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Can the Phillies get creative this off-season?

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On Hittin’ Season Episode 244, we explore whether the Phils will need to be aggressively creative during the Hot Stove season.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As the calendar gets ready to flip to 2019, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, a.k.a. “Macharper,” are still unsigned. Machado has indicated his decision could come as soon as this week, while the market for Harper, and his timetable, are still unknowns.

While the Phils wait to see if they are going to land one of the two targets around whom their entire off-season strategy hinges, they’ve made a couple moves to help make the team better. The Jean Segura trade shores up a huge weakness from 2018, and adding Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield spot is an improvement as well.

However, as of right now, the Phillies have the fourth-best roster (on paper) in the NL East. The Mets have been extremely creative in making improvements to their roster this off-season, and that has a lot of Phils fans nervous.

What if the Phillies don’t get one of “Macharper?” What if they strike out? There is concern among the fanbase that, should that happen, the Phils won’t be able to add anyone that drastically improves their roster for next season.

Sure, they could sign Dallas Keuchel to a four or five-year deal (which they seem reluctant to do at this point), they could sign Craig Kimbrel or Zach Britton to a big-money deal, and they could sign position players like A.J. Pollock and/or Mike Moustakas. But while those moves would help, would they make the Phillies a 90-win team?

Possibly. But if the Phillies don’t get Macharper, it’s fair to wonder if they have the creativity to try something bigger.

In his tenure as general manager, we haven’t really seen Matt Klentak or the Phils make a “creative” move. We haven’t seen them pull off a three-team deal, or acquire someone of significance while giving up a top prospect. And perhaps that has been the wise course thus far. Heading into last season, the team has been in rebuild mode, and giving young players that had come through the system a chance was of paramount importance.

Because the Phillies were at that stage in their development, taking chances and getting creative wasn’t necessary. Adding Carlos Santana last off-season was a little creative, but only in that they added a first baseman when they already had one and pushed Rhys Hoskins into left field. If that was a “creative” move, it turned out to not be a good one, as Santana was included as a part of the Segura trade. Jake Arrieta was not creative, he was an opportunity buy. Klentak traded Ken Giles at the beginning of his tenure, an unexpected move, but it wasn’t necessarily creative. He traded for Wilson Ramos at the trade deadline, certainly a move many didn’t see coming, but because Ramos was injured at the time, it came with no real risk to the team at all.

If the Phillies are going to add a significant piece to their roster, they might need to involve a third team. They might need include one of their very best prospects in order to land someone like Corey Kluber or Nick Castellanos. They might need to think outside the box. Can they do that?

This piece isn’t to imply that they “can’t.” Just that they “haven’t.” It is not a criticism of Klentak and the Phillies that they haven’t really done anything “creative” during his tenure here. It hasn’t been a necessity. And getting creative this off-season may be a tall ask for this administration, simply because there may not be a “creative” move out there that doesn’t involve the Phillies getting ripped off.

If one of Macharper signs with the Phillies, the need for creativity becomes a moot point. But if they fail to land one of them, the Phils may have to get creative in trying to figure out a way to make a big upgrade to the 2019 team. If it’s at all possible.

On Episode 244 of “Hittin’ Season,” hosts John Stolnis, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher discuss the latest Hot Stove news and rumors. Assessing our confidence level of Manny Machado picking the Phillies, why the Phils might have to give a four-year deal to Dallas Keuchel and a five-year contract to Craig Kimbrel, and whether or not this team is capable of being creative enough to become a 90-win team if they don’t land one of Macharper.