For the first time in seven years, the Phillies found themselves with sole possession of first place in the NL East. It’s been a long, tumultuous road back to glory, but the Phils are finally asserting themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Victors of six of their last ten games, the Phillies’ 29-20 record is fifth-best in the entire major league, and the second-best mark in the national league.
The improvements from last season are astronomical, and it seems as though the team has all the tools to contend for a playoff spot this season. The Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta lead pitching staff boasts the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.36- trailing only the Diamondbacks and the reigning World Series champion Astros. The young ball club has been an absolute joy to watch, but there is still one major flaw they can’t seem to shake- an anemic offensive attack.
The Phillies (prior to first pitch in Sunday’s series finale against Toronto) are hitting a putrid .237 at the plate and have recorded the third-fewest hits in the majors (385)- a full 103 hits less than the league leading Boston Red Sox. While it’s encouraging that the Phils have found creative ways to get on base and score runs, I’m not sure that it’s necessarily sustainable. The team desperately needs to add another productive bat to the lineup if they want to make some noise in October, and I believe that bat should be that of superstar infielder Manny Machado.
The Phillies have been linked to Machado for months, and for good reason. The former third overall pick has a highly decorated resume in just his seventh season in the majors. Only 25 years old, Machado is already a 3x all-star and a 2x gold glove winner. What’s most impressive, however, is his ability to consistently carry the Orioles offense without much help surrounding him. Machado is swinging a hot bat so far this season, slashing .327/.399/.619 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs for the last place Orioles. His batting average would be second on the Phillies, trailing only Odubel Herrera, and his 15 home runs and 44 RBIs would both rank first for not just the Phils, but the entire National League.
Given his age and production, some think the Orioles would be foolish to deal him. Others believe that the price to acquire him may be too high for a player on an expiring deal. Both of which may have a bit of truth to them, but this is absolutely a move the Phils should make. The fact Machado is on an expiring deal shouldn’t dissuade the team’s pursuit of him at all, as he will have a highly competitive market for his services this offseason regardless of where he finishes the year- a market the Phils are currently projected to be the front runners in.
His expiring contract may actually work in the Phillies favor, as the struggling Orioles simply can’t afford to let the young superstar walk in free agency without getting anything in return. Baltimore owns one of the most barren farm systems in all of baseball and I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t move their prized third baseman for the right price.
I think a package centered around J.P Crawford, Dylan Cozens, and a couple pitching prospects should be able to entice the O’s and land Machado in the City of Brotherly Love. Machado is a star in every sense of the word and as long as the Phillies don’t trade any of their top 10 prospects, I think everyone else should be fair game. Additionally, there is almost no drawback to trading for Machado from the Phillies’ perspective. Adding him to the club now lends Machado the opportunity to familiarize himself with the team, fan base, and city before he reaches free agency, giving the Phils a leg up on some of his potential suitors. The Phils also wouldn’t be trading any prospects that they actually need. Crawford has struggled mightily in the senior circuit, but is still young and talented enough to intrigue teams. Cozens, although talented with a fairly high ceiling, is somewhat road blocked in his path to the bigs by more productive outfielders in the Phils organization.
Most importantly though, adding Machado would make the Phillies a bonafide World Series contender this season. The quartet of Hernandez, Herrera, Hoskins, and Machado would terrorize opposing pitchers and should bring some much need consistency and production to the offense. Championship caliber teams make moves that others simply aren’t willing to do, and the Phils could separate themselves from the pack with this splashy move. Kapler has preached a ‘Be Bold’ mentality and culture since he was brought in the offseason, and the Phillies can live out that mantra with a Machado trade.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports