Say this for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak: He's ready to buy.
But at what cost?
Klentak always figured he'd be able to draw more definitive conclusions about his young team after a stretch of 42 consecutive games against clubs that are or were expected to be playoff contenders. The Phillies went 21-21 in those games, including five wins in seven games against the Washington Nationals. And with 20 of the next 23 games against teams with losing records, it's unlikely the Phillies will fade away in the division or wild-card races, especially if they get help from their GM.
"There's a few areas on our club that we can upgrade," Klentak said Tuesday, exactly four weeks before the trade deadline.
Because the Baltimore Orioles were in town for the opener of an interleague series, Manny Machado was on everyone's mind. The Phillies covet Machado, according to multiple sources, and would move mountains to trade for the star shortstop this month if only they could convince him to sign a long-term extension. But that's highly unlikely considering Machado is only a few months away from free agency and a possible $400 million contract. Regardless of whether the Phillies trade for Machado, they remain a leading candidate to sign him in the offseason.
And while Klentak reiterated that the Phillies are open to trading for a two-month rent-a-player, it's hard to imagine they would give up 19-year-old righthander Sixto Sanchez or any other elite-level prospect from their loaded farm system for a short-term gain.
"The challenge that we have right now is, we're at a point where the player-development is intersecting with contention, and we have to understand how we got here and why we got here," Klentak said. "It's because of our young players developing, not only in the minor leagues but at the major-league level, and that's what's putting us in this position. We have to respect that.
"Now, at the same time, if there are opportunities for us to upgrade the team in the short-term or long-term via trade, we have to explore those, too. We're going to pursue a lot of different avenues."
Indeed, there are other ways for the Phillies to add power to the middle of the lineup, particularly at third base. Mike Moustakas and Adrian Beltre, free agents at season's end, will be shopped by the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, respectively. Neither will fetch the prospect return that the Orioles are seeking for Machado.
The Phillies also could upgrade the bullpen. And given their connections to Rangers starter Cole Hamels and the Toronto Blue Jays' J.A. Happ, they will be continued to be linked to both lefties, too, before July 31.
Klentak said he has gotten "a lot of phone calls, a lot of texts" from other teams. The conversations will only increase. With all five playoff spots in the American League all but locked up already, there won't be any shortage of sellers. Supply figures to outweigh demand, which should work in the Phillies' favor as they try to make a deal.