Football season in Philadelphia ended Sunday, and you could instantly feel the city’s eyeballs shift toward the Phillies. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have been free agents for more than two months, but never has there been as much attention on them as there has in the days since Nick Foles’ pass painfully skipped away from Alshon Jeffery. Perhaps a superstar baseball player could make everyone forget what happened in the Superdome. Philadelphia, be patient. All signs point toward a superstar joining the Phillies. But it might still take some time.

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The Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, right, greeting Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) before an interleague game in September 2015.
Nick Wass / AP File
The Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, right, greeting Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) before an interleague game in September 2015.

For Phillies, it comes down to ‘years and dollars’

Matt Klentak had just made his first big move of a busy winter when he was asked last month if adding Jean Segura could be something that makes the Phillies even more attractive to free agents.

“It almost always comes down to years and dollars, and we know that,” the Phillies general manager said.

It was similar to a response Klentak had given in late July when asked if the team’s second-half performance could be used to sway free agents. Maybe, Klentak said, but “years and dollars are often a driving factor for decision-making in free agency.”

And that is why Saturday’s meeting with Bryce Harper and last month’s visit from Manny Machado are little more than customary events. The Phillies, according to a source, remain optimistic that they will sign one of the two superstars. But that confidence does not stem from what happened in those meetings. It stems from the “years and dollars” the Phillies are willing to offer.

The Phillies began the offseason with more financial motivation than any other team. They have an incredible amount of financial flexibility, as they used the last four seasons to position themselves for this winter. Harper and Machado are seeking 10-year deals worth close to $300 million.

It is almost impossible to imagine the Phillies being outbid, and it is just as difficult to imagine Harper and Machado taking a lesser offer or a discount to play somewhere else. It is starting to feel that the Phillies are in the lead for both players and simply have a decision to make on which to sign. A report Wednesday from ESPN, which Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, shot down as “inaccurate and reckless,” said the White Sox offered Machado just $175 million over seven years. The Phillies would beat that figure with ease.

The superstars appear to be in no rush to sign a contract, but spring training will open in less than a month. The countdown to opening day will soon begin. Someone, either the player or the team, will have to blink . The decision will come down to “years and dollars.” And the Phillies are positioned better than most to offer what Harper and Machado are seeking.

The rundown

All the attention is focused on Harper and Machado, but what else are the Phillies working on? Scott Lauber takes a look at the other roster moves the Phillies are looking to make as spring training nears.

Harper or Machado? It’s been the question all winter, and everyone has an opinion on which superstar is the better fit for the Phillies. Lauber delves into why Harper is the better fit in almost every area.

Juan Samuel was the Phillies’ third-base coach two seasons ago but was unable to find work last year after spending his entire adult life in professional baseball. The former Phillies star is finding trouble again this season. Bob Brookover caught up with Samuel, who offered a pretty candid view of his interview process with the Phillies.

Looking to place a bet on the Phillies this summer? You’re in luck. Ed Barkowitz has the details on the new sportsbook that opened within earshot of Citizens Bank Park at Parx Casino’s 7th and Packer off-track betting parlor.

Important dates

Jan. 22: Phillies winter caravan in Reading, 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 24: Phillies winter caravan hits the Lehigh Valley, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 13: First Phillies workout in Clearwater, Fla. for pitchers and catchers, 9 a.m.

Feb. 18: First full-squad Phillies workout in Clearwater, 9 a.m.

The late Roy Halladay, next to former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at a press conference.
The late Roy Halladay, next to former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at a press conference.

Stat of the day

Roy Halladay is almost guaranteed to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer on Tuesday evening when the voting results are announced. This December marked nine years since the Phillies traded for Halladay, and I’m sure you haven’t forgotten how ridiculous that first season was.

He threw a perfect game, pitched a postseason no-hitter, and won the Cy Young award. He made 33 starts in 2010, and nine were complete games. Halladay reached at least the seventh inning that season in all but four of his starts.

This workload was nothing new, as Halladay led all of baseball in complete games seven times from 2003 to 2011. But it made quite the first impression in Philly. And his second year, a 2.35 ERA in 32 starts, was a pretty good follow-up.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: I still think the Phillies need another veteran starter. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta have potential to be solid starters but I would feel better about the upcoming season if we had a proven arm behind Aaron Nola. Other than free agency, is Mike Minor and/or Madison Bumgarner available? Do the Phillies regret not getting Cole Hamels last summer? - Greg S. via email

Answer: Thanks, Greg. The Phillies have checked in on Minor this winter, and the Giants seem set on holding onto Bumgarner. The pitcher I would zero in on is Dallas Keuchel. His situation reminds me a lot of Jake Arrieta, who was still hoping at this point last year for a long-term deal before he was forced to settle on a three-year contract with the Phillies a month before the season started.

Keuchel is seeking a five- or six-year deal, and the Phillies have no interest in giving him that. But, his asking price could drop, just as Arrieta’s did, once the season nears and he’s still a free agent. I can see the Phillies pouncing on and signing Keuchel, who would give them the lefthanded starter they need, to a three-year deal.