Phillies owner: Ready to spend money 'and maybe be a little bit stupid about it'

Coming off a 2018 season in which the team contended for the National League East title before a late swoon, Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton said he is ready to spend big in free agency.

"We're going into this expecting to spend money," Middleton told USA Today Sports this week. "and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it."

Middleton wouldn't address specific high-profile stars who will be available, such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- "I don't know who you're referring to," Middleton jokingly told the newspaper -- but said the Phillies will be spenders this offseason.

They have a payroll of less than $70 million for 2019 at this point, giving them flexibility to reshape the team. Middleton said the Phillies have options in how they will look to upgrade the roster this offseason.

"We got lots of ways to go to improve this ballclub: starting pitching, bullpen, in the field, at the plate," Middleton said. "It's good because it gives you the opportunity to explore a lot of different ways, but it's difficult because it creates a lot of options."

The Phillies lost the NL East lead for the last time on Aug. 13 before tumbling to a 15-30 finish that ruined their postseason hopes, with Middleton referring to it as a collapse.

Philadelphia will hope that roster improvements will help to avoid a similar finish next year, but Middleton said team president Andy MacPhail has reminded him that he "can't spend every last dime" and to leave something for future.

Even so, the prospect of being a buyer is exciting to Middleton.

"It makes it fun," Middleton told USA Today, "but there's a lot of pressure too. ... We're looking at it like if things break the right way, we could be a really good team next year."

And although Philadelphia is willing to take some chances in a potential shopping spree, Middleton isn't willing to let things go too far.

"We just prefer not to be completely stupid," the owner said.