The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in the major leagues and baseball executives with their finger on the pulse of that team’s thinking say they will deal slugging infielder Manny Machado before the July 31 trade deadline.
The time is now for the Phillies to pounce on a guy they have long lusted for, right?
Uh, not so quick.
Given ownership’s obsession with putting a winner back on the field at Citizens Bank Park – and its deep pockets – there is a good chance that Machado will be fitted for red pinstripes in the near future.
That’s difficult to see. Extremely difficult.
While Phillies ownership is eager to win, it trusts the baseball management team that it has put in place to eventually return a winner to Philadelphia. And if we’ve learned anything about said baseball management team – Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak et al – it is that they are going to be patient in seeing this rebuild to completion.
It was tempting to look at the Phillies’ poking their nose into first place in the NL East and getting to nine games over .500 one day late last month and surmise that the rebuild was over, but the team’s play in recent weeks against tougher competition has exposed holes and been a reminder that while the rebuild might be nearing an end, it is not over.
Machado would be a huge finishing piece for the Phillies, but the current front office, which is in its third year in charge, has been gearing to arrive as a full-fledged contender in year four and beyond. They are not about to mortgage the future for two months of Manny Machado only to see him walk off into free agency in the fall. No way. If a number of teams take this tack and the Orioles have to lower their prospect price for Machado, then maybe. But as it stands right now, the Phillies will be content (and confident) to take their chances on Machado when he hits the free-agent market in the coming offseason. That’s when they can let their greatest resource – cash – do the talking.
And, as for the belief that Machado might sign an extension with a new club this summer … doubtful. He’s gotten this close to free agency. He’s going to duel it out with Bryce Harper for the biggest free-agent deal ever.
The Machado talk has gripped Philadelphia for a couple of years now. It is nothing new. It has been heightened recently because the Phillies have played better and are currently using the left side of the infield – Machado’s home – as a laboratory to see if Scott Kingery can be a shortstop, to see if J.P. Crawford can be a third baseman. Kingery, with a six-year contract, has a place in the team’s future, probably at second base, his natural position and a spot he could move to with ease. The phasing out of disappointing Maikel Franco and the use of Crawford at third — he loves the position, by the way, and seems to be better there than at short — might be groundwork for the potential of Kingery and Crawford flanking shortstop Machado next season. Machado wants to play shortstop as long as he can. He is going to require a lengthy deal. He has the athleticism to move back to third base at any time and eventually to first base as he ages.
He’s a great fit for the Phillies for a lot of reasons.
But not in July. Not for two months. Not at the price of multiples of top prospects. Not when the Phillies rebuild still has some miles to cover.
This is not to say the Phillies won’t look to upgrade their offensive output at third base in July if they can manage to right their ship this month and stay relevant in the playoff chase. They have an obligation to improve if they think they can make the postseason now. But Mike Moustakas, a rental player without Machado’s price tag of prospects, might fit the team’s plan better.
Watch that one.
And watch Machado, too. He’s going somewhere this summer and probably somewhere else — maybe Philadelphia — in the offseason.