Folks, Phillies owner John Middleton wants what you want.
And they’re close. You can see it, they’re getting closer every day, and with free agent starting pitchers Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn still available as of this writing, the temptation is there to sign one of those arms to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation right now.
In an interview with NBC Sports’ John Clark, Middleton said the team has been “very” active in trying to add a starter.
“Were having talks every single day with different people. We would not be out talking to people if we didnt think we could get that (contend) with an extra push. I’d love to do something.”
I’d love to do something. You and us both, Mr. Middleton.
However, in a separate interview with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, Middleton made clear that the decision to add another starter and at what cost lies at the feet of the man he hired to make those decisions, general manager Matt Klentak.
“We’re pretty clear that Matt’s the guy,” Middleton said, referring to Phillies general manager Matt Klentak. “I think you have to do that or you cut the legs out from your general manager. Look, I don’t know what I’d do if my phone rang right now and it was Scott Boras. I mean, honestly, I think what I’d say is, ‘Scott, it’s nice to talk to you, but I don’t negotiate. Matt does. I don’t want to be rude, but I’m paying the guy a lot of money.’
That’s what you want to hear from your owner. You don’t want your owner getting involved in negotiating the contracts and making personnel decisions. The chain of command is established and, even though he’s antsy for this team to be good again, he’s going to let his employees do what they’re paid to do.
Bravo, Mr. Middleton.
So what are the chances the team signs someone?
“It’s hard to characterize it at this point,” Middleton told Zolecki. “It’s not so remote that you’d say no, there’s really no chance. But I would tell you we’re not just looking at free agents. We’re talking to teams about trades, because there are players that we would trade for.”
Still, it’s clear he knows adding a pitcher like Jake Arrieta would help this rotation right now. Of course, Zolecki also reports Arrieta is still looking for a six or seven year deal, which, if true, is simply insane.
Arrieta is not getting a six or seven-year deal from anyone. That’s lunacy. The Phillies have reportedly countered with a three-year deal, and Zolecki reports the team could potentially consider a fourth year. It appears a five-year deal is also out of the question for both sides, which I can understand more from the Phils’ side than Arrieta’s and Scott Boras’.
To his credit, Middleton doesn’t seem all that worried if the team doesn’t improve the rotation before the team heads to Atlanta at the end of March for the season opener against the Atlanta Braves.
“Beyond that, I would tell you, whether we get it done before the start of the season or we do it during the season, I’m hoping we’re playing so damn well by early July that I get to look at Matt and say, ‘Matt, we’re in the hunt now. What the hell are you going to do come Trading Deadline to get us over the hump?’ If we’re there, my guess is Matt will probably look at everything a little bit differently, as I think he should.”
As I’ve argued, the team is more likely to get off to a better start with a starting pitcher on the Phillies right from the start of the season, but if the remaining free agents are insisting on ridiculous contracts, the Phils can’t bite.
Even if, like the rest of us, John Middleton wants to. On Episode 177 of The Felske Files, host John Stolnis discusses this and gets an update on the first week of Phillies spring training with Phils beat writer Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
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