Philadelphia Phillies: Making sense of the Manny Machado rumors

(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies have been linked to star shortstop Manny Machado as the race for the NL East begins to heat up in July.

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has been clear from day one. His stance has remained firm in that his young Phillies squad will need to force his hand in regard to adding pieces that would put his team in contention for the playoffs and possibly beyond.

But honestly, who expected the team to be this good?

The Philadelphia Phillies have essentially accepted Klentak’s challenge, navigating their mammoth June schedule with surprising success, winning five series against the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, and two against the Washington Nationals. They’ve put themselves in a great position to battle for a wild-card spot and perhaps even to overtake the Atlanta Braves for first place in the division.

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The month of July is going to much softer schedule-wise, which is why many fans are screaming for Klentak to make additions now. There have been plenty of player names that have been floated with a connection to the Phillies, including everyone’s favorite lefty ace Cole Hamels, third baseman Adrian Beltre, and closer Brad Hand. But the one name has risen above all others on every Philly fan’s wish list: Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado.

Machado is an electric 26-year-old player with three All-Star nods and two Golden Gloves. He sports a career .282 batting average and an OPS of .818. This season he is hitting .308 with a .938 OPS. He is considered to be one of the best young players in baseball at shortstop, and if he hits free agency, could sign one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history.

Twitter has been seemingly ablaze as of late, on fire with no shortage of hot takes and rumor spouting regarding the possibility of Machado becoming a Phillie before the trade deadline. With the Phillies playing their best baseball in half a decade, it’s not hard to understand the enthusiasm.

But there seems to be some dissension in the ranks, as two factions of fans have formed in the wake of “rumorgate”.  While one faction pleads with Klentak to do whatever it takes to land Machado, including giving up high-level prospects and even a few key starters, the other side is content to let Machado hit free agency, where the Phillies can have a shot at him without sacrificing anyone on the current roster or in the minors.

No matter what side you find yourself on, there are a number of questions that need to be asked if Klentak is going to consider bringing in Machado.

First, what is Klentak willing to give up? Machado will be a free agent in 2019, however, talks are heating up around the league as GMs attempt to get ahead of the annual free agent frenzy. After all, not every team can afford a player like Machado on the open market, but it might be possible to acquire him for assets and players and then sign him to a lucrative extension if he agrees.

The Phillies do have a number of higher level prospects in their farm system, namely pitchers Ranger Suarez, Enyel De Los Santos, Adonis Medina, and prized righty Sixto Sanchez. Outfielders Adam Hasely and former first overall pick Mickey Moniak are two players with high expectations within the organization.

It’s not out of the question that Klentak could be willing to part with some of those players. The fact is, trading for Machado would almost certainly require a return including assets. Baltimore would be absolutely foolish not to try and dip into a team’s prospect pool in an attempt to begin a rebuild.

Sanchez and Hasely are believed to be untouchable right now, but it’s certainly possible that Klentak could package any number of the other high-level prospects to try and entice the Orioles’ front office. But then what about players on the current roster? This question is harder to answer because of most of the Phillies roster as currently constructed fields young players who the Phillies view as part of their core moving forward.

Players like Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin are most likely off the table right now, but names like J.P. Crawford and Aaron Altherr, both who have struggled at the Major League level, don’t appear to have nearly the same level of protection. In fact, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic that the Orioles appear to be high on Crawford. This is something to keep an eye on as the month of July rolls along.

Then there’s the question of what Baltimore would be asking for in return. It was recently reported by Todd Zolecki that if Baltimore were to inquire about Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin, who has been a revelation on the mound this season, the Phillies would reportedly tell Baltimore that he was not an option. It’s clear that Baltimore is looking to add assets that can play right now, but Klentak appears to have a certain number of players whom he’s protecting, and Eflin is now likely one of them.

Baltimore is going to be looking for players that can help them rebuild while also attracting fans to the ballpark. They need to put a product on the field, and so they’ll no doubt be asking for pro-ready players with bright outlooks. The Phillies would more than likely make a good trade partner with Baltimore if they could agree on a deal that benefits both franchises.

Finally, the biggest question for Klentak is whether he is convinced that Machado would sign an extension. Unless there is some kind of wink-wink or backdoor handshake at the time of the trade that basically assures that Machado would re-sign, it’s fair to say that the risk might not outweigh the rewards of a two month Machado rental.

At the end of the day, Klentak would basically have to view this Phillies team as legitimate World Series contenders in order to consider sending assets to a team for a rental player that may help them win a playoff series or two and then bolt for free agency. And to be clear, playoffs are still a big maybe with this Phillies team.

The Phillies have had a remarkable season so far given the expectations that were set for them before training camp, but it might be foolish to think that one player can help them win a championship in a year where they weren’t even supposed to contend for a playoff spot. It just seems like too big a risk, and that’s exactly what Klentak would be doing by trading away prospects and players for a Machado rental.

Now, what if Machado outright agrees to re-sign? It would either need to be put into writing or the extension signed fairly quickly, but this would be a different case altogether. It could be easy to envision Klentak putting together a package that would look something like prospect players in Suarez and De Los Santos, and pro level players like Crawford and perhaps Cesar Hernandez or even Nick Williams.

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Maybe Klentak even throws in a draft pick or two. That should be enough to make a trade happen, and I think it would be a fair trade. The Phillies would keep their young core together and wouldn’t sacrifice any of their higher level prospects.

For what it’s worth, Mark Feinsand of recently tweeted that the asking price for Machado is currently too high for the Phillies, and so for now, the Phillies are reportedly out of the running. However, this could be a situation that could change dramatically between now and July 31st when the trade deadline passes.

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I have a feeling that the Philadelphia Phillies will continue to have Manny Machado on their radar as they continue to battle for NL East supremacy.