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December 10, 2018

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler weighs in on top free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was asked about plenty of topics during his Monday press conference from the Winter Meetings, but those most relevant to current fan interests revolve around free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and whether or not they'll be wearing red pinstripes next season.

"Nobody has to ask me to try to help get the best players in baseball to come play for us," Kapler told reporters in Las Vegas when asked about his role in the free-agent recruiting process. "I deeply care about our ability to draw free agents, and to the extent that I'm able to help, I want to be involved in that. I have been able to develop some really good connections over the years and learn quite a bit about the personalities of Major League Baseball players.

"And so I'm able to find out ahead of time how they might fit into our clubhouse environment, along with that, and to answer your question directly, yes, I'm involved and I love being involved in that process."

So what does the second-year Phillies manager think about a pair of players who have each been linked to the Phillies? 

Here's a look at his answers to a question on each player, although it should be noted that the tone of the Machado question was much different than the one about Harper, so if it seems like Kapler favored one over the other, that's probably why.

Manny Machado

Interesting enough, Kapler wasn't so much asked about how Machado would fit into the lineup — or if the team would be willing to move Jean Segura to second base if Machado demands to remain at shortstop — but rather about the way Machado's personality would fit in the clubhouse (and the city in general).

Q. Given the fan base, could a player like Machado provoke negative reactions with his showboating?

GABE KAPLER: 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. 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.

Q. Could the Philadelphia-Northeast type fan market react negatively to [inaudible]?

GABE KAPLER: I think the Philadelphia fan base is an incredibly passionate and devoted one, and they demand that their players play hard. They set an incredibly high bar and are disappointed when players don't meet that bar. Probably speak to players in general rather than to any one specific player. But it's certainly a high bar, and it should be a high bar.

Bryce Harper

The Phillies are expected to meet with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, during their time in Vegas, but that doesn't mean Harper is likely to sign anytime soon.

As for what Kapler thinks of Harper, well, it's fairly obvious... 

Q. You said at the end of the season that you thought Bryce Harper was one of the best players in baseball if not the best baseball player. That feeling still strongly—

GABE KAPLER: Sure. I think — in my opinion, Bryce Harper 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.

So it wasn't like rolling over to the second baseman on the first pitch when he was struggling, although that happened from time to time. But when he struggled he still put together a quality at-bat. He still worked the pitcher. He still made the opposition uncomfortable. And sometimes he'd end that at-bat with a walk, which I think there's a lot of value in that.

Now, when he's going good, he's one of the more difficult players to get out in the game. And I love the way he plays. I think there's so much to like about what Bryce Harper brings to the table.

His play on the field and then also what he brings to a clubhouse environment.

So, yeah, he's a fan.

As always, stay tuned to the latest news and rumors in our live updates post.

Transcription via ASAPSports.

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