J.D. Martinez

How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

There has been even more Manny Machado talk than usual in Philly of late. The combination of the recent Phillies-Orioles series and the Phils' winning ways has increased the chatter about whether they should trade for Machado this season rather than wait him out in free agency.

Obvious arguments can be made for both sides. 

Why not make the trade? Because waiting him out until free agency allows you to hold on to all of your young players. 

Why make the trade? Because, as some have argued, it makes you significantly better in 2018 and could create a (pretty unlikely) situation where Machado wouldn't want to leave. I say unlikely because there is literally no recent example of a rental superstar signing with the acquiring team before free agency. Even when guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Holliday re-upped with the Mets and Cardinals, it was only after first testing the market.

Want the most recent example of it actually happening? It was 2002 when Scott Rolen re-signed with the Cardinals shortly after being traded by the Phillies. So we're talking 16 years.

Let's break down all the key points here.

Minuscule chance he signs before free agency
No matter what team might acquire Machado this summer, it makes little sense for him to sign a contract extension before first seeing what other teams will offer this winter. Even if a team like the Phillies, Dodgers or Cubs trades for Machado in July and offers him a $275 million extension, why would he sign it? Theoretically, that same offer would still be there a few months later, and the price would only surge if a bidding war between big-market teams ensues. Which it will.

Machado is such an amazing player that his market will be vast. The fact he can play both shortstop and third base is a huge factor as well. If he could play only one position, the list of fits would be reduced. But even the teams set at both shortstop and third base could move guys around to make room for a superstar.

How much is too much to give up in a trade?
With Machado being a two-month rental this season, the Orioles' asking price just cannot be as high as it would have been last winter or last summer.

Look, for example, at the J.D. Martinez trade from last July. The Tigers dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for a three-player package that almost every analyst deemed light. None of the players the Tigers received were listed among the top 10 D-backs prospects on the major sites.

That was despite the fact that Martinez had gotten off to a great start in Detroit, hitting .305/.388/.630 with 16 homers in 200 at-bats.

Occasionally, there still are overpays for rentals, but it takes the right team and the right fit. In 2016, the Cubs could smell a World Series and traded exciting shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for two months of Aroldis Chapman. It worked for both teams, with the Cubs winning it all and Torres now playing every day for the Yankees.

The difference with the Phillies in this situation is that they are not merely one piece away like the 2016 Cubs. 

So, what's a legit trade package?
If the Phillies were to offer the Orioles J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens and a pitching prospect or two, that might at least get a conversation started.

Some will read that paragraph and immediately react with, "How could you give away 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford for a rental?"

Well ... how valuable is 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford if he's not the player we thought he might be? Crawford is extremely early into his major-league career, but so far he has been below average offensively and inconsistent defensively. He's the kind of player who makes sense in a trade like this because another organization might view him as young enough to reach his ceiling.

With Cozens, he's somewhat blocked in this organization but continues to put up big power numbers at Triple A. For some teams, he'd at least have been given a cup of coffee in the majors already. But the Phillies, at this point, have a surplus of outfielders with Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins and Roman Quinn (if he can ever stay healthy). The Phils also used their last three first-round picks on outfielders, though all three have underwhelmed to this point.

As for the third piece of this concocted offer, the pitching prospect, we are not talking Sixto Sanchez here. You simply don't get an organization's best pitching prospect for a two-month rental.

But the Phils have more than one intriguing young arm in their minor-league system. Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos have been great this season at Triple A. The Double A guys — Franklyn Kilome, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez and Elniery Garcia — have struggled so far but all have potential.

The Orioles need help everywhere, so there's no specific player or position they'd be looking for in return. They just need quality and quantity because they have aging veterans, a truly awful starting rotation and one of the sport's most barren farm systems.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.

Evaluating 2 potential Phillies trade fits: J.D. Martinez, Howie Kendrick

Evaluating 2 potential Phillies trade fits: J.D. Martinez, Howie Kendrick

The Phillies are in a tricky position as the offseason begins, in need of offense but without many open positions to add it.

It would make little sense for them to pursue a high-priced catcher, first baseman, shortstop, third baseman or centerfielder given the presence of Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro, Tommy Joseph, J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn. 

It's entirely possible that when that group matures, it still won't be good enough offensively to push the Phillies deep into October, but for now, this organization wants to give those players a chance to reach their potential.

That would seemingly leave just second base and the corner outfield for a free agent or trade target. Thus, we'll take a look at two notable names that have been connected to the Phils this week:

Tigers OF J.D. Martinez
CSN's Jim Salisbury mentioned Martinez as a trade possibility for the Phillies earlier this week, and the 29-year-old certainly looks like a fit. He's 29, one of the game's better power hitters and his contract expires after 2017.

If the Phils were to trade for him and he disappoints, they wouldn't be locked into a pricey, multi-year contract. If he produces, they could extend him. And at age 29, he wouldn't be too old to contribute to their next competitive club.

Martinez has been terrific for the Tigers the last three seasons so don't expect them to give him away. Since 2014, he's hit .299/.357/.540 and averaged 28 homers, 82 RBIs and 33 doubles in 499 plate appearances per season.

In two of those years he exceeded 20 homers in less than 125 games. In the other, 2015, he played 158 games and hit 38 homers.

There's no doubt about his power, but he's not some one-trick pony who either hits one deep or strikes out. Martinez has maintained a relatively high batting average the last three years, which has enabled him to reach base at a .357 clip.

The Phillies would have to give up something significant to land Martinez. You'd think, given the construction of Detroit's roster, that in exchange for him, the Tigers would want a major league-ready piece to try to win with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez still around.

Could that mean someone like Herrera? Vince Velasquez? Either player would make sense for Detroit, which lacks an everyday centerfielder and has a few underperformers in its rotation.

Salisbury also brought up the idea that the Phillies could take on the big contract of Anibal Sanchez in a Martinez trade. That would give Detroit some payroll space — Sanchez is owed $16 million in 2017 and $16 million more with a $5 million buyout in 2018 — and the salary dump aspect of the deal could help the Phils hold onto their better young talent(s).

That's certainly possible, but you'd think the Tigers would first prioritize turning their 29-year-old power hitter into a player or players of substance. The only way a salary dump involving Sanchez would make sense for Detroit is if it has already identified a mid- or upper-tier free agent it would sign with that pocketed money.

One thing seems clear, though: With so many big contracts already on the books, Martinez is probably not a piece of the Tigers' future. GM Al Avila has already said the organization is not considering extensions this offseason.

Back to the aforementioned trade possibilites, moving a Herrera or a Velasquez for Martinez would make sense for the Phillies only if they believe they can sign Martinez to an extension. The Phils have almost no sizable payroll commitments moving forward and could afford to pay (or overpay) Martinez if they truly believe in him.

Stay tuned there.

Dodgers utilityman Howie Kendrick
Kendrick would be a less expensive, less impactful acquisition, but he'd still be the exact type of player Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is looking for. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported the Phils' interest in Kendrick earlier this week.

The statistical community does not love Kendrick because he doesn't walk a lot and doesn't have a ton of power, but he does everything solidly.

Kendrick, 33, is a .289/.332/.417 hitter in 11 seasons with the Angels and Dodgers. From 2007 through 2015, he hit at least .285 in eight of nine seasons. He's a consistent singles hitter with gap power who can give you double-digit home runs. His 162-game average is 11 homers, but keep in mind he's played his entire career in ballparks not conducive to home runs.

This past season was Kendrick's worst offensively. He hit .255 with just eight homers and 40 RBIs in 543 plate appearances, but did walk a career-high 50 times. Some of that decline could have been a result of his getting older. It also could have been caused by the Dodgers' moving him up and down the lineup and all over the field throughout the year. For the first decade of his career, Kendrick was an everyday second baseman. Last year, he started 54 games in left field, 16 at second base, nine at third base and seven at first base.

That versatility would be welcomed by the Phillies, who could plop Kendrick into the two-hole and start him wherever they're weakest. He could be pencilled in as the opening day leftfielder, but if a Roman Quinn or a Nick Williams produces his way to the bigs, Kendrick could be shifted to second base. It would give Mackanin some of the flexibility and offensive professionalism he needs. 

Kendrick has also always been a clubhouse leader, the type of player others gravitate toward. I'd heard about it for years and noticed it up close in the Dodgers' clubhouse when they came to town in 2016. I'm assuming that at least a quarter of the Phillies' fans reading this will roll their eyes or ignore things like "leadership" and "clubhouse chemistry," but just know that I did too before being in a clubhouse regularly. Having a confident, experienced leader who also brings some on-field skills to the table is huge for a young team.

Now, Kendrick is no long-term answer. If the Phillies were to acquire him, he could be here a year and move on. He's owed $10 million in 2017 before becoming a free agent.

But when you combine that contract status with Kendrick's 2016 production and the Dodgers' roster depth, Kendrick is an obvious trade candidate, one who wouldn't cost the Phillies a difference-making prospect.