The Philadelphia Phillies made a spirited effort to acquire four-time All-Star Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles this past summer, including reportedly putting No. 3 overall prospect Adonis Medina on-the-table in trade talks. Ultimately, Machado ended up with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though the Phillies pursuit of Machado – which is universally expected to resume in free-agency this off-season – wasn’t lost on Machado.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic noted Wednesday that when Machado played in Philadelphia earlier this season (which could have been before or after his trade to the Dodgers), he asked Carlos Santana about playing in Philadelphia, saying that he was aware of the club’s interest and there was at least some degree of mutual interest:
One day, earlier this season, Carlos Santana greeted Manny Machado at first base. They were opponents in the middle of the game, but Machado said something that caught Santana’s attention. “He told me he was aware the Phillies were interested in him,” Santana said Tuesday, “and he had some interest in signing with the Phillies.” This is no great secret; the Phillies attempted to trade for Machado in the summer and have spent years preparing for this historic free-agent class headlined by Machado and Bryce Harper.
Santana said that while he understands that Kapler is a unique figure, he’s enjoyed being managed by him. He also went on to tell Gelb that he believes that he’ll be contacted by a variety of free-agents that will consider joining the Phillies this offseason.
That Machado is aware that the Phillies are expected to be one of the most aggressive pursuers of him this off-season isn’t a surprise. There’s a good chance he asked someone with the Dodgers about playing in Los Angeles prior to his trade there. He’s also probably inquired with any of the notable New York Yankees that he was an All-Star teammate of about what playing in the Bronx is like. When the possibility exists of a player leaving the only team he’s ever played for (and moving his family to a new city), it’s natural to feel out what playing for a new team would be like. Jayson Werth said earlier this summer that his former Washington Nationals teammate Bryce Harper has asked him about what playing in Philadelphia is like.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of Gelb’s nugget is that Machado reached out to Santana to ask about Philadelphia. Santana, in the midst of his first season of Philadelphia, is viewed as one of the best clubhouse presences in the sport. He also spent the past five years playing for Terry Francona with the Cleveland Indians, who are seen as one of the best run organizations in the industry. Santana can lend perspective to potential free-agents on what playing in Philadelphia is like, with those free-agents operating under the understanding that Santana has reached the World Series with another team, so he knows what a successful organization looks like.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported earlier this month that the Phillies have internally considered trading Santana this off-season to reopen first base for Rhys Hoskins. However, despite Hoskins grading out as the worst qualified fielder in left field in 2018, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported this past weekend that a trade of Santana is unlikely.
It perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that the Phillies appear hesitant to part with the 32-year-old. Despite a difficult start to his tenure in Philadelphia, Santana has slashed .256/.352/.434 since the All-Star Break. He’s walked over 100 times in 2018, making him the first Phillie to do that in a decade. Recently, the Phillies have asked Santana to play third base to allow Hoskins to play first, a request he’s been glad to fulfill. The Phillies owe Santana $40 plus million over the next two seasons, and they’d likely have to eat a chunk of that to facilitate a trade. So if they’re going to be paying Santana, they would probably prefer to do so while he wears red pinstripes.
It may end up this off-season that the Phillies determine that Hoskins cannot remain in left field on a full-time basis, which would push Santana away from first. Despite the former catcher’s strong arm, the Phillies may not feel Santana’s speed and range will play well at third base over the course of a full season. But even if Santana isn’t an obvious fit on the Phillies roster in 2019, one byproduct of signing him was sending a message to future free-agents that the Phillies were serious about returning to contention. Well, it’s the future, and the free-agent that the Phillies appear to covet more than any player to ever reach free-agency appears to value Santana’s opinion. From that perspective, the Phillies may have a very good recruiting tool in Santana, one it’s hard to see them parting with prior to one of the most crucial offseasons in franchise history.
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