MIAMI — Andy MacPhail hoped this Phillies season would yield what he termed as “meaningful, measurable progress.”
The Phillies were 29 games below .500 at this point last year and they began the season with the youngest roster in baseball. Forget the playoffs, the team’s president just wanted some signs of improvement. He received much more.
The organization’s philosophy is shifting after the Phillies made a surprising — yet sustainable — run to guarantee that they will be in first-place at the all-star break, causing the front office to intensify their pursuit of Manny Machado.
“I think you have to look at the facts on the ground, as they say in the military world. We’re in a different situation than we anticipated and I think we have to act accordingly,” MacPhail said. “And I know Matt Klentak and his group are doing exactly that. You’re in a different position than we may have thought in spring training at this stage. We are in a position where we need to try to augment our current group to try to preserve our place in the standings for as long as we can.”
On Saturday, the Phillies remained in the running for Machado. The team’s pursuit of one of baseball’s elite players would have played out in the offseason if it wasn’t for the Phillies’ ability to provide more than “meaningful, measurable progress.” It is no secret that the Phillies covet Machado and they will still make a run at him this winter in free agency. But with the Phillies outperforming expectations, acquiring Machado for the second half seems too tempting to pass up.
The National League East is as winnable as it has been in quite some time. The Nationals entered the season as heavy favorites but lost again on Saturday to fall below .500. The National League is wide open. All of that is part of the equation, MacPhail said, as the team plans out how it can improve its roster for the second half.
The other part of the equation is how much the Phillies can afford to give up for two-plus months of Machado. The Phillies have perhaps one “untouchable” in pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, but they can still present Baltimore with a solid package without Sanchez. Adonis Medina, Enyel De Los Santos, Franklyn Kilome, and Ranger Suarez are among the names that could interest the Orioles.
MacPhail said the Phillies need to “ascertain as best you can what is immovable and where you have areas where you are giving up talent. But you have enough in the system to absorb that.” It’s an inexact science, he said. But the Phillies — since the arrival of MacPhail and Klentak — have bolstered the team’s minor-league pitching depth. And they seem to be in position to make this exact kind of sacrifice.
“You’ve played half a season more of the minor leagues than you had in spring training, so you’re trying to assess now, and that’s exactly what Matt and his group are doing, you’re trying to assess where you have some depth and where you don’t, where you have some strength, where you can absorb some losses and where you don’t, and you have to react accordingly,” MacPhail said. “This is a very active time organizationally on the baseball side trying to recalibrate the system, stack them up and see what you can afford to do and what you can’t because it has been our stated goal that we are just now, right now, prying open the window of contention for the first time in six years and our stated goal and our directive from ownership is be in a position where you sustain potential postseason success and not just be one-and-out type of things.”