It’s July and that means three things: Fireworks, hot dog eating contests and the MLB trade deadline. Usually this is a time for Phillies fans to concoct dream scenario trades, selling off the little value they had for top-10 prospects; however, for the first time in what seems like forever, the Phillies should be buyers. Conditions are perfect for adding to the squad right now. The young guys are rising quicker than expected. The veteran additions have paid big dividends. Odubel Herrera lights the world on fire (for stretches). Aaron Nola is a serious Cy Young candidate. Perhaps most importantly, there is very limited financial capital tied into this team right now.
The name that keeps popping up for almost every contender is Manny Machado. Not often does a 25 year old, gold glove caliber (at two positions) player, hitting above .300 with 20+ home runs, become available at the deadline. The downside, though, is that Machado can enter free agency after the season, so any trade could result in a massive loss of prospects for a two to three month rental. Which brings us to the 30 million dollar question: should the Phillies pull the trigger on a deal to bring Manny to South Broad?
The Case For:
Machado is an MVP caliber player who hasn’t even entered into his prime yet. That alone makes him worth whatever prospect haul it would take to add him. The only reason there is even talk about being able to add a player of his talent is because the Orioles completely botched this situation. The Orioles handled Machado and their “thought” of being able to compete like a poker player going all-in with a 2 – 7 off suit. It is because of this incompetence, however, that the Phillies can trade for a superstar for 10 cents on the dollar. Combine that with the dearth of production that Phillies have gotten from the left side of the infield and Machado is a no-brainer. Kapler would most likely put Machado in the 2 spot of the lineup (where analytics say to put your best hitter), setting a lineup of Hernandez, Machado, Herrera, Hoskins, Santana. That’s a formidable top of the order. Adding a guy like Machado is obvious, assuming the prospect toll doesn’t break the farm. On average, Machado has added 6.025 wins above a replacement level player to his team in seasons where he did not miss a significant portion of time. His WAR for the current year is on track to finish below that average (projected to end with a WAR of 3.4) and when you take into account his current total WAR of 1.8 you come up with Machado adding about 1.6 wins to the Phillies for the rest of the year. That does not take into account that the Phillies’ current third basemen are playing worse than a replacement player. So being pessimistic, you could make a solid argument that Machado would add two wins to this team. Two wins, in a division as close as this, may not only make the difference in making the playoffs, but could also give the Phillies the bump they need to win the division and avoid the “anything-goes” wild card game.
The Case Against:
The biggest reason not to trade has been mentioned already – he can leave this offseason for nothing. The Phillies would not even receive draft pick compensation, due to the rule that a player must be on a team’s roster for the entire season. From a strictly baseball perspective, though, a deep dive into Machado’s advanced stats reveal he might not be as good as his batting average and home run total suggest. First, his WAR is sitting at 1.8, good for 72nd in the league next to Starlin Castro and Nick Castellanos. Second, his away stats are significantly worse than when he’s at home in hitter-friendly Camden Yards (.362 at home vs .266 on the road). Third, September is historically his worst month, hitting .234 with only 12 home runs the past three seasons. All this, combined with the prospects it would take to land him and the fact he can leave in free agency for nothing, makes this too much risk for the potential reward. One other note is whether Matt Klentak would be willing to make such a massive gamble as his first major move as GM. If he makes the move and Machado leaves, then his tenure with the team might not last very long.
Make the Trade?
I think Machado is a fantastic player, and while getting him now may not make the Phillies a World Series contender this season, it certainly sends a notice to the rest of the league that the Phillies are legitimate and here to stay. I would make Sixto Sanchez, Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak and everyone on the current MLB team off limits (besides Mikel Franco). That could price Machado out for the Phillies, but it is not worth sacrificing major talent for someone that very well could leave in three months. Bottom line is Klentak has to believe in his coach, his staff, and the players in the locker room to make a positive impact on Machado during his time with the club this season in order to be confident in pulling the trigger on this trade. Otherwise, the Phillies could sacrifice their farm for naught. So unless the prospect package to the Orioles is light enough to tolerate potentially losing Machado this offseason, I would recommend the Phillies add bullpen help (this should be done regardless) and bring in a player like Adrian Beltre, who can add another veteran presence to the locker room while also contributing on the field.