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Klentak on Machado signing with Padres: “Sometimes you have to be willing to walk away”

Manny Machado is heading to San Diego. (Ian D’Andrea)

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was in the Baltimore Orioles front-office in 2010 when the Orioles selected Manny Machado with the No. 3 overall pick. The head of baseball operations for the Orioles at that time was current Phillies president Andy MacPhail.

In a front-office littered with former Orioles employees, Klentak led the Phillies failed pursuit to acquire Machado last summer. The Phillies really liked Machado, who was in the midst of his finest offensive season to date, but ultimately weren’t willing to part with No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez, who they traded this offseason for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Prior to acquiring Realmuto, the Phillies welcomed Machado to Citizens Bank Park for a free-agent visit, but they ultimately drew a line in the sand again that will prevent them from employing the four-time All-Star.

Though the deal is yet to be formally announced, Machado is heading to the San Diego Padres, per ESPN‘s Jeff’s Mark Feinsand says the deal will be a 10-year/$300 million deal, one that Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports says will include a player opt-out after year five.

Klentak says that just like last July, the bidding for Machado, a four-time All-Star, went beyond where the Phillies felt comfortable.

“We had a pretty good idea this was where this thing was going,” Klentak told‘s Todd Zolecki. “If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.”

Machado, 26, had the strongest offensive campaign of his career in 2018, slashing .297/.367/.538 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs. But while he helped the Dodgers to reach a second consecutive World Series, his postseason turned into a public relations disaster, with his now infamous “Johnny Hustle” quote the most notable of a few public gaffes in judgement during the playoff run.

Curiously, though, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic insinuated Monday evening that the Phillies front-office – which is led by Klentak and MacPhail – may have preferred to sign Machado over Bryce Harper, the offseason’s other top free-agent. If the Phillies were unwilling to sign Machado to a 10-year/$300 million contract, it’s natural to wonder if they’ll be willing to exceed such a deal to secure Harper.

Of course, Klentak and MacPhail aren’t the only voices in this discussion. Managing partner John Middleton has an established relationship with Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, and would probably stand to make more money if he signed Harper than Machado, because of Harper’s star factor. Rosenthal also suggested Monday that Phillies ownership, led by Middleton, “may not see it as convincingly,” referring to the front-office’s potential preference for Machado over Harper. Then again, the tweet also mentioned the same dynamic for the Padres, less than 24 hours before they issued a historic contract to Machado.

From here, it’s fair to wonder if the asking price on both Machado and Harper was a seven-year deal if the Phillies wouldn’t have preferred Machado. Certainly when he’s playing third base, Machado is a significantly better fielder than Harper. He also put together a more complete offensive season in 2018. But fielding doesn’t traditionally age well, especially for someone like Machado, who has had procedures on both knees already. There’s also questions about whether Machado’s approach will change now that he’s secured money that will set his family up for generations. With it clear that neither Machado or Harper were going to sign for seven years, the Phillies may view Harper as a better investment over the course of a decade. And let’s be clear, even if some key decision-makers in the Phillies front-office preferred Machado, they certainly recognize the Hall of Fame talent of Harper, a six-time All-Star who is a few months younger than Machado.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today said Sunday that the Phillies were willing to meet Harper’s asking price, saying that Harper would get a deal in excess of the one Machado has ultimately signed for. With Machado’s deal the new baseline, popular thinking is that Harper will look to top the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton received from the Marlins prior to the 2013 season. There will certainly be an opt-out clause in any deal, perhaps an earlier one than the opt-out that Machado will reportedly have at his disposal after the 2023 season.

Whether the Phillies are actually willing to meet an asking-price in that range remains to be seen.

“I think, very similar to the way we approached the Manny discussions, we will continue to proceed with other free-agents that make sense for this franchise,” Klentak told Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have to remember that there will be other free-agents after this offseason. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to spend money and to make our team better. We cannot allow ourselves to be put in a position where we have to do something at all costs.”


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