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The Phillies could be hosting Manny Machado in the near future

Manny Machado is a free-agent this offseason. (Ian D’Andrea)

Agent Dan Lozano is in Las Vegas for the MLB Winter Meetings. So too, obviously, are Philadelphia Phillies brass. Lozano’s top client – Manny Machado – may also be the Phillies No. 1 target in what may be the most important offseason in franchise history. Machado isn’t in Las Vegas, but he could visit the Phillies, presumably with Lozano also along for the ride, in Philadelphia after the Winter Meetings conclude.

ESPN‘s Buster Olney reported Tuesday that an unnamed club executive told him that Machado will visit four teams “in the days ahead.” It’s unclear exactly when “the days ahead” are, but they presumably would be before the new year. The Phillies, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees figure to be three of the four teams that Machado plans to visit, so that’s geographically unlikely to happen this week with the baseball world’s attention shifted on Las Vegas. But the Winter Meetings do conclude Thursday, so after that any thing is possible.

NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury did confirm Tuesday that Machado will in fact visit Citizens Bank Park, where he’s played just seven games at in his career. During that tour, he’ll be met by a familiar group. Phillies president Andy MacPhail was in charge of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, when they selected Machado with the No. 3 overall pick in the MLB Draft. General manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice also both worked in the Orioles front-office for portions of Machado’s six-and-a-half seasons with the Orioles.

Part of the Phillies pitch to Machado will involve convincing him to return to third base, a position that he won two Gold Glove Awards at. Machado, per his own request, moved back to his natural position of shortstop in 2018, and posted -13 defensive runs saved. He said during a visit to Philadelphia in early July that he planned to sign his next contract to play shortstop, not third base. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported in August that those close to Machado thought he would be willing to return to third base to play for the Yankees. It’s unclear if he would do the same for the Phillies.

The Phillies did acquire Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners earlier this month, with the plan for him to be their shortstop in 2019 and beyond. Segura was a teammate of Machado for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, so perhaps part of the Phillies pitch to him could be that he would be returning to third base and sharing the left side of the infield with someone he’s quite familiar with. Segura’s finest season of his career came in 2016, when he primarily played second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks. If signing Machado was contingent on him playing shortstop, Segura could shift to second. But the Phillies have much more of a need at third base, as opposed to second base, the natural position of both Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery. Machado was also, objectively, a more valuable player at third base than at shortstop.

Machado, 26, slashed .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs, 107 RBIs and a 6.2 fWAR in a season that he split with the Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. He also played all 162 games. In just about any world, he had a more productive walk year than Bryce Harper, the offseason’s other high-profile free-agent. However, Machado’s postseason turned into a public relations nightmare, with his most notable gaffe coming when he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that he would never be a “Johnny Hustle” after failing to run out a ground ball in Game 2 of the NLCS. Machado has since apologized for the quote, though the issue of him not always running out ground balls is something that dates back to his time in Baltimore.


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