Sitting in front of his locker, Manny Machado autographed a bright orange Baltimore Orioles jersey early Wednesday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. You had to wonder how many more times that is going to happen. He is, after all, the grand prize of this year's trade-deadline market.
Get him, if you're the Phillies, and you have a chance to be something more than a wild-card team this season. Get him and the Atlanta Braves become very nervous about their slim lead in the National League East. Get him and at least winning a National League pennant becomes a real possibility right now.
Gauging how much Machado would like for a trade to the Phillies to become a reality was difficult to do Wednesday. Machado seemed at least open to the idea of becoming a member of the Phillies.
"They are a good ballclub," he said. "They are all young and they're hungry. They want to win, so they've been impressive and they have a good ballclub over there."
Machado fits perfectly in that respect. His birthday is Friday and he will only be 26 years old. He is nearly a year younger than Mike Trout and just three months older than Bryce Harper. His level of play also probably sits between the two as well. He is not as good as Trout, but he is better than Harper, especially when you factor in the defensive side of the game.
Unlike LeBron James, who seemed obsessed with living his life in L.A., Machado insisted he has no preference as to what part of the country he plays in. Maybe the South Florida native would feel differently if the Miami Marlins were not such a dysfunctional train wreck, but they are and that makes contending teams in any part of the country attractive to Machado.
For the first time in seven years, the Phillies can say they are one of those teams. The asterisk in Machado's case, of course, is that just because you trade for him now does not mean you will get to keep him after this season. He was not willing to answer when asked if he would consider signing a long-term deal with whatever team acquires him at the trade deadline.
"I mean, that's a bold question," he said.
Yes, he actually said bold, the buzzword that manager Gabe Kapler created in spring training for the 2018 Phillies. Maybe that's an omen. More likely it was a coincidence.
"I mean like I said before, I'm here to play," Machado said. "I'm not here to talk about contracts or anything like that during the season. I'm going out there to play baseball and let my agent handle the rest."
The agent (Dan Lozano) will have nothing to do, of course, with where Machado ends up at the trade deadline. That's entirely up to the Orioles. Reportedly there are up to eight teams interested in the superstar shortstop who finished play Wednesday hitting .308 with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs. The Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks and Brewers are also on the list. The one thing Machado did make clear is that he wants to remain a shortstop, the position he switched to this season after spending most of his career with the Orioles as a third baseman.
The Phillies would be fine with that.
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You'd like to think that if the Phillies can get Machado now, they'd also have a better chance of keeping him later when he is eligible to hit the free-agent market after this season. Get him in the fold and the Phillies can spend the last two months of the season telling him how much they want to keep him here. They can show him the potential of the young arms at the major-league and minor-league levels. They can tell him that they have more money to spend beyond the enormous contract they want to give him.
Machado did not disagree with the idea that the team that gets him this summer might have a better chance of keeping him this winter.
"I mean 100 percent," he said. "Everybody knows the type of player I am. If not, I wouldn't have been talked about so much. Do I want to play for a contending team? Yeah. Do I want to go to the playoffs? Yeah. Do I want to win a ring? Of course, I do. Those are all things everybody wants. For me to go out somewhere and help out a team – I don't know if it will be [the Phillies] or someone else – I know that I'm going to do everything in my power to help that team out."