The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly trying to maintain financial flexibility with an eye toward a serious push to sign Los Angeles Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who can become a free agent following the 2020 MLB season.
On Wednesday, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported the Phillies have enough money to acquire both infielder Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper—this year's most coveted players in free agency—but would rather add one and keep a path open to attracting Trout.
The Phils have a "slight preference" toward Machado among this offseason's prized targets, but they have also considered a "dream scenario" with Trout, Harper and Andrew McCutchen, all former league MVP winners, in the same outfield starting in 2021, per Verducci.
In November, Phillies owner John Middleton told Bob Nightengale of USA Today the club was prepared to make a major splash during the offseason.
"We're going into this expecting to spend money," Middleton said. "And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it."
He added: "We just prefer not to be completely stupid."
Although all 30 MLB teams would love to have Trout, the league's gold standard from the moment he arrived in the majors as a full-time player in 2012, a limited number will have the financial capacity to make a legitimate bid if he does hit the open market.
The 27-year-old New Jersey native has two seasons left on his six-year, $144.5 million contract with the Angels. The contracts Harper and Machado sign are going to help lay the groundwork for his next deal, though the lifelong Phillies fan will likely be able to command the highest salary in league history.
Philadelphia, which is set for quite the NL East battle in the coming years alongside the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and potentially even the New York Mets if they can get an offense to match their star-studded rotation, wants to give itself a chance to land the two-time AL MVP.
The only way to keep that within the realm of possibility is abandoning any lingering effort of landing both Machado and Harper this offseason.