably not, but it likely means they’re going to go harder after Harper, who is easily the best fit of any free agent on the market. And hey, maybe things are starting to look up for the Phillies, as it doesn’t seem the Yankees are going to be in hard on either player, even Machado.

I recently wrote out my off-season plan for the team.

In short, if they get Harper, I want Marwin Gonzalez and if they get Machado, I want Indians outfielder Michael Brantley. I also want them to trade for Madison Bumgarner, if the Giants make him available (which they would if they were smart). I also feel like they need another relief pitcher, specifically, either an 8th or 9th inning guy or one who specializes in getting left-handers out.

If you were thinking that Clayton Kershaw might opt out and become available for everyone to pounce on, you were wrong.

Friday is qualifying offer day, when teams offer QOs to prospective free agents that were not acquired in trades (Machado was not eligible for a QO, while Harper was) this summer. This year, the QO is a one-year, $17.9 million contract that the free agent can either accept or decline. If he declines the QO, he becomes a free agent and the team that acquires him will have to relinquish some draft picks as a result, although not the first rounders that used to be required.

Interestingly, some big name players are not being offered QOs by their teams.

Ottavino is a very interesting name to keep an eye on. The right-handed reliever had a 2.43 ERA in 75 games for the Rockies this season, averaging 13.0 K/9 this year. Without a QO attached to him, there is going to be a feeding frenzy.

Even more surprising is the Indians’ decision not to extend a QO to Michael Brantley. Cleveland is far and away the best team in that division, but their outfield outside of Brantley is not strong. Last year he hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 homers and 36 doubles in 143 games, worth 3.6 bWAR. And with no qualifying offer attached to him, he becomes even more attractive, despite playing in just 11 games in 2016 and 90 games in ‘17.

But that wasn’t all the news to come out of Cleveland today.

We already knew the Diamondbacks were open to trading anything that wasn’t nailed down, and we also knew interesting and unexpected names would come up in potential trade discussions this winter, but names like Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco were certainly not two of them. Should Cleveland make either of these two starters available, the Phillies would be stupid not to be in on those conversations.

And seriously, “market constraints?” These poor, poor, penniless owners.

The Phillies don’t appear to be in on Patrick Corbin, but A.J. Pollock could be a potential target. A defense-first center fielder who can provide some punch with the bat when healthy (and honestly, it’s not all that often), Pollock would be a nice fit with the Phils, but Brantley would be the preferred option due to not being extended a QO.

With all the quality relief arms on the market, and some good young starters in the Phils’ minor league system that could be converted to the ‘pen, giving up draft picks to sign an aging Craig Kimbrel doesn’t seem like a Phillies-type move.

It all gets underway on Saturday afternoon, kids.

***UPDATE***

Kershaw is staying in L.A., kids.

***UPDATE***

Dallas Keuchel, and his reliance on his defense, never seemed like a great fit for the Phillies anyway, but with no QO being offered to Charlie Morton, he becomes a much more enticing target for the Phils. He’s obviously someone Matt Klentak likes, as he signed Morton to a free agent contract before the 2016 season. Of course, Morton made just four starts with the Phillies before blowing out his hamstring. He’s followed that up with two outstanding seasons in Houston where he posted a 14-7 record and a 3.62 ERA in 2017 and made the All-Star team this year with a 15-3 record and a 3.13 ERA. He averaged 10.0 K/9 in ‘17 and 10.8 this year.

***UPDATE***

Mooney from The Athletic wrote in a piece that Chicago’s decision to keep Cole Hamels at $20 million next year likely means they don’t have enough payroll flexibility to sign Bryce Harper this off-season.

A baseball offseason is unpredictable and constantly changing. Theo Epstein’s front office is forward-thinking and extremely creative. But Friday’s salary-dump trade – moving Drew Smyly to the Texas Rangers in order to pick up the $20 million option on Cole Hamels – reinforced what multiple sources have told The Athletic: The Cubs have financial concerns that may limit their ability and motivation to make a huge splash this winter.

This is very good news, if true, for the Phillies.

***UPDATE***

While this doesn’t get me off the Hyun-jin Ryu train, it does make him a bit less palatable. It’s unclear what the Phils would lose if they signed Ryu, who went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts for the Dodgers, worth 2.6 bWAR in about half a season of work.

***UPDATE***

This is also good news for the pursuit of Marwin Gonzalez, Houston’s do-everything player who, again, is part of my plan for Phillies world domination. Gonzalez struggled at the plate a bit this year (.733 OPS, down from .907 last year), but he plays all over the place, a skill the Phils covet.

(Check back for more updates throughout the day)