Manny Machado looked at the reporter and said, “That’s a bold question.”
But really, it’s the only question that matters right now as it pertains to the Phillies’ quest to land the slugging infielder.
The Phillies are going to be aggressive in pursuing Machado when he hits the free-agent market this winter. That is not a secret.
But what about now? What about these next three months of baseball? Machado would be a huge boon to the 2018 Phillies and their postseason chances. The Baltimore Orioles are primed to trade him this month. It would take significant young talent to get him and the Phillies have a deep farm system.
A deal could be struck this month, but the Phillies aren’t about to part with multiples of prospects and see Machado walk off into free agency after the season. To swing a trade now, the Phillies would have to lock up Machado with a contract extension and preempt his free agency. It seems like a long shot that Machado would pass on going out on the market, where he and Bryce Harper could compete for the largest free-agent score ever. But, really, only Machado knows for sure.
So, Machado, in town with the Orioles to play the Phillies, was asked Wednesday if he would sign a contract extension with a new club this month. He responded by calling the question bold, then followed that nifty sidestep by saying, “I’m not here to talk about contracts or anything like that during the season. I’m going out there to play baseball and let my agent handle the rest.”
For the record, Machado did not say he would not sign a contract extension during the season.
So maybe there’s a chance Matt Klentak can get Machado — hitting .311 with 21 homers, 59 RBI and a .944 OPS in 83 games — fitted for red pinstripes this summer.
If Machado comes to Philadelphia — or wherever else he goes — he wants to play shortstop. He grew up as a shortstop and played third base out of necessity for the Orioles early in his career. He is back at short this season and wants to stay there. He said playing shortstop would be a prerequisite for signing with a club this winter.
“I’m playing short,” Machado, who turns 26 on Friday, said. “That’s the position I want to play. That’s the position I know I can play and produce.”
If the Phillies were to ever get Machado, he would essentially replace Maikel Franco in the team’s foundation. Machado has long loomed as a potential Phillies’ target and Franco had a couple of years to dissuade the front office from pursuing him. It has not happened and Franco is clearly being phased out. If Machado becomes a Phillie this summer and wants to play shortstop, the Phillies could move Scott Kingery to third and J.P. Crawford will be back at some point to play the position as well. If the Phillies don’t land Machado this month, they could look to acquire someone like Mike Moustakas or Adrian Beltre to play third base for the rest of this season and take their chances on getting Machado over the winter and configure their infield around him at shortstop. The possibility of an infield that consists of Machado at shortstop, Kingery at second and Crawford at third would make sense.
Machado said he was not sure if he would be traded this month. He said he enjoyed playing with and for his Baltimore teammates every day. But if he is traded, he believes he can be a difference maker for a contending team.
“I mean, 100 percent,” he said. “Everybody knows the type of player I am. If not, I wouldn’t have been talked about. I have to go out there and perform. I have to go out there and play and do everything possible to be ready to play. Do I want to play for a contending team? Yeah. Do I want to go to the playoffs? Do I want to win a ring? Of course, I do. Those are all things everybody wants. For me to go out somewhere and help out a team — I don’t know if it will be here or someone else — I’m going to do everything in my power to help that team out.”
Machado sees the Phillies in spring training. Wednesday was his fourth game against the Phils this season. He is familiar with a number of Phillies front office officials, including club president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, assistant GM Ned Rice and scouting director Joe Jordan from their time in Baltimore. Machado has positive impressions of the Phillies.
“They are a good ballclub,” he said. “They are all young and they’re hungry. They want to win, so they’ve been impressive. I can’t tell you any more about it because I’m on the other side and I don’t really see them that much. They are a very good ballclub.
“I know how Andy works and I’ve seen those guys work. They turned (the Orioles) organization around and I’m sure they are going to try to do the same thing on the other side.”