After Machado, Phillies consider trade market

GM Klentak discusses pursuit of O's shortstop, keeping options open

July 20th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- Manny Machado will play shortstop next week at Citizens Bank Park, but he'll play there as a part of the Dodgers.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Friday afternoon that the organization "made a pretty strong run" at Machado, but in the end, the club wouldn't part with the quality or quantity of prospects the Dodgers sent to Baltimore to land the superstar shortstop. It leaves the Phillies searching for upgrades before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"Being active in the rental market is not the best place to be," Klentak said, referring to Machado's free-agent status after the season. "But we felt in this particular case that this player represented a pretty unique opportunity for us, and that's why we did get aggressive.

"There was a lot of discussion about whether that was the right thing to do, where we are as a franchise and whether that was the right direction to take, but ultimately we felt strongly about staying involved in that mix and putting forth a good effort. I would be surprised if we strongly pursue rentals, high-priced rentals in the future. It's just not a good market to be in, but every once in a while, it does make sense to pursue something like that."

So what's next? Sources have told that the Phillies will consider such infielders as Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Twins infielder . The Phillies have been interested in Royals super utility player Whit Merrifield since at least December. They have had a scout following Detroit recently, including Friday. Perhaps the Phillies can see Tigers right fielder shuffling between right and third, where he has played in the past. Certainly, there are other bats that could help.

The Phillies will look to improve their run prevention in the bullpen, too. The Phillies spent a lot of time talking with the Orioles over the past couple weeks, and Orioles closer Zach Britton's name certainly came up.

Of course, the Phillies have enough talent in their farm system to upgrade both spots.

"We're having multiple active conversations with a variety of teams right now," Klentak said.

Interestingly, Klentak said he wonders where exactly they should upgrade. He mentioned that six of the team's everyday players are producing better than league-average offense, based on OPS+, though they are below average at shortstop and catcher. Third baseman , who just a few weeks ago had been pushed into a reserve role, has had a recent hot streak that's pushed him to a 107 OPS+.

Klentak mentioned that the bullpen has been one of the best in baseball since the beginning of the month, posting a 2.56 ERA since July 1. He expects the eventual return of from the disabled list and from Triple-A to make the bullpen even deeper.

"Some of the areas a few weeks ago that we thought would be obvious areas for upgrade may not be quite as obvious anymore," he said. "It doesn't mean we won't address them. If I had to bet, I would guess we would make a move between now and the 31st. It's just not as clear to me today as it may have been a month ago."

It sounds like a Phillies reunion with Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels is unlikely. In fact, it sounds like the Phillies are trying to avoid the starting pitching market at all costs.

"Starting pitching has been the strength of our team this year," Klentak said. "We're very encouraged about not only the five here but also what we have in Triple-A, and we're hopeful that's going to mean that we can stay out of the starting pitcher trade market at the Deadline, because if you can avoid it, that is definitely a market to avoid."

But how quickly things can change. Earlier this month, sources told that the Phillies were longshots for Machado, but the organization's thinking changed once they moved into first place in the National League East. Most agree that the Phillies had one of the strongest offers on the table.

Even though the Phillies fell short in the Machado sweepstakes this month, it does not mean they have hurt their chances to sign him in the offseason.

The Phillies believe they have a good chance. In fact, expect their efforts to be much more aggressive in the offseason when they do not have to part with prospects to get him. Klentak, who never mentioned Machado by name, was asked if he believes the Phillies would have had a better chance to sign Machado in the offseason if they had acquired him in July. He correctly pointed out that years and dollars are the driving factor for most free agents.

"I've heard that narrative," he said. "I understand that narrative. I don't necessarily believe that's true 100 percent of the time."