Video games can sometimes be darling. As someone who just acquired the latest addition of MLB The Show, I had to take an immediate look at running the Phillies’ franchise to see, if I made similar moves to the ones made this past offseason, while making a few additional moves of my own, how I could make the Phillies contenders. And after signing Jake Arrieta to bolster my starting rotation, I went in search of a trade for Orioles’ third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado. I figured, it couldn’t hurt to see what the game thought the asking price for Machado would be.
Here’s the deal that returned me the All-Star infielder: infielder J.P. Crawford, starting pitcher Vince Velasquez and swing man Mark Leiter Jr.
Now, there are two things you need to consider when viewing this trade. First, it’s a video game. Second, the game’s roster are set to give each player a “potential” value, the driving force of trades. The linchpin in this hypothetical deal was J.P. Crawford having an “A” potential, making him a hot commodity.
What this trade did for me was realize a few things. Video games are totally unrealistic, first and foremost. But it also made me ponder, as the trade deadline looms just four weeks away, what it would take for the Phillies to land Machado in real life. The one thing the game did manage to get right was that Machado does in fact have just one year left on his deal. The benefit I had in making the trade virtually was that I got Machado in March, so I have him for a full season. The Phillies, conversely, would only have his services assured for August, September and any playoff run they might make.
But regardless of the time frame in which the video game Phillies have versus that of the real team, one thing is certain: the trade value of Machado fluctuates daily. One day, he’ll require a handful of blue-chip prospects and at least one MLB infielder. The next, Machado only would return the services of mid-level prospects because of his expiring deal. Ask ten experts, you’ll likely get ten different responses.
I tend to lean toward the side of a large haul. I understand that Machado will almost assuredly test the open market next season, inevitably leading him to New York. I also understand that the Orioles should get something of value before they lose Machado for nothing. I also, also understand that trades of superstars very rarely net you positive return. But the Orioles aren’t simply going to throw him away for the first offer they receive. That would be foolish. Teams are going to low-ball the Orioles, and in return, Baltimore will try to steal some big time prospects. The two teams will eventually meet somewhere in the middle.
Here’s where that middle would lie.
J.P. Crawford/ Scott Kingery
It’s funny that the first player on the list would be J.P. Crawford, holding true to video game form. Crawford wouldn’t be nearly as valuable to the real life Baltimore Orioles, however, he would be the Major League infielder that the Orioles would want in return. He’s young, controllable and still has the chance to turn his slow start into a productive Major League career. What impedes Crawford from being part of this package, as it stands today, is the fact that he is currently on the disabled list with a fractured hand. Very few teams will trade for an injured Major Leaguer, unless that player is close to a return. My curiosity peaks when it comes to Crawford, because the Phillies have been very uncommunicative in his return date.
For that reason, Scott Kingery is also lumped into the list of potential trade targets. Two things make Kingery less tradable, though. First, the Phillies are very high on Kingery, as evidence by his Major League contract before he played a big league game. That very contract is the second hurdle. The Orioles are clearly trying to shed contracts and start from scratch. While Kingery is making a very reasonable $3 million from 2018-2020, the options at the back end of the deal could be costly. Of course, they are team options, so the Orioles would have the right to decline them and send Kingery to free agency, but they still would owe him a guaranteed $14 million from 2022-2023. At that point, they may be ready to compete again, though, and Kingery could be their everyday second baseman.
Sticking true to form, the receiving team is likely going to require an upper level pitching prospect in return for Machado. I think the Phillies will make Sixto Sanchez unavailable because of the rental, so Adonis Medina would be the next name I would require if I was Baltimore. The 21-year-old has had an up-and-down season in Clearwater, going 8-2, but posting a 4.19 ERA to begin the season. He has, however, struckout 72 hitters in less than 69 innings pitched, a trend he’s continued from last season when he fanned 133 in 119.2 innings. Medina served up eight earned runs in two innings in a start on May 15, so his ERA itself is ballooned because of that rough outing. Remove that start, and in his last nine appearances, he’s allowed 11 runs over 52 innings, a significantly lower 1.90 ERA.
I would be remiss to part with Medina if I was in the Phillies’ front office, but it will effectively come down to Medina or Sanchez, and I know my vote would be moot in choosing to stick with Medina.
The Phillies have a plethora of outfielders, including a first baseman who now plays the outfield. Williams is the best of the negotiable, meaning he is the best outfielder on the team not named Rhys Hoskins or Odubel Herrera. Williams is hitting .236 this season, but struggled mightily out of the gate. That number has improved significantly from where it was in May. Despite not playing everyday, Williams has hit nine homeruns and driven in 26 runs in 74 games played. Of those 74 games, however, Williams has only started 48, so his everyday playing time has yet to come. While he is playing more frequently as of late, he would be ensured more steady playing time in Baltimore. Right field has been a massive hole for the Orioles this season, and it would fill an immediate need for Baltimore at a cheap price. Colby Rasmus, Jace Peterson, and Anthony Santander have all failed at filling the right field role this year.
Williams’ contract is up at the end of this year, but he is still under team control for another two seasons before hitting his three years of arbitration. The Orioles could lock him up long term at a substantially cheaper price than what they’re paying Colby Rasmus this season ($3 million).
I love Ranger Suarez, but you know what I love more than the Lehigh Valley starter? Manny Machado. This one, much like Medina, would be difficult to part with after seeing his meteoric rise to Triple-A over the last few seasons, but as I mentioned earlier, you don’t just get guys like Machado for nothing. Suarez has gone from Lakewood to Lehigh Valley in less than two full seasons, making stops in Clearwater and Reading along the way. At 22-years-old, Suarez is the kind of arm you don’t give up except for when you’re trading for Manny Machado. In 13 appearances this season between Reading and Lehigh Valley, Suarez 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA. He isn’t a consistent strikeout pitchers, punching out 60 over 79.2 innings pitched, but he is extremely effective nonetheless. He’s walked just 22 batter over nearly 80 innings of work and held opposing hitters to a .245 average this season. He won pitcher of the week twice in Reading earlier this season, and has won the award in different leagues five times in his career. The Phillies’ ninth ranked prospect’s best pitch is his changeup, which MLB ranks as a 60 on a scale of 20-80. His control is also well above average, as it ranks as a 55.
Losing Suarez is not something I’m fond of, but, again, it’s for a good cause. The Phillies may be closer than I want to let myself believe, and Manny Machado could be enough offensively to get them into the playoffs. Giving up Suarez, Medina, Williams and Crawford isn’t all that steep, and it allows the Phillies to keep Hoskins, Herrera and Sixto Sanchez, three players they’d assuredly have to concede if Machado was signed long term.
Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports