The disappointment Gabe Kapler may have carried this week after the Phillies fell short of landing Manny Machado was likely eased when he finished a Filipino meal in South Philly by polishing off a banana split.
“That was like the highlight of my all-star break,” Kapler said.
Acquiring Machado, who Baltimore shipped to Los Angeles on Wednesday, would have been the peak of four days off. Instead, ice cream would have to suffice. The Phillies made a “pretty strong run” at acquiring Machado, general manager Matt Klentak said. But now the Phillies, who began the season’s second-half in first place for the first time since 2011, must move on without him.
“If I had to bet, I would guess we would make a move between now and the 31st,” Klentak said of the approaching July 31 trade deadline. “It’s just not as clear to me today as it may have been a month ago.”
A safe bet for that move would have the Phillies making an upgrade to their bullpen and lineup. Klentak said the Phillies are having “multiple active conversations” with various teams. It does not sound as if those active conversations will yield a starting pitcher. Klentak is hopeful the Phillies can rely on triple-A arms instead of trading for a starter.
“If you can avoid it, that is definitely a market to avoid,” Klentak said.
The Phillies are interested in Orioles lefthander Zach Britton and Mets righthander Jeurys Familia. Those two would not require nearly as significant a haul as what Cleveland gave San Diego this week to acquire Brad Hand.
The Phillies entered Friday with baseball’s lowest bullpen ERA in July. But they still have room for an upgrade. They could use a shutdown lefthander and you can never have enough arms to tackle late innings when you’re in a playoff race.
A lineup acquisition seems limited to third base, shortstop, or right field. Detroit rightfielder Nicholas Castellanos is a target. And the Phillies, according to a source, have talked to the Twins about third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who has played shortstop in the past but is likely limited to third. They could also target Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas. But with any acquisition, the Phillies will have to decide if the upgrade is truly an upgrade.
“There really aren’t any players on this team doing something that seems like a mirage,” Klentak said. “Sometimes you have a player who goes through a stretch and you wonder how is this possibly happening? It defies everything they’ve done in their career history.
“I don’t really think that’s what’s happening here. Most of our players who are producing are doing things that they’ve generally done before. And when you have a roster of young players, we still have the youngest roster in baseball, there’s some expectation that those young players will continue to get better. Will they make a quick jump in the second half or will it be more of a steady modest ascent? We don’t know, and that’s what makes it hard.”
“But to take Maikel Franco as an example, what he is doing right now and what he has shown in the couple weeks leading up to the break is very reminiscent of what he did in 2015, and it’s a heck of a lot better than what he had done in ‘16 and ‘17. And he’s still 25 years old. So that’s what makes the trade deadline process difficult is trying to not only evaluate what’s available outside, but also to evaluate what you have internally.”
Being active in the rental market, Klentak said, is not ideal. But Machado “represented a pretty unique opportunity for us and that’s why we did get aggressive.”
The Phillies were just unable to make the same sacrifice as the Dodgers, who became pennant favorites by adding Machado while the Phillies would have just increased their odds to reach the playoffs. The Phillies came up short, but Kapler said it was not two scoops worth of disappointment.
“We have everything we need,” Kapler said. “We talked about that coming out of spring training. If we make additions, fantastic. But what we have is all we need. Really impressed with the group. We’re in first place for a reason. We didn’t get there with anybody but the men we have in that clubhouse right now.”
Zach Eflin’s finger blister is healed and he will start Monday against the Dodgers. Aaron Nola will pitch Tuesday…J.P. Crawford made progress before Friday’s game as he played catch for the first time since he broke his left hand…Vince Velasquez will start Saturday against righthander Luis Perdomo.