As late as Tuesday morning, Baltimore Orioles officials were still mulling the Phillies' pitching-heavy trade proposal for Manny Machado, according to a major-league source. Ultimately, though, the O's preferred the five-prospect package offered by the Los Angeles Dodgers. And so, Machado won't be walking through the door to the Phillies clubhouse. Not yet, at least. The 26-year-old star shortstop will become a free agent in four months, when the Phils are expected to shower him with cash. For now, they will focus on other trade candidates to boost their offense. None will possess Machado's star power, but that doesn't mean they can't aid the Phillies' playoff push. The trade deadline is 12 days away. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
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When you think about it, there's really only one way for Major League Baseball to solve its inability to promote its best player effectively: Find a way to get Mike Trout traded to the Phillies.
OK, let's stop here and say that what we're about to suggest is extremely unlikely to happen. Trout is signed through 2020, and although the Los Angeles Angels are flirting with a third consecutive losing season, it wouldn't make any sense to trade their generational center fielder. And besides, Trout is so much better than just about any other player in the game that the quality of the package that it would take to get him boggles the mind.
But we just returned from two days of All-Star festivities in which MLB's struggle to turn Trout into a transcendent star — or even the most recognizable face of the sport — was a prominent topic. Commissioner Rob Manfred even weighed in when he said the biggest problem in marketing Trout is Trout's reluctance to be marketed.
"Player marketing requires one thing for sure: the player," Manfred said Tuesday. "Mike's a great, great player and a really nice person, but he's made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn't want to do. That's up to him. If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really big. But he has to make a decision that he's prepared to engage in that area."
Trout responded that he does "as much as I can" to promote the sport, adding that he's "got to pick and choose when I want to do things." In a fairly stunning move, the Angels took issue with Manfred's comments by issuing a statement in which they said they "applaud [Trout] for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion."
But Manfred isn't wrong. Trout values his privacy. He'd rather not spend his downtime shooting television commercials. Trout's passion is rooting on his favorite Philadelphia sports teams. A native of Millville, he has Eagles season tickets and attends most games (he even wore a dog mask during the NFC championship game). His favorite article of clothing to wear around the Angels clubhouse: a Sixers tank top. He's an unabashed Wawa patron.
Indeed, Trout's personality is tied to his Philadelphia roots. If ever that personality was going to come out boisterously enough to turn Trout into a brand, a la LeBron James or Tom Brady, it would happen here, in his element, surrounded by his people. In looking out for the best interests of baseball, there surely must be days when Manfred wishes he could arrange a Trout-Phillies marriage.
Alas, not even the commissioner has enough sway to make it happen.
So, Manny Machado will be wearing Dodger blue when he visits Citizens Bank Park next week. Here's a look at some moves the Phillies could still make before the July 31 trade deadline.
As much as anything, the Phillies' success thus far has been built on their ability to face down adversity. In our first-half review, Matt Breen recalls some of the more crushing losses and difficult moments and outlines how the Phillies responded with convincing victories.
It was a terrific first week in double A for outfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies' first-round pick last season.
Scott Rolen has taken a job at Indiana University, as Joe Juliano writes.
Tonight: All-Star break! Catch our Matt Breen on a panel at Yards, 6:30 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies open second half with Jake Arrieta vs. Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Vince Velasquez faces the Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Nick Pivetta starts the series finale vs. San Diego, 1:35 p.m.
Monday: Chase Utley and Manny Machado lead Dodgers into Philly, 7:05 p.m.
Now that Manny Machado is headed for Hollywood, the Phillies will undoubtedly be linked to several other hitters who figure to be traded before July 31. They have dispatched scouts to watch Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Minnesota Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar, among others. And over the next 10 days, they will attempt to figure out if any available player can provide a jolt to their offense.
Let's take a look at where the Phillies need the most help. Here's a look at their OPS from each position, including where they rank in the league and the NL average:
Question: Thanks for keeping an exiled Philly Phan in Connecticut in the loop. July always brings the question of the value of prospects in exchange for established difference makers — buyers vs. sellers. It brings to mind this question: Whatever happened to the "Baby Aces?" Thanks! — Stu B., via e-mail
Answer: Exile in Connecticut sounds horrible, Stu. We're here for you! For folks who don't remember, "Baby Aces" was the moniker bestowed upon Jarred Cosart, Trevor May and Brody Colvin, touted pitching prospects in 2011 when the Phillies had their "Four Aces" rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. And the fact that you're asking what happened to them is an indication that they didn't fulfill their lofty potential.