As the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the Philadelphia Phillies seem to be involved in rumors regarding nearly every major player whose name is being bandied about. The biggest and hottest name of all is Baltimore Orioles superstar shortstop Manny Machado.
Jon Heyman at Fancred Sports reports today that his usually reliable sources are telling him that the Milwaukee Brewers have recently emerged as a contender for Machado.
The Brew Crew are tied with the Chicago Cubs in the loss column at the top of the NL Central Division standings. Heyman reports that the Phillies also remain a prime contender for the pending free agent.
“According to sources, the Brewers are a previously unmentioned, semi-surprise team to show interest in Machado in a derby seemingly dominated by most of the best of the National League – the also contending Phillies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers are all seen as among the possible Machado favorites – as the trade interest raises the prospect that the former third baseman could be dealt sooner than most figured.”
Heyman also reports that “the Phillies love Machado and need help on the left side of the infield“, and that along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies “are confirmed to be involved at least on some level.”
They Phillies minor league system has exactly the types of prospects that Milwaukee GM David Stearns would be looking for as a return for the superstar shortstop, per Heyman:
“The Brewers also have perhaps the best overall prospect list among the main contenders for the superstar, though the Phillies are also very high in prospect rankings. Counting young major leaguers, Philly is strong where the Orioles need help most, at pitcher and on the infield.”
Heyman goes on to comment on Machado’s previous links to current members of the Phillies front office, as well as management and ownership’s interest in going after him as a free agent his off-season:
“Phillies executives, most of whom were in Baltimore when Machado was selected as the No. 3 overall pick in 2010 draft, love Machado and intend to target him as a free agent this winter. They haven’t gotten much production at either shortstop or third base. And while Phillies people have suggested they are unsure if they are ready to win a World Series this year, the reality is that in the NL East they are only one game behind the Braves, another surprise team.”
Machado turns 26 years old today. The Florida native is currently in his seventh big league season. He was Baltimore’s first round choice at third overall in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of Brito Miami Private School.
A three-time American League All-Star and two-time AL Gold Glover as a third baseman, Machado began a transition to his preferred position of shortstop a year ago. He has stated publicly that he wants to remain at that position.
Despite some media speculation that he could be used by an acquiring team at either third base or shortstop, Machado himself has presumably put that to rest. While in Philadelphia to face the Phillies this past week, he was quoted as follows by Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun:
“I’m playing short. That’s the position I want to play. That’s the position I know I can play and produce [at]. … I’ve been a shortstop my entire life. I’ve played third base for a couple years. I did well, and I thought I was an elite player at that position, but at the end of the day, I’ve been a shortstop my entire life. I know I can be a way better player as a shortstop than I can at third.”
Regarding the Phillies in particular, Machado seemed impressed by what he was seeing according to Meoli:
“They’re a good ballclub. They’re young. They’re hungry. They want to win. They’ve been impressive. They’ve got a good ballclub over there. But I can’t tell you more about it because they’re on the other side, and we don’t see them that much.”
Machado is the exact type of true offensive force that the Phillies desperately need in the middle of their batting order. His current 21 home runs and 59 RBI would lead the Phillies in each of those categories. His 18 doubles would be second on the club only to Rhys Hoskins. Even his seven stolen bases would be second on the team.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted out today that the Orioles may be underwhelmed by trade offers they are currently receiving.
I keep hearing that teams aren’t close to offering what the #Orioles want for Manny Machado. He’s an amazing player, but he’s still a rental, and Baltimore’s expectations just don’t jibe with the way the market values rental players these days. Something has to give.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 6, 2018
Earlier this week, Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic reported that “conventional wisdom is that the Phillies do not want to trade top prospects for Machado when they can simply sign him as a free agent after the season.”
However, Rosenthal went on to speculate on a possible acquisition cost:
“Would the Phillies, for example, be willing to part with shortstop J.P. Crawford, a favorite of GM Matt Klentak, without knowing whether they could sign Machado long-term? The Orioles are thought to like Crawford. The Phils value him so highly that they traded Freddy Galvis, the major league leader in defensive runs saved, to create an opening at shortstop. But Crawford, who is on the disabled list a second time and batting just .194, continues to elicit mixed opinions within the industry.”
It seems pretty clear that the Phillies have both an interest in and a need for Machado. It appears just as clear that the player is comfortable with the Phillies front office, and respects the direction in which the team is moving for the future.
It may now just be a question of timing. Do the Phillies make the move now, surrendering prospects, hoping that they can sign him to a contract prior to the off-season? Do the Phillies wait, watch him go elsewhere, and hope that another acquiring team doesn’t entice him into a long term deal?
One thing is certain: Machado will not be in an Orioles uniform when this calendar month draws to a close. The likelihood is that he will be moved sooner rather than later. This may be the first real opportunity for the Phillies front office to demonstrate that they can “Be Bold”, as their motto for this suddenly contending season states.