PHILADELPHIA -- This next month for the Phillies is huge.
They just finished a 3-7 road trip through Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. They continue a grueling stretch against teams with winning records through July 1. A good month means the Phillies could be looking to acquire a shortstop or third baseman before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. A bad month means the Phillies could stand pat and continue to rotate Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery there.
"How we come out of June and how we transition into the month of July and what our placement in the standings is in the month of July will be what really dictates what our Trade Deadline strategy is," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Friday at Citizens Bank Park. "If we are contending and in a legitimate spot to make a run, then I would expect to address that and make moves. We just have to maintain the proper perspective on that and adjust as our performance suggests we adjust."
Sources told MLB.com that while the Phillies have genuine interest in Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, they are not the favorites to acquire him. The Phillies are unlikely to mortgage the future for a two-month rental.
Machado will be a free agent after the season. Despite the idea that Machado could become so enamored with a two-month Phillies experience that he would skip free agency and sign a contract extension, it is almost a certainty that Machado will enter the market and sign a monster, multiyear contract with the highest bidder.
But the Phillies could look elsewhere for help. Third basemen Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas are expected to be available. They are not expected to cost nearly as much as Machado.
The Phillies could use help at either position. Their .692 OPS at third base ranks 24th in baseball. Their .623 OPS at shortstop ranks 27th. It is why Franco essentially has lost his everyday status at third base. Crawford will see more time there in the future, while Kingery is expected to continue to play shortstop.
"We'll try to create reps for all three of them," Klentak said. "There's a couple of different advantages that we can play -- one of which is the platoon matchup for Franco against left-handed pitchers. The other is Crawford's defense. Just about everyone standing here watched J.P. play third base last year at a pretty elite level. What we've seen from Kingery thus far at shortstop is a guy who has really taken to that position. He's getting better and better every single day. We don't really want to disrupt that right now. We feel mixing J.P. at both short and third will allow him to get into the lineup and hopefully create optimal matchups for our club."
But there is no question that would not be happening if one or more of them were hitting the ball as hoped.
"That's a big part of this," Klentak said. "We haven't been getting a lot of offensive production from short or third this year. We've had it in spurts … but we haven't been getting that consistently. That's part of the thinking with this. If we're not getting a ton of offense out of those positions, we can create some advantages defensively."
Klentak said the fact Franco will be sharing time with Crawford and even Kingery moving forward does not mean the Phillies have concluded he is not part of the future.
"I would not say that," he said. "We think he's enormously talented. We think he can impact the baseball when he hits the ball hard. We think he's a good player who's still developing. Right now, we have three infielders who we want to play. We want to create scenarios that put the Phillies in the best position to win ballgames. One of the ways we can do that is optimize for defense and get Crawford out there at short or third."
And Kingery over Crawford at short? Crawford is a natural shortstop, while Kingery came up through the Phillies' system at second base. Cesar Hernandez has second base locked down.
"It's a little premature to declare that he's going to be a quote-unquote shortstop for the next six years," Klentak said about Kingery. "But from a skillset standpoint, I don't see any reason why he couldn't be."