Kapler offers praise to Harper and Machado as Winter Meetings open in Las Vegas

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler talks about Harper and Machado
Gabe Kapler walked into the media workroom at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort on Monday morning and greeted the crowd of reporters huddled around him with a smile.

Last year in Orlando there was a dozen or so reporters interested in hearing from him, but Monday was different as nearly three times as many media members were gathered around to ask questions and hear his take on the Phillies and the offseason.

Considering the number of players the Phillies appear to be in on, it makes total sense.

As expected, several early questions centered around the Phillies financial flexibility and their pursuit of a megastar, namely Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, that's how the 26-minute back-and-forth opened - a question about the Phillies and Kapler's interest in Machado.

"I think Manny has done a tremendous job in his career of establishing a reputation of being one of the top young players in baseball," Kapler said. "And I think he's in an incredible position to be able to choose from a wide variety of suitors at this point. And I think wherever he goes, somebody's going to get an incredible baseball player."

Moments later, Kapler offered similar praise of Harper.



"He does a number of things well, but one of the things I found most fascinating about him last year was even through the times of his struggles, he still worked an incredible at-bat," Kapler said. "I think there's so much to like about him and what he brings to the table. His play on the field and then also what he brings to a clubhouse environment."

It's no secret the division has gotten considerably better over the past two weeks as the Braves, Nationals, and Mets have all made moves to improve their roster. The Phillies have too with the addition of Jean Segura, but even beyond potentially inking Machado or Harper the Phillies' offseason shopping list still has some pretty large items unchecked with a left-handed starter and a lively arm for the back end of the bullpen still high on the priority list.

Ideally, the foundation is put in place over the coming days to address those needs and Kapler is more than willing to play his part.

"No one has to ask me to try and help get the best players in baseball to come to play for us," Kapler said with a smile. "I deeply care about our ability to draw free agents, and to the extent that I can help, I want to be involved. I've been able to develop some good connections over the years and have learned a lot about major league baseball personalities, so I'm better able to tell ahead of time how they may fit in our clubhouse environment."

As for guys already on the roster, Kapler said if he were putting a lineup together today it's likely Segura would hit in the two-hole, in front of Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins.

"There's so many variables there though, I don't want to lock myself into anything specific," Kapler said.

He's right about not wanting to lock into anything, it's day one of the Winter Meetings and things have the potential to change quickly.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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