Wonderful discussion this morning with Phillies managing partner and principal owner John Middleton on 94 WIP.

It was thoughtful, informative, and worth a listen, and I’ve included the audio at the bottom of the page, but here are the CliffsNotes from the 23-minute discussion with Angelo Cataldi:

  • Middleton talked about the very “public process” of chasing Bryce Harper, which is much different from the business world, where legal terms limit the reach of information. Middleton said he read almost every article written this winter about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper and said that “at least half of it wasn’t true.” He described that as a “complicating factor” that made it harder to get through the process, but admitted that the nature of the media circus made for a “public celebration” when the deal was done.
  • He used the word “surreal” to describe the moment when they learned that the deal was set in place. Middleton said they had reached an impasse last Wednesday night, going to bed believing that the Phillies would not land Harper. Scott Boras later called and told them they had the makings of a deal, which got the ball rolling towards the finish line. They were waiting to get their letter of intent back.
  • He wanted to give credit to Matt Klentak for putting together a “spectacular” offseason. Middleton did not feel like the Phillies were “one player away,” and lauded his GM for the moves made prior to the Harper signing (Segura, etc).
  • He pointed out that the Aaron Nola extension was a good move that nobody is talking about.

On the support of ownership and the amount of money spent on a single player:

“Yeah it is (a lot of money), and I guess in my world, when I thought about it, maybe that’s the difference between being a little stupid and completely stupid. It’s a big risk. The reality is, when we were looking at this offseason, I knew we had to do a lot of things. I really wanted to, not encourage the team and front office and push them to do it, and hold a high goal out there. Part of it, when you looked at it, you said ‘we can do a lot of things,’ – and we did – but if you don’t sign one of the two big free agents, it’s going to be a little flat. You’re going to have left a hole in your team somewhere. We kept pushing it, and you had to…”

More after the jump:

  • On the “stupid money” comment, Middleton says he was being intentional, to send a clear and concise message to fans, the team, and the organization, that he wanted the squad to get better.
  • He feels the team was ready to make an aggressive move in this offseason specifically, and the “stupid money” comment raised the bar in the public forum while also eliminating “the easy way out.”
  • He’s very happy for Klentak, who is a good person and a good GM.
  • Middleton says he did not have a preference for Machado or Harper specifically. They looked at the analytics side of things and found little room to separate the pair. They were willing to take whichever player was willing to sign with the Phillies. Klentak was tasked with keeping all options fluid. “We would have been happy with either of them, but I will say this, the one thing Bryce had over Manny was clearly the Philadelphia fans loved him. That was abundantly clear throughout the offseason.” 
  • Middleton says part of the reason they walked away from Machado was that they felt like taking Manny when Harper was available “wouldn’t play well with the fan base.” He mentioned a fan poll run by Todd Zolecki that influenced their decision in this regard.

Full audio right here: