Despite a relatively slow start to the offseason, the Phillies are exactly where they want to be two weeks into the MLB free agency period. GM Matt Klentak has been methodical thus far, already adding a pair of former all-stars in SS Jean Segura and OF Andrew McCutchen. The sudden influx of talent not only makes the Phils a more competitive ball club in 2019 but also seemingly makes them a more attractive free agent destination.
After being labeled as one of the favorites for the superstar services of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in the months leading up to free agency, however, the aforementioned moves leave much to be desired. Not to take anything away from accomplished veterans Segura and McCutchen, but they hardly move the needle as far as the Phillies’ 2019 playoff prospects are concerned. These moves are much better suited as complementary transactions to a much larger, more productive winter than as the bread-and-butter of the team’s offseason endeavors. Fortunately, the Phillies have an all-important meeting that could make that ideal a reality.
4x All-Star and prized free agent Manny Machado is scheduled to meet with the Phillies brass at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday. This meeting represents a huge opportunity for the Phillies for two reasons. For starters, it marks the end of the rebuilding era. Machado is a top ten player in all of baseball and has been at or near the top of the Phils’ free agent big board since they nearly traded for the 2x gold-glover back in July. Simply having a player of his caliber in Philly for a free agent meeting is something fans and front office members alike couldn’t even fathom during the unbearable seven-season stretch of losing the team just endured.
Secondly, if the Phillies actually manage to ink Machado to a deal, it would create a seismic shift in expectations for the future of baseball in the City of Brotherly love- virtually ending the dog days of being the doormat of the National League and placing them prominently in the upper echelon of the senior circuit.
Getting the 26-year old superstar to put pen to pad may prove difficult, however, as the interleague rival New York Yankees are set to meet with Machado just 24 hours before his meeting in Philly. Machado is a self-proclaimed Yankee fan that has dreamt of donning the pinstripes in the Bronx since he was a boy. Luring the talented slugger to the City of Brotherly Love as opposed to the Big Apple is a tough task, admittedly- but not an impossible one. In fact, there a quite a few ways the Phillies could leap the Yankees as favorites in the Machado sweepstakes. From offering beaucoup bucks to potentially adding another star, let’s take a look at a few ways the Phillies could lure Machado to the City of Brotherly love:
1. Make Him Feel Wanted
While it’s exciting to boast about the Phillies’ upcoming meeting and their chances of signing Machado, it’s also important to note that this is arguably the team’s biggest free agent meeting since the surprising signing of Cliff Lee in 2010. Klentak and Co. will have their hands full as they tread uncharted waters in their pursuit of one of the biggest free agents in recent memory. Similarly to the Lee situation, the Phils will once again look to thwart off the meddling Yankees to land a franchise player. And once again it will take a bold, sound pitch to land said player. In 2010, it was the allure of joining aces Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and the late Roy Halladay to form the “Phantastic Phour” that drew Lee to the City of Brotherly Love. Unfortunately, the Phillies don’t have a trio of aces to include in their sales pitch this time around, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make Machado an extremely enticing offer.
The Phillies may not be as obvious a contender as they were when they made their pitch to Lee in 2010, but they are a young, improving ball club with their best ball ahead of them. Klentak should be able to sell Machado on being the face of the franchise in one of the biggest, most passionate sports markets in the known universe. Vastly overlooked were the accomplishments of Machado during his stint in Baltimore, and after getting a taste of the big market in Los Angeles, the Phillies could offer the superstar infielder a chance to remain in the
spotlight. Not only does Philadelphia boast one of the most easily recognizable sports markets in the country, but they also are one of the few potential suitors that could offer him a chance to be ‘the guy’ in Philly. Upon signing, Machado would easily be the best player on the Phillies roster and the apparent face of the franchise. Joining the ranks of elite players Aaron Nola, Joel Embiid, Carson Wentz, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, Fletcher Cox, and Rhys Hoskins as the core of Philly sports may be too good to pass up, even for a lifelong Yankee fan.
2. Order the Brinks Trucks
Phillies owner John Middleton comments about spending ‘stupid money’ have made their way around the airways but now it’s time for his words to turn into actions. The financial plan for today’s meeting with Machado is simple- place a blank check in front of him and smile in agreement with whatever he and his agent write. Obviously, this illustration is a bit hyperbolic but does describe the Phillies recommended course of action fittingly. Machado is among that rare breed of player that you simply meet the financial demands of no matter what. They simply need him in red pinstripes more than they need the money in the vault and have already received the green light from Middleton to shell it out. Somebody is going to pay him and somebody is going to have a HOF talent on their roster for the next 7+ years- may as well be Philly.
3. Be Fluid
Machado has gone on record and expressed his desire to play shortstop multiple times, and although the Phillies would prefer to have him at third base, they must be fluid and willing to accommodate his needs during their meeting. If he’s down to play 3B for the right price, cool. If he considers himself a SS and refuses to go back to the hot corner, fine. I’m sure his gold glove will travel well to Philly- regardless of infield positioning- and the Phillies can’t afford to potentially lose out on him over defensive preference.
In essence, the Phils may have to kiss ass a bit and get a little out of their comfort zone financially to land Machado, but that’s par the course in terms of obtaining superstar players. GM Klentak is eager to get the club in the 90+ win range, owner John Middleton wants to be the next Philly team to have a parade (hopefully after an Eagles SB 53 parade ̄_(ツ)_/ ̄), and Philly faithfuls have been desperate for October baseball since 2011. The Phillies may only be viewed as an upcoming team coming off a third-place division finish when Machado enters CBP, but hopefully by his departure, the team is regarded amongst the early 2019 World Series favorites.
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports