Phillies

Phillies seem content to wait on Manny Machado, pursue him as free agent next year

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Phillies seem content to wait on Manny Machado, pursue him as free agent next year

Updated: 9:50 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Baltimore Orioles are shopping Manny Machado for a trade.

The Phillies love Machado.

So the Phils will do the deal, right?

It's not that simple.

Machado remained a hot topic on Day 2 of the winter meetings Tuesday and the lobby buzz made it all the way to the Phillies' war room. General manager Matt Klentak would not take questions about any specific players — that would be a tampering violation — but he was posed with a scenario that would reflect Machado's situation.

Machado, 25, will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Therefore, he is under contractual control for just one more season.

So, Klentak was asked whether he would be willing to give up a slew of young talent — that's what it would take to get Machado — for a player under control only for a short period of time.

Klentak mulled the question. He covered all sides in his answer. But in the end, it sure sounded as if he would not be willing to pay the price to trade for a player like Machado. It sounded as if he'd rather roll the dice that Machado became a free agent in a year then try to get him for just money and not prospects.

"It obviously becomes more attractive to us if a player is under control for future years, plural," Klentak said. "If it’s a one-year contract before free agency, it’s less attractive. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it. I realize these are less notable players than what you’re suggesting, but we’ve done that with some bullpen and starting pitcher additions the past couple years to acquire a player on a one-year deal. It really depends on what the return is, what would we have to give up in exchange for that player, whether that makes sense to acquire a player on a short-term contract. The years of control matter.

"I think we have to be open-minded to those scenarios, but the scenario you outlined presents some challenges that make it less likely. But we’re open-minded to just about everything."

Any team that acquires Machado, a slugging left-side infielder, this winter would have to be granted a 72-hour window from the Commissioner's Office to hammer out a contract extension before the deal is consummated. Even then, the deal would cost a team prospects and money. Look for the Phillies to stay in touch with the Orioles and monitor their asking price throughout the winter. But clearly, the Phillies prefer to hold on to as many of their young core players and prospects as they can as they seek to acquire players who would propel them closer to the top of the National League East.

This doesn't mean the Phillies would not be willing to subtract a young player or two for the right talent. The Phillies are looking for starting pitching and sources say they've investigated the possibility of acquiring young, under-control pitchers such as Chris Archer of the Rays and Michael Fulmer of the Tigers.

The Phillies are likely to add starting pitching through a trade, possibly one that involves shortstop Freddy Galvis or second baseman Cesar Hernandez. A person with a club from a team seeking a second baseman was asked about Hernandez on Tuesday. The person said the Phillies were being more aggressive in their efforts to move Galvis than they were Hernandez. That does not mean Hernandez will not be traded. The Phillies have set an extremely high price on him because he has three more years of contractual control and that is very valuable.

The Phillies' need for starting pitching and their deep pockets have led to a connection to free-agent Jake Arrieta. The Phillies, as is winter meetings custom, met with Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, but it's highly unlikely they would sign the pitcher because he will be 32 next season and word is he is seeking a deal that could approach $200 million. The Phillies don't believe they are far enough along in their rebuild to commit those dollars and the years it would take to get Arrieta. So don't hold your breath on that one (see story). If Arrieta is still out there in February and his price tag came way down, well, check back then.

"We've spent the last day and a half meeting with most of the prominent agents in the industry — a lot of agents represent players we're targeting and players we're not targeting — and I can understand why sometimes the connection will get made that may not be perfectly accurate," Klentak said. 

"We're very cognizant of the fact that we're a large-market team that has carried large payrolls in the past and does not have a lot of future commitments. We know this about ourselves, the agents know this about us, the fans know this about us. I think it's natural to connect the Phillies to players who are going to command a lot of money. 

"I've said this before: There will come a time where those connections will be accurate and we will spend again. For where we are right now, we are very committed to giving the reps to our young players and it would take a pretty special set of circumstances for us to deviate from that."

Klentak wants to improve the Phillies' "run prevention." It would be nice to add a starting pitcher — you can pretty much bet the Phillies will — but run prevention can also be addressed in the bullpen. Klentak suggested it was likely that the team would add another veteran reliever beyond Pat Neshek in the coming days (see story), and it is as the Phillies are finalizing a two-year deal with right-hander Tommy Hunter, according to a source Tuesday (see story).

Phillies face decision on how to put a bow on Aaron Nola’s great season

Phillies face decision on how to put a bow on Aaron Nola’s great season

ATLANTA – Aaron Nola crossed one of the most respected thresholds for a starting pitcher on Sunday afternoon.

He pitched six innings in the Phillies’ latest loss – a 2-1 setback to the Atlanta Braves – putting him at 205 1/3 innings for the season. 

The Phillies tailored their September rotation so Nola could face the Braves in his final two starts. The thinking was that he could be a difference-maker with the NL East title on the line. But by the time Nola took the mound Sunday afternoon, the Braves had already owned the division title for 20 hours. Sunday’s win completed a four-game sweep of the withered Phillies, who are 15-29 since leading the division on Aug. 5.

The question regarding Nola now is: Will the 25-year-old right-hander make his final start, scheduled for Friday night at home against Atlanta?

There are two schools of thought:

1. He is healthy. Let him finish his stellar season with five or six innings of work, tip his hat to the fans and head off into an offseason of rest and conditioning.

2. Shut him down, let the recovery from a long season begin now, and take a look at one of the kids.

After Sunday’s game, manager Gabe Kapler was at first pretty firm in saying Nola would make his final start. Later, he softened and said he wasn’t ready to make any definitive statements. In addition to Kapler, Nola and the front office will surely have a say in the decision. 

“One of the main things I'm working on is to make sure that Aaron's wishes are honored,” Kapler said. “If he has six more innings this year, it's not going to make a material difference, in my opinion, whether he can add on to that next year or whether we have to scale him back. I definitely want this to be something that we discuss with Aaron. He will be very involved in any decision that we make.”

Nola cast his vote after Sunday’s game.

“Two-hundred innings was one of my goals this year,” he said. “Another one of my goals was to make every start and stay healthy all year.

“Yeah, I want to make all my starts.”

Nola gave up just four hits Sunday. His recent troubles with the long ball -- nine in his last five starts -- continued as he gave up a tie-breaking solo shot to Lane Adams on an 0-1 changeup in the fifth. The Phillies’ offense could not get Nola off the hook. Odubel Herrera got picked off first base in the top of the sixth and the replay actually drew chuckles from the crowd when it was shown on the big board. (That’s what it has come to.) The Phils then left the bases loaded in the ninth. 

Nola is 16-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 32 starts. His WHIP is 0.98. He has struck out 216 and walked 54. 

Whether his season is over or not, it has been a great one.

More on the Phillies

Braves 2, Phillies 1: Little offense for Nola as Phillies are swept

Braves 2, Phillies 1: Little offense for Nola as Phillies are swept

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Though they are eliminated from postseason contention, the Phillies still have something to play for.

They are trying to avoid the ignominy that will come with being 15 games over .500 in early August and not finishing with a winning record.

It’s not going to be easy given the way this team has played for almost two months. The Phillies lost 2-1 Sunday — they left the bases loaded in the ninth — as the Atlanta Braves completed a four-game sweep one day after clinching the NL East title and bouncing the Phils from the race.

The Phillies are 78-77. They need to win four of their final seven games to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011. Four of those games are against Colorado and three are against Atlanta next weekend in Philadelphia. 

Another elimination

Sunday’s loss officially eliminated the Phils from wild-card contention.

The swoon

The Phils are 15-29 since Aug. 5 when they led the NL East by 1½ game.

Nola's finale

Aaron Nola pitched six innings of two-run ball but took the loss. He is 16-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 32 starts. He is at 205 1/3 innings, far and away a career-high. He has racked up 216 strikeouts and walked just 54.

Nola is scheduled to make his last start of the season Friday night in Philadelphia. With the team out of the race and Nola’s Cy Young chances dimming, it would not be surprising if the Phils held the right-hander out of that start and saved some bullets for next season. More on that later.

Odubel being Odubel

Down a run in the top of the sixth, Odubel Herrera reached base on a one-out infield hit. He was then picked off by lefty Max Fried. Herrera flinched but made no real attempt to get back to the bag and was tagged out easily. When the pickoff was replayed on the huge center-field video board, audible chuckles could be heard coming from the crowd.

Slump buster

One of the four hits that Nola gave up was to Anibal Sanchez, the opposing starter. Sanchez had been hitless in his previous 54 at-bats, including 0 for 38 with 24 strikeouts this season.

Up next

The Phillies open their final road series of the year Monday night with the first of four against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Phillies are 31-46 on the road.

The Rockies are very much alive in the NL West and wild card races and they kill the ball at home. They average 5.23 runs per game at home, the highest mark in the NL, and lead the majors in home batting average (.284) and OPS (.832).

The Phillies scheduled starters for the series are Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Jake Arrieta. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela are scheduled for Colorado.

More on the Phillies