PHILADELPHIA -- Orioles shortstop Manny Machado will arrive at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon, take an elevator to the service level and walk past the Phillies' clubhouse on his way to the visitors' clubhouse.
It likely will be the closest he comes to finding a locker next to Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Nola this season.
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The Phillies have less than a month to make moves before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Because they need help on the left side of their infield, because they have a deep farm system, and because they have money to spend, many in baseball believe the Phillies have as good a chance as anybody to acquire Machado before the end of the month. But sources have told MLB.com that teams like the D-backs are more likely to acquire Machado than the Phillies, who could be considered longshots.
A third baseman not named Machado and bullpen help are more likely acquisitions.
There are reasons it is difficult to picture Philadelphia acquiring Machado this month. The Phillies are a postseason contender, but they are not one player away from winning the World Series. A team on the brink unloads the farm system for a talent like Machado, who can become a free agent after the season. The Phillies were there in 2009, when they acquired Cliff Lee. They were there in '10, when they got Roy Oswalt. They were there in '11, when they acquired Hunter Pence.
The 2018 Phillies are not there. They are not one big trade away from winning the National League pennant and beating the Yankees, Astros or Red Sox in the World Series.
That's why it is difficult to imagine them trading a package of top young talent -- a group that could include right-handers Sixto Sanchez (the top prospect in the organization and No. 23 prospect in baseball) or Adonis Medina (No. 75 prospect in baseball) and J.P. Crawford or Scott Kingery, plus one or two other top prospects, for two months of Machado. Sure, if the price drops to what the D-backs gave up last year for J.D. Martinez (three prospects, but none in baseball's Top 100 and only two among Arizona's Top 30), the Phillies would be foolish not to take a run.
But that is unlikely. And nobody in baseball believes Machado will sign an extension before the Trade Deadline. Nobody believes he will skip free agency, either. The idea that Machado would fall so hard for Philadelphia that he skips free agency is a fun one, but it is not realistic. Machado will enter free agency and sign a monster contract with the team that makes him the highest offer.
But the Phillies do need upgrades. Their .735 OPS at third base is 17th in the Majors. Their .630 OPS at shortstop is 28th. It is clear the Phillies are moving away from Maikel Franco at third base, which means upgrading there makes sense. Kansas City's Mike Moustakas (.784 OPS) might be the best, most realistic fit. Texas' Adrian Beltre (.813 OPS) would provide a jolt to the Phillies' clubhouse, although he has indicated that he wants to remain in Texas. Tampa Bay's Matt Duffy (.781 OPS) is an under-the-radar option. Josh Donaldson (.757 OPS) has an injured left calf. He might be sidelined through the end of the month.
The Phillies could use a closer, but they probably already have one in Seranthony Dominguez. Philadephia could pay a more reasonable price for a strong late-inning reliever or two -- there should be plenty available -- avoiding the high cost of acquiring somebody like Zach Britton or Raisel Iglesias and just move Dominguez into the ninth inning, if Phillies manager Gabe Kapler felt so inclined.
Fans have loved the idea of a reunion with Cole Hamels (and to a lesser extent, J.A. Happ). Hamels coming back to help complete the Phillies' rebuild? Sign them up for that. But because of the Phils' needs for a bat, bullpen help and maybe even an extra hitter off the bench, they might move forward with what they have in the rotation, unless somebody slips or suffers an injury. The rotation's 3.84 ERA ranks 11th in baseball. Its .693 opponents' OPS is ninth. Its hard-hit rate (35.4 percent) is seventh, according to Statcast™ Its 3.70 xFIP is sixth, according to FanGraphs.
But until Machado is traded, he will be linked to Philadelphia. Make no mistake, the Phillies love him. They have inquired. They are keeping tabs on him. But they are far more likely to take a run at him in November, when they will not need to give up the farm to get him.
But at least this week, Machado will learn that his walk from the players' entrance to the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park is shorter than the visitors' clubhouse. That info might come in handy someday.