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Phils ramping up push to acquire Machado

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe Manny Machado will be in a Phillies uniform this summer, after all.

Multiple reports have Philadelphia stepping up its pursuit of Machado -- one of the game's top talents -- who is set to become a free agent after the season. A couple of weeks ago, sources told MLB.com that the price for Machado had been too high, particularly for a rental. But the Phillies have changed their thinking as they have built a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves and a 6 1/2 game lead over the Nationals in the National League East heading into play on Saturday.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe Manny Machado will be in a Phillies uniform this summer, after all.

Multiple reports have Philadelphia stepping up its pursuit of Machado -- one of the game's top talents -- who is set to become a free agent after the season. A couple of weeks ago, sources told MLB.com that the price for Machado had been too high, particularly for a rental. But the Phillies have changed their thinking as they have built a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves and a 6 1/2 game lead over the Nationals in the National League East heading into play on Saturday.

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MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported the Orioles "ramped up background work" on the Phillies' prospects. Philadelphia has a deep farm system, so it has enough talent to make a deal with Baltimore.

It just depends how far the team wants to go.

There is no question Machado would transform the Phillies' lineup. He is hitting .313 with 23 home runs, 64 RBIs and a .951 OPS, which ranks eighth in the Majors. He can play shortstop or third base, although Machado prefers playing short.

That would not be a problem for the Phillies. Third baseman Maikel Franco owns a .351 average -- with five home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.028 OPS -- in 24 games since June 17. Phillies shortstop Scott Kingery is hitting .233 with four home runs, 26 RBIs and a .616 OPS this season. While Kingery has hit .276 in his last 28 games, he has a .652 OPS during that span.

The Phillies have regularly touted the fact that their hitters lead baseball in pitches per plate appearance (4.02) and walk rate (10.2 percent). But that combination has not led to runs. The Phillies are ninth in the NL, averaging 4.37 runs per game. The Nationals (4.33) and Giants (4.10) are the only other contending NL teams with lower scoring averages.

If the Phillies acquire Machado, it could help them in the offseason -- assuming he likes what he sees -- when they will make a strong push to sign him as a free agent. Machado is most likely to sign with the team that offers him the most money, but Philadelphia will have a lot of money to offer.

Either way, the Phillies are likely to make upgrades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. If not Machado, then a bat remains a necessity. It also makes sense to add another arm to the bullpen.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado