LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Phillies are a living trade rumor this week, and they fill that existence for logical reasons. Put all of baseball inside a Disney World hotel and ideas float. The Phillies are in an enviable position: a young roster with scant future financial commitments and an engaged ownership that plans to spend next winter.
This much is true: The Phillies covet Manny Machado, the 25-year-old Baltimore third baseman who will be a free agent after the 2018 season. They employ the former general manager and amateur scouting director who, while with the Orioles, plucked Machado with the third-overall pick in the 2010 draft. They will be suitors for Machado, provided he does not sign an extension with Baltimore — a remote scenario.
That is why a trade this winter for Machado, as suggested Monday by a report from a Baltimore media outlet, does not compute. The Phillies know they can wait until Machado is a free agent and submit a potential offer next winter in the hundreds of millions — an offer that will not require them to surrender young talent they have spent years amassing.
The Phillies and Orioles have not discussed a Machado trade this offseason, according to a source.
A report Monday from MASNSports.com cited the Phillies as “interested parties” in a trade and mentioned top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, second baseman Scott Kingery and shortstop Freddy Galvis as targets that excited the Orioles. The theoretical trade would require a window for the Phillies and Machado to negotiate a contract extension beyond 2018; the Phillies would not trade for Machado without a guaranteed deal in place.
There are reasons to doubt it all. For one, Machado would benefit from reaching free agency when his agents can engage teams in a potential bidding war. He, along with Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, will be two of the most-sought free agents in recent years. Even if the Orioles decide it is time to rebuild their roster — an option owner Peter Angelos is said to loathe — and want to receive some compensation for Machado in a trade, he could scuttle it by saying he will not agree to an extension before free agency.
It would be a long shot to ever reach that point with the Phillies because there is no incentive for the team to surrender both prospects and money for Machado when he could be had for just money after the 2018 season. An acquisition of Machado would not drastically alter the team’s immediate outlook for the 2018 season; the Phillies are still lacking a competent rotation with no quick fix to that issue. Sanchez, 19, is the closest thing in the farm system to a potential front-line starter.
The Phillies are committed to their current group of position players, a group that includes Maikel Franco. The maligned 25-year-old third baseman will have every chance, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has said, to prove he still belongs in the team’s future plans. If he does not show improvement in 2018, it opens the door for the Phillies to pursue Machado as his replacement. Even if Franco produces, the Phillies could still chase Machado and trade Franco to another team.
In essence, the Phillies do not feel the need to rush to a decision on a player with immense talent whose future is unwritten. That can be said for all of the young position players on the roster, not just Franco.
“Not only do we need to let that play out, we want to let that play out,” Klentak said Monday from a hotel suite that doubles this week as the team’s headquarters. “We want to see what that group can do now that they’re more than three months into their major-league careers. What can they do in their first full season? Or their second full season? Baseball aging curves will tell us that these players are likely to get better. How much better? We don’t know. But we’re only going to find out if we let them play.”
The added wrinkle to the whole situation was unveiled Monday in a ballroom when Giancarlo Stanton donned Yankees pinstripes for the first time. New York inherited $265 million of Stanton’s contract in their blockbuster trade with Miami, a decision that could remove them from the Machado-Harper festivities next winter. That is not to say the Yankees cannot find a financial solution to include one of those players, but they won’t have room for both. The Dodgers and Cubs are viewed as possible contenders next winter for either Machado or Harper.
A potential addition of that caliber to Citizens Bank Park is enticing. It just may have to wait another season.