When Manny Machado and the Baltimore Orioles visited Citizens Bank Park in early July, “We want Manny!” chants were heard as the Phillies were in the midst of their most successful summer in seven years. Those chants weren’t lost on Machado. And while the Phillies lost the battle to acquire the four-time All-Star before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the war was always about signing him after the 2018 season concluded.
The Phillies will get their chance to pitch Machado, very likely his wife Yainee and his agent Dan Lozano on Thursday, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
Machado will be in town Thursday for a recruiting visit with Phillies officials, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
A free-agent visit, of course, guarantees little. There have been some noteworthy free-agent visits in Philadelphia sports history that haven’t led to contracts. Patrick Corbin and his wife visited Citizens Bank Park earlier this offseason, but the two-time All-Star ultimately signed with the division-rival Washington Nationals, who were willing to guarantee him a sixth contractual year. Josh Smith, a restricted free-agent, visited the Wells Fargo Center in July of 2007, but left his visit with the Sixers without signing an offer sheet.
With that said, a free-agent visit can help to sway a major decision. Ultimately, how much the Phillies are willing to offer Machado, 26, will likely decide whether he’s wearing red pinstripes next season. But a local group of electrical workers famously helped Jim Thome to feel at home in Philadelphia when he made a free-agent visit following the 2002 season. Then again, the six-year/$85 million contract he signed – which was a very lucrative deal at the time – probably didn’t hurt either.
Like Corbin, Machado appears to have set one week aside to visit with teams. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score says that Machado will visit with the Chicago White Sox, a team with a deep farm system and even more financial flexibility than the Phillies, at some point this week. Machado will meet with the New York Yankees a day before coming to Philadelphia, per George A. King III of The New York Post. It’s unclear if there will be any other meetings.
Of the three, the Phillies appear to be the most motivated. Managing partner John Middleton hasn’t been shy about his desire to spend funds this offseason. The Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, don’t plan to give Machado a $300 million deal. It’s unclear if the White Sox would. But a deal in the range of 10 years, where Machado makes at least $30 million annually, seems like it will be what he ultimately signs for.
The interesting part of this is it’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the sport that Machado is keen on the idea of playing for the Yankees. If the Yankees offer Machado $275 million, but the Phillies are willing to go to $300 million, would that be enough to keep Machado from joining one of the most iconic franchises in sports? There theoretically is an amount that if the Phillies offer it, Machado wouldn’t be able to say no to. If the Phillies offer Machado $50 million more total than the Yankees or another team, it’s hard to imagine him turning that down. It’s just a question of whether the Phillies have a cutoff point in mind, especially with six-time All-Star Bryce Harper still available in free-agency.
During his July visit to Citizens Bank Park, Machado did say he would sign his next contract to play shortstop, a position that he posted -13 defensive runs saved at in 2018. Meanwhile, he won two Gold Glove Awards at third base, a position that he posted 13 defensive runs saved at as recently as 2017. With the Phillies addition of Jean Segura, Machado’s former World Baseball Classic teammate, they will presumably pitch him on returning to third base primarily. Whether he is willing to do that or not remains to be seen.
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