What Nationals’ reported offer to Bryce Harper means for his free-agent price tag

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Several waves of reporters jockeyed through the scrum to get to Matt Klentak on Tuesday and all asked a similar question of the Phillies general manager.

Would he, could he, should he sign Manny Machado after the mega free agent told the world that hustling was “not his cup of tea” during an interview at the World Series?

Klentak would not speak specifically about any player who was not Phillies property, but he did manage to comment on the matter in general terms.

The takeaway: Machado’s comments remain a concern to the Phillies because they want to put players on the field that their fans – i.e. the paying customers – can and will embrace, but the club remains committed to all possibilities of improving and for that reason is open-minded on Johnny Hustle.

“If you’re trying to find the young free agent who’s good at everything and a prince in the clubhouse, you’re going to be looking for a long time,” Klentak said. “You’re not always going to find somebody who checks off every box. That’s one of the challenges of our job – make decisions with some imperfect information sometimes.

“When we are evaluating players, we do our best to evaluate the total player, everything that that player brings to the table — offense, defense, baserunning, their makeup, their work ethic, their age, their health histories. We factor in all of those characteristics into how we evaluate the player and we make roster decisions and contract decisions accordingly. It’s unlikely that you’re going to find the player that is elite in every single one of those areas. If you do, he’s probably not going to be a free agent. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what you’re willing to bet on.”

Machado would be a fit for the Phillies in many ways. He can play shortstop and third base – the Phils have needs at both positions – and he can hit in the middle of the order and produce runs. He’s also just 26 and age-wise would fit well with the core of the Phillies’ roster.

But mega free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper would also fit well. He’s also 26 and a force on both sides of the ball.

The Phillies like both players and it’s difficult to say who they’d rather have. They will pursue both and hope to land one. At the moment, Harper might be an easier sell to the fans, but Machado could certainly win folks over with the ultimate form of damage control – production on the field and wins.

Both players are expected to command long-term deals that could swell over $300 million.

Harper is represented by Scott Boras. The mega agent is expected to chat with reporters on Wednesday. The session is annually one of the highlights of the general managers meetings.

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