Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

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.”

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.

“Depends on the player,” Klentak said. “Never say never.”

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.”

MLB Notes: Marlins sending David Phelps to Mariners

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MLB Notes: Marlins sending David Phelps to Mariners

MIAMI -- A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press that the Miami Marlins have traded right-handed reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners for four prospects, including highly regarded outfielder Brayan Hernandez.

The person confirmed the deal to the AP on condition of anonymity Thursday because the teams have not announced the trade.

Phelps is 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 44 games and 47 innings this season. He's a six-year veteran with 64 career starts.

Hernandez, a 19-year-old Venezuelan, is batting .259 in 31 games in the minors this year.

The Mariners entered Thursday three games back in the AL wild-card race. The Marlins are out of playoff contention and looking to upgrade a farm system widely ranked among the worst in the majors (see full story).

Giants: Sandoval reportedly to sign with Giants on minor-league deal
SAN FRANCISCO -- A person with knowledge of his plans tells The Associated Press that Pablo Sandoval plans to sign a minor league contract to return to the San Francisco Giants.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement had not been announced.

Sandoval technically will not be free to agree to a deal with a team until 1 p.m. Eastern Friday.

The Boston Red Sox released Sandoval on Wednesday when the third baseman didn't report after being designated for assignment last week.

It officially ended the Boston tenure for the slugger, who never was healthy enough to live up to the expectations that came with the $95 million free agent contract he signed in 2014.

With the Red Sox unable to find a team willing to take on part of his salary, the 2012 World Series MVP with the San Francisco Giants moved on after a total of 161 games, 575 at-bats, 136 hits and 14 homers for Boston -- but not a single one of them in the postseason (see full story).

Mets: After foul ball catch, Gov. Christie says booing comes with job
NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Days after catching boos after snagging a foul ball at a Mets game, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he's never seen a politician cheered at a sporting event except for President George W. Bush after 9/11.

Christie said Thursday he knew he needed to give the ball he caught during Tuesday night's game to a kid or he'd get even more criticism.

The Republican says that booing comes with the job and noted that TV cameras didn't capture the 10 to 12 people taking pictures with him between innings.

Christie was sitting in the third row, near the New York dugout. In the third inning, St. Louis rookie Paul DeJong lifted a high foul that bounced in the stands. Christie reached out with his left hand and snagged it.

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

Nick Williams giving Phillies missing ingredient — a feared hitter — early in career

MIAMI -- Nick Williams has been a major-leaguer less than three weeks and his progress has accelerated so swiftly that the Phillies are already trying to pump the breaks.

“I’m not going to say a whole lot about him right now,” manager Pete Mackanin said of his 23-year-old rookie right fielder. “I don’t want to jinx myself.”

Williams, elevated to the three-hole in the batting order on Tuesday, is batting .316 with four doubles, two triples and three homers — including one grand slam — in just 16 games.

In the past six games, Williams has 11 RBIs. And he is one of just four Phillies in more than 100 years to produce multiple RBIs and multiple hits in four straight games, a list that includes Greg Luzinski (1977); Chuck Klein (1932) and Lefty O’Doul (1929).

Williams is also one of just three Phillies with an OPS north of .800. Williams leads the team in OPS at .963. He is followed by Aaron Altherr (.898), who figures to be out multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury; and Howie Kendrick (.879), who is on an injury rehab assignment at Double-A Reading.

Kendrick, who is in the last year of his contract, will likely be gone soon, perhaps by the July 31 trading deadline, if he can prove he is healthy enough to contribute to a playoff contender.

Meanwhile, Altherr and Williams have both played right field this year. Assuming Williams continues to play well, Mackanin will have to sort it out, and, presumably, one of those two players shifts to left.

For now, the Phillies need the quiet Williams to continue making noise with his bat because this is a team that ranks second-to-last in the majors with 365 runs scored.

And that’s after taking two out of three games from the Miami Marlins this week in a breakout offensive performance by the entire team. The Phillies scored 20 runs in the series, their second-best showing in a three-game set all year.

The Phillies had five players come through with multi-hit games in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Marlins. Seven players turned that trick in Wednesday’s 10-3 victory in which the Phillies set a season high with 20 hits (see story).

“Hitting is contagious,” Williams said in advance of Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, which starts a 10-game homestand. “When you see so many guys do it, I always think of it as, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ ”

Mackanin this week talked up Maikel Franco, who has been used as the cleanup batter 38 times this year and has hit fifth and sixth 20 times each.

Franco, according to Mackanin, leveled off his swing in a productive batting-practice session on Tuesday, and the manager predicts a big second half from him.

Perhaps Franco can settle in as the full-time cleanup hitter.

Perhaps Franco can provide quality protection for Williams in the three-hole.

Perhaps this can become a thing, Williams and Franco.

Fact is, age-wise, they are well-positioned to grow together with the Phillies. Franco is 24 — he just seems older because he broke into the majors in 2014 — and Williams is 23.

And although Williams is younger, he seems mature. These thrilling three weeks do not appear to have fazed him. He is not, for example, trying to pull everything.

“Growing up,” said Williams, who is from Galveston, Texas, “I always heard, ‘Hit it where it’s pitched.’

“If (pitchers throw) away, hit it that way. If they come in, pull it. … I just trust my hands.”

At 32-61, the Phillies are miles away from contention, and further still from their 2008 team that won the World Series.

Progress has been slow, but finding some hitters that will strike fear in the hearts and minds of opposing pitchers and managers will be a fine start.

Intentional walks are often a show of respect. Right now, no one on the Phillies has drawn more than four intentional passes.

If you look back at the ’08 Phillies, Ryan Howard was walked intentionally 17 times. Chase Utley was walked intentionally 14 times.

That’s what happens when you hit 48 homers like Howard did that year.

That’s what happens when you hit 41 doubles like Utley did that year.

That’s what happens when you’re dangerous.

The Phillies are hoping that Williams, a former second-round pick and part of the package received from the Texas Rangers in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, can be anywhere near that dangerous one day.

For now, though, Mackanin would prefer less talking and more hitting.

“I just want to watch him continue to play,” Mackanin said, “(continue to) be aggressive at the plate.”