Sometimes the stars align just right and the thing you need the most is the thing that is most available. This is one of those times for the Phillies, and they must seize the moment. Now, not next winter, is the time to pursue Baltimore superstar Manny Machado.
Yes, the price is going to be high in terms of players and dollars. The good news for the Phillies is they have both. The better news is that Machado's move to shortstop is perfect timing for the Phils.
It is no secret that the two biggest free-agent position players scheduled to hit the market after this season are Machado and Washington's Bryce Harper. Machado is the only one of the two who will be dangled as a rebuilding tool at the July 31 trade deadline. The Nats need not trade Harper because they will be in contention and there's a decent chance he'll remain in Washington.
As cool as it would be to have Mike Trout come home and play, he won't be a free agent until after the 2020 season and the Phillies cannot wait that long to acquire a grand prize.
Before we address what it might take to get Machado to Philadelphia, let's point out how valuable he would be in the middle of their infield and the middle of their lineup. Of the eight positions on the field, the Phillies' greatest strengths offensively right now are by far center field and left field.
Odubel Herrera not only leads the majors in hitting, but he also is first among all National League centerfielders with a .978 OPS. Rhys Hoskins might not be hitting home runs at the same rate as a year ago — how could he? — but his .877 OPS is still the best among NL leftfielders.
Add Machado to the mix, and suddenly you have three of the best offensive players at their positions in the National League, not to mention a new source of power, an area in which the Phillies lag behind the Atlanta Braves and Nationals.
I'd argue that the Phillies need more hitting than pitching if they want to compete with the Braves and Nationals for the NL East title, although adding a lefty such as Cole Hamels at the trade deadline would be welcome, too.
What makes Machado most appealing, however, is that he can help the Phillies now and long into the future. He will not turn 26 until July, so he is less than two years older than Scott Kingery and less than three years older than J.P. Crawford.
Machado also seems like a good fit for the Phillies given his multiple relationships with the team's front-office personnel. Phillies director of player personnel Joe Jordan drafted Machado third overall in 2010, and Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, and assistant GM Ned Rice were all with the Orioles at the time.
He could come to the Phillies and immediately be comfortable.
Now, let's talk about the price.
It seems like a slam dunk that the Orioles will trade Machado at the deadline because they'd be fools not to. For the Phillies, the key would be getting the shortstop to agree to a long-term contract before a trade is completed.
What's the price for a 25-year-old superstar? Ten years at $250 million? That's likely the lowest price. It could cost as much as $300 million for a 10-year deal, which would match the $30 million per year the Phillies are paying Jake Arrieta. Giancarlo Stanton was 25 when he signed his record 13-year, $325 million deal with the Miami Marlins in November 2014. You can call former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria an idiot – lots of people have – for offering the deal, but the Yankees were also willing to take on Stanton's contract and it is never a good idea to call the Yankees idiots.
Working in Machado's favor is the fact that a superstar shortstop is even more valuable than a superstar outfielder, although a shortstop is also more likely to get hurt because he is involved in more plays on the field. That fear, however, has been allayed some by the rules that have greatly decreased the severity and frequency of take-out slides.
Anyway, the Phillies, who rank in the bottom third in payroll and have future contracts committed to only six players, have the money to sign Machado. They also have the players. It makes sense that if the Orioles are about to lose their shortstop that they'd like to get a young shortstop to replace him.
Crawford would certainly be available. If the Orioles also want Kingery, the Phillies should be willing to do it. Yes, Kingery is an exciting young player who, despite some recent struggles, has a chance to be a star. Is he ever going to be Manny Machado? Highly unlikely. Furthermore, the player most associated with the Phillies in next month's draft is Oregon State's Nick Madrigal, a 5-foot-8 second baseman whose talent is described as being very similar to Kingery's.
Would the Phillies also be willing to part with prized pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez? If not, they could offer a list of other pitching prospects and let the Orioles choose one. There is enough pitching depth in the Phillies system right now that they could afford to lose an arm.