The Philadelphia Phillies appear to have lost out in their pursuit of shortstop Manny Machado for the time being by the narrowest of margins.
I say for the time being because, as most already are aware, Machado is due to be a free agent this coming off-season. The Phillies will be considered as perhaps the leading contender to lure him with a long-term contract at that time.
But for now, the club finished as runners-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who acquired Machado from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for five prospects.
The lead prospect in the Dodgers offer, and the one who made the difference, was 21-year-old Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The fourth-rated prospect in the Los Angeles system at the time of the deal, Diaz punctuated his attractiveness to the Orioles brain trust by homering twice in the MLB Futures Game this past Sunday.
The other four prospects acquired by the Orioles will receive fine write-ups and every positive aspect of their various scouting reports will be highlighted. But in the end, it will be the success or failure of Diaz to make the big leagues and become an impact player which makes or breaks this deal from the Baltimore perspective.
So, this leads to the question of why the Phillies were unable to put together a package that would have enticed Baltimore even more. With one of the game’s top farm systems, they certainly could have matched those four back-end prospects that the Orioles received from Los Angeles.
It comes down to that lead piece in the deal. The Orioles group, led by general manager Dan Duquette, simply liked Diaz better than the best player the Phillies and GM Matt Klentak were willing to include.
That player is believed to be pitcher Adonis Medina, a 21-year-old right-hander who is the Phillies current second-ranked prospect. On the just released Baseball America mid-season Top 100 prospects list, Diaz came in at #47. Medina does not make the list.
The current MLB .com Top 100 rankings show Medina as the #73 prospect, with Diaz down in the #84 slot. Quite obviously the O’s evaluation leaned closer to that of the folks at Baseball America.
To win this particular battle and land Machado for their lineup in the here-and-now, only one thing would have gotten it done. The Phillies would have needed to make their top prospect, pitcher Sixto Sanchez, available in the package.
Including Sanchez was apparently never going to happen, and so Machado heads off to Hollywood to join the AL West-leading Dodgers lineup.
Outside of the hardcore followers, many Phillies fans may be wondering who is this Sanchez kid? Why wouldn’t the Phillies include a prospect – any prospect – if it would land a true superstar? Especially one such as Machado, who seemed to ideally fit what the club needed. A proven run-producer for the middle of the lineup.
Well, especially for those more casual fans who don’t pay attention to things like the minor league system on a regular basis, let me introduce you to Sixto Sanchez.
Sanchez is a 19-year-old (he turns 20 on July 29) native of San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic. The right-handed pitcher is the Phillies top prospect. Baseball America ranks him at #16 overall, while MLB.com has him as the 23rd rated prospect in the game.
Baseball America ranks just three pitching prospects in the entire sport ahead of Sanchez: Forrest Whitley with the Houston Astros, Mitch Keller of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Michael Kopech with the Chicago White Sox. Whitley is more than a year older than Sanchez, the other two nearly three years older.
His Baseball America scouting report starts out as follows:
“Sanchez is one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in the minors, but you wouldn’t know it from his delivery. He has easy, fluid mechanics that he repeats consistently, helping him command a lively fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches 100 mph.”
At MLB.com, their write-up on him concludes with the following:
“The Phillies have understandably limited Sanchez’s workload to date, but the right-hander could start forcing their hand soon. Seeing him in the Philadelphia rotation, with an ultimate ceiling to potentially lead it one day, by 2019 seems a distinct possibility.”
Another potentially big part of the reasoning that the Phillies held off on giving up what they feel is such a big piece of their future? The Phillies organization is in a completely different place than the Dodgers.
Los Angeles has won five straight NL West titles but has advanced to the World Series just once in that time. That was last October, where they fell just short in the Fall Classic, losing in a dramatic seventh game to the Astros. Getting that close and falling agonzingly short has to be a major incentive for LA to act now.
The Phillies meanwhile are just emerging from a five-year stretch of bottom-dwelling baseball. They are trying to build something sustainable for a long run of their own and are still at the beginning of that process.
Todd Zolecki at MLB.com summarized the situation well:
“By most accounts, the Phillies were aggressive enough to be runners-up for Machado, but in the end the Dodgers were more aggressive. They wanted him more because they felt they needed him more. They are trying to win a World Series this season. The Phillies see themselves at the beginning of a run and are not willing to mortgage the future for two-plus months of Machado.”
More than one baseball scout has dropped a Pedro Martinez or Jose Fernandez comparison on Sanchez. You just simply cannot trade that level of talent away. Especially not without a guarantee that Machado would remain beyond this season.
No matter how the 2018 season plays out, Phillies fans are likely to be satisfied with it. The team is back contending with a number of talented, young players. They will have tons of money and a motivated ownership/management team looking to spend it this off-season.
The future is bright. And that future may end up including both Machado and Sanchez wearing red pinstripes, playing and winning together for many years in front of those fans at Citizens Bank Park. If it plays out that way, anyone disappointed now would be foolish not to admit to the wisdom of what didn’t go down this week.