BALTIMORE — Manny Machado first met Joe Jordan when he was a teenage phenom. Machado was one of the country’s premier amateur players and Jordan was the scouting director for a team with one of the top picks in the MLB draft.
“He was the guy that was on me for a while,” Machado said Tuesday afternoon before his Orioles hosted the Phillies.
Jordan, now the Phillies farm director, was responsible for drafting Machado with Baltimore’s third overall pick in 2010. And he could play a role this winter when the Phillies — and their plethora of connections to Baltimore — make a run at Machado in free agency.
“We still talk every time we see each other. He says ‘Hello’ or goes out of his way to talk and we say ‘What’s up?’ and we communicate a bit,” said Machado, who turns 26 in July. “It’s pretty awesome because that’s the guy who drafted me out of high school and those are things that you never forget.”
The Phillies plan to spend big this winter in free agency as they try to sway Machado or Bryce Harper. They won’t be the only team with money to spend and it could be the little things — like the Phillies’ hitter-friendly ballpark, a young team that Machado said is “playing great baseball” and the connections he already has with the team — that separate the Phillies from the pack.
Jordan drafted him for the Orioles. Phillies president Andy MacPhail was then Baltimore’s general manager and Phillies general manager Matt Klentak was MacPhail’s top assistant. Ned Rice, now Klentak’s top assistant, was in the Orioles front office.
Machado is the type of hitter that the Phillies covet. He reaches base at a high rate, limits his strikeouts, and has shown an increased ability this season to walk. And he hits for power. Machado entered Tuesday leading baseball with 38 RBIs and tied for the major-league lead in homers with 13. His on-base percentage (.431) was the sixth-best in baseball and his OPS (1.100) was the second best. He was just one of 12 players to have an even strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“He’s an animal,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “He hits just about everything in the strike zone. When he’s going well, he hits out of the strike zone as well. He drives the ball to all parts of the ballpark and right now, he’s among the league’s top five or 10 players. Right now, he stands out in the lineup as the guy you think about most. Not that the other guys on the Orioles’ lineup aren’t really good players, but he just stands out and shines fairly bright.”
The Phillies used those same personal connections to help sign Jake Arrieta, who reached the majors with Baltimore, during spring training. The righthander said after signing that seeing those familiar faces waiting on the airport tarmac in Florida was a “whirlwind of emotion.” Klentak said Tuesday that there’s no question that the team’s prior connections helped land Arrieta. Now the Phillies hope those connections can create a similar scene — perhaps at a different airport — this winter with Machado.
“Whether you’re signing players or hiring a scout or hiring an employee in any profession, you’re always going to do so with more confidence when you’ve previously worked with that person and you know that person,” Klentak said about the team’s pursuit of Arrieta. “In Jake’s case, the fact that we had known him as a young minor-leaguer, we had known him as a big-leaguer, we knew his work ethic, we know what kind of presence he brought to the field every day, those are the types of things that give us confidence to make a move like that. And I would suspect in Jake’s case that he’s signing to join an organization [in which] he knows a lot of the leadership. That sort of strips away some question marks for him as well, so I think that has a lot to do with it.”