Bryce Harper has to be considered the favorite to win the NL Final Vote for the last spot on the All-Star team, but he said after Sunday’s game that, “I’d vote for Chipper.”
Harper and Chipper Jones are in the mix along with Michael Bourn, Aaron Hill and David Freese in the Final Vote, but really, it figures to be a two-man race. In typical buddy-cop-movie fashion, it’s the brash, young rookie versus the weary veteran a few months away from retirement.
Ideally, there’d be room for both, and if Matt Kemp is forced to skip the game with his hamstring injury, as seems likely, perhaps there will be. Harper, though, thinks Chipper should go to one last game at age 40. Jones has been to seven All-Star Games, including last year’s. At .292/.375/.455, he’s been plenty productive this year, though he’s played in just 44 games. Harper is hitting .274/.348/.471 in 57 games.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.