It’s no secret that the Phillies are considering an upgrade at third base — both for the long and short term.
They have long had their sights on Baltimore’s Manny Machado. The Orioles are expected to trade the free-agent-to-be in July. The Phillies have long been in touch with the Orioles, but don’t appear to be in a hurry to part with significant young talent for a rental player when they can pursue him with just cash in the offseason (see story).
Texas veteran Adrian Beltre has been mentioned as a potential short-term fit for the Phillies, but there are others, including Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas. Neither would cost anything close to the prospect outlay that Machado would.
According to a baseball source, Phillies and Royals officials have had discussions about Moustakas and Royals scouts have been peeking in on prospects in the Phillies' minor-league system in advance of a possible deal.
Moustakas, who turns 30 in September, is a two-time All-Star and left-handed-hitting power bat who stroked 38 homers and drove in 85 runs in 2017. He had hoped to ride that season to a big, free-agent payday last winter, but one never materialized and he returned to the Royals for one year and $6.5 million.
In 78 games this season, Moustakas is hitting .255 with a .777 OPS. He has 15 homers and 49 RBIs. His on-base percentage is just .310. That does not fit what the Phillies are looking for long term, but for the right price the Phils would probably roll the dice on Moustakas bringing some pop to the lineup for a half-season.
Earlier this month, the Phillies appeared to be transitioning away from Maikel Franco at third base (see story). He had lost time at the position to J.P. Crawford before Crawford went on the disabled list with a broken hand.
Franco has gotten more playing time recently and responded with more production. He entered Friday night with 10 hits, including five doubles and a home run, in his last 21 at-bats (.476) and had reached base in half of his 22 plate appearances to push his on-base percentage over .300. It’s doubtful Franco’s recent surge will seal his place in the Phillies’ future, but the team will take it because it helps win games and could build some trade value.
The calendar turns to July on Sunday and that typically starts the countdown to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated that his level of aggressiveness in making trades would be dictated by the team's place in the standings as the deadline approaches. The Phillies have survived a tough June schedule. They entered Friday night’s game against Washington with a 12-13 record in June and were 43-36 overall, just two games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East.
In addition to seeking an upgrade at third base, Klentak will monitor the market for available starting and relief pitching.