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Phillies depart Winter Meetings without Bryce Harper or Manny Machado

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Unclench those fists.

MLB: Winter Meetings Daniel Clark-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB Winter Meetings are over.

Schedule-wise, that is. The results of secret conferences and handshakes held this week will spiral out into the winter before us. And everyone knows the real Winter Meetings don’t begin until you order anotber little bottle from the flight attendant.

In any case, the Phillies are leaving Las Vegas with Andrew McCutchen on a three-year, $50 million deal, back-loaded with incentives and an option for a fourth go-around. They could still use more offense, a starting pitcher, and a reliever, and they lost no one in the Rule 5 draft. They seem pretty hyped about Andrew Miller. Matt Klentak’s response to the whole she-bang was to point out, once more, that he doesn’t know the future.

The Phillies remain a part of every rumor on every available free agent, including the big ones, as well as the ones built of out nonsense that mean nothing.

So let’s talk about where we go from here.

Every outlet, including the one you’re reading now, exists to hype up these meetings, and the Winter Meetings have, many times, been the venue for some of the most frenzied, chaotic baseball moves of the year. But not always. In truth, they are a bunch of meetings stitched together by rumors with the occasional deal, or series of deals, that make them worth noting. But in actuality, a lot of this is groundwork, laying the foundations for deals that will occur later in the winter, or not at all. Scott Boras quotes mean what he wants them to mean. A Jim Bowden tweet made out of sentence fragments from different sentences is not worth a reaction. Whispers down the hallway that usually mean nothing suddenly mean something when it’s a hallway in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were probably never going to sign with their chosen teams in early December. That does not mean they won’t come to Philadelphia, and it does not mean the Phillies have missed their chance to sign them. Signing Andrew McCutchen does not mean they have decided not to sign Bryce Harper. Trading for Jean Segura does not mean they won’t sign Manny Machado. There’s a chance the front office and ownership don’t exactly line up as far as the deals they want to make or the money they want to spend. There’s a chance Manny Machado got a paper cut in line for a movie in Philadelphia once and has never seriously considered coming here. There are a billion moving parts to this machine, and ripping off an access panel to stare at the gears for a couple of days doesn’t change that.

So, as we move forward, we do so knowing that the Phillies have improved, but probably not enough to be as successful as they aim to be. The team has done itself no favors by playing up the notion of spending “stupid money,” because fans now have their own definition of what that means, and not meeting that definition will understandably cause this winter to be viewed as a failure.

But there’s a long, cold winter in front of us; there’s a couple facility tours to be given, a lot of phone calls to be made, and the most important negotiations of two young players’ lives to be held. The Phillies may fail, but they haven’t failed yet. And without knowing the future, we don’t even know what that means.

Check out our recent podcasts breaking down everything that was happening at the Winter Meetings. Episode 239 and 240 of “Hittin’ Season,” with John Stolnis, Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and Marshall Harris!