LAS VEGAS — Scott Boras held his annual winter meetings session with the media in front of a 50-foot Christmas tree late Wednesday morning, and it went on for quite some time. He would not say how the Phillies felt about his client, free agent Bryce Harper, but he was willing to reveal how his client felt about Philadelphia.
“Bryce has great comfort in playing there and great numbers there,” Boras said. “He knows the division and respects the organization, and they are certainly on his list.”
The Phillies remain in the hunt to land either Harper and Manny Machado, but they are receiving considerable competition from the Yankees and Dodgers.
Harper and Machado are both seeking decade-long contracts that will be worth more than $300 million. These are “generational contracts,” Boras said. The Phillies committed $50 million Tuesday to Andrew McCutchen, but that does not take them out of the market for the two superstars.
Phillies managing partner John Middleton said last month that he was prepared to be “a little stupid” this winter on his team’s spending.
“I’ll be honest with you, with the life and career that John has, I’d really like to be that stupid. I’d really like to be that,” Boras said. "... I had the chance to spend a good deal of time with John last year when we signed Jake Arrieta, and I really felt that he was an owner who had a strong commitment to his goals of bringing this team to playoff and championship level.”
Middleton is not at these meetings, but it’s likely that at some point he would talk to Boras.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said his team would not “be held hostage by one or two players.” They have continued this week to pursue pitching help and have inquired about Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. But the attention remains focused on their chase of the superstar free agents.
There has been a buzz for over a week that the Phillies are more interested in infielder Machado than Harper, and Boras was asked whether he got that sense when he met with the GM Tuesday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He deftly dodged the question.
“I think when you’re talking about Bryce Harper, it’s just a different situation,” Boras said. “There are a lot of really good ballplayers out there. There really are. They are exceptional. But Bryce’s situation has a dynamic about it in terms of what he brings to an ownership and the iconic side of it. It has certainly an appeal, because he is really a player that has the ability to economically pay for himself independent of the performance.”
Asked how the meetings went Tuesday night with the Phillies, Boras said, “I’ll let the Phillies give you that.”
That could be interpreted in a number of ways. One is that if things hadn’t gone well, Boras would have expressed that sentiment. It’s also possible he just did not want to classify one way or another how the discussions went. The rumblings at these meetings remain, however, that the Phillies are more interested in Machado.
Either way, Boras thinks the Phillies know what happens this winter could dictate the team’s fortunes in the coming years.
“In the end, all organizations are going to look back on this opportunity,” Boras said. “They’re going to look back on it and say, ‘What should I have done? How should I have done it? What steps should I have taken?’ These are pivotal moments. There’s a lot of organizations and general managers that will be evaluated by what they did do or didn’t do.”