Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, speaking before Saturday's game against Milwaukee, chose his words carefully when asked about speculation that the Phils are interested in trading for Miami outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.
"We have talked to each of the other 29 teams at least once sometime in the last three weeks, Miami being one of them," he said. "But I hope in my career that you will never get me to comment on a specific player."
He added that the Phillies, while expected to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, are "open-minded to the idea of adding, particularly controllable players (that) make sense for us."
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Someone then asked, at least partially tongue in cheek, if they would be OK inheriting a 10-year contract, a reference to the amount of time left after this season on the 13-year, $325 million contract Stanton signed before the 2015 season.
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo speculated on June 17 the Phillies have the money and prospects to deal for Stanton and Yelich, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Thursday the Phillies, Giants and Cardinals "are among teams showing strong interest in multiple Miami Marlins outfielders."
Marcell Ozuna is the other Miami outfielder attracting attention.
Heyman added, however, that there is "almost no chance" Stanton will be dealt before July 31, citing the stumbling blocks as his no-trade clause and the pending sale of the Marlins - i.e., that a new owner might want to have a megastar like Stanton on hand to build around.
As for the Phillies, Klentak said, "We are open, and we have had conversations with certain teams about players where we would, if you're looking at it in a binary way, be acting as the buyer. But … you understand that it doesn't make sense for us to do that for a short-term asset."
But there would be interest, he added, if it's "a player that we believe would be with us for a long enough period of time to impact the long-term fate of this franchise."
In general, Klentak said that "the dialogue has been pretty consistent" with other teams, and that while other clubs have consummated a handful of deals already, the activity should pick up as the deadline nears.
The Phillies did not make a deal before the July 31 deadline in 2016 but shipped Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers before the waiver deadline at the end of August. This year, they have a handful of veterans on expiring contracts – starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, utilityman Howie Kendrick and outfielder Daniel Nava - who might be appealing to a contender.
"Whether it's now, whether it's August, whether it's the winter meetings, whether it's spring training, no matter what, it's generally still the same calculus: Does this potential transaction make sense for this franchise at this time?" Klentak said when asked about the likelihood of an August deal. "And there are a variety of factors that play into that. Whether a player is likely to get through trade waivers in August is a factor."
He also stopped short of saying that any of the team's minor league prospects - prospects who would presumably be involved in a potential deal with Miami - is untouchable.
"For any general manager to say they wouldn't do anything, just doesn't make sense," he said. "You really and truthfully don't know what opportunity will present itself later down the road. There's definitely players in our system that we're more protective of than others."