- The Phillies have been public about their desire to spend money, so what will they do if the sign Manny Machado?
The Manny Machado Sweepstakes still seeks a winner, but the field has a few favorites atop the pack—namely the three that Machado is blessing with his presence in a multi-city wooing tour this week. Among those lucky teams are the Phillies, who have ruled the rumors posts since the start of the offseason. Philadelphia’s been connected to Machado and several other hot stove darlings all winter. But what would that union between team and player actually look like?
We’ll start with the contract—or at least, our idea of what it could look like. Both Machado and his agent, Dan Lozano, have been mum on their desired financial commitment. It’s a safe bet, though, that the 26-year-old shortstop will be seeking a fortune. What exactly he’s seeking—whether it’s a shorter deal with a high average annual value, multiple years with early opt-outs or a flat 10-year pact—we don’t know. But from the Phillies’ side of things, they can easily afford just about any form of deal. Philadelphia has $82.7 million in guaranteed salaries committed to the 2019 roster, plus another $30 million or so coming in arbitration costs. That leaves plenty of room to work with this winter, even with there being other holes to fill beyond Machado.
More important, though, is that the Phillies have very little money tied up going forward. Some $30 million will come off the books next winter with the departure of relievers Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and Juan Nicasio; another $20 million will follow in 2020 if the team declines Jake Arrieta’s option after that season. Plenty more could be shed if needed in that span of time, but Philadelphia shouldn’t have to do that. Even if you were to throw a $300 million deal to Machado into the mix, it won’t cripple any long-term plans. The two most important players for the Phillies to extend, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, are still years away from free agency, and much and more can happen between then and now anyway.
Let’s assume, then, that the Phillies offer Machado a ten-year, $325 million deal, and he accepts. A contract that long would also probably include an opt-out or two—perhaps one after year three, and another after year five or six. That seems fair for both parties (and in this theoretical exercise, I’m not going to get too caught up in exact dollar amounts; the point is that the Phillies can easily afford him).
Now comes the roster fit. That’s been complicated somewhat by Philadelphia’s acquisition of Jean Segura from Seattle in early December. The All-Star will slide into shortstop, a position that was an abject mess for the Phillies all year—and also the one that Machado wants to play. That’s not exactly a deal-breaker, though, as Machado is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball (and, depending on how you feel about the stats, may be better there than at short). But while his heart may be set between second and third, one of Machado’s former trainers says his brain will take him to the hot corner—for the right price. “It may have to go an extra five million, or more, or whatever to get him out of [shortstop], but if the contract is right, I think he would go to third,” said Bobby Dickerson, a former infield coach with the Orioles, to Philly.com.
Assuming the Phillies can make that move worth Machado’s while, the next step is disposing of the third baseman already in place: Maikel Franco, who remains more promise than production as he heads toward 27. Last year was arguably his best full season as a big leaguer, and even then, it only amounted to a 106 OPS+ and 0.2 bWAR. The raw tools are enticing, but with nothing in his peripherals suggesting any kind of forthcoming breakout, it makes no sense to have him stand in the way of Machado. A rebuilding team with some patience and a hole at third base—the Padres, Orioles and Royals come to mind—would be a good match in a trade.
So with Machado set at a position, where does he fit in the lineup? During the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, manager Gabe Kapler talked about what the top of his starting nine looks like with Segura now in the fold. “I think he fits well in the two hole in the lineup,” Kapler said of his new shortstop. “If we rolled the lineup out there today, it might have something like Segura in the two and Odubel [Herrera] in the three, and potentially Rhys in the four.” Kapler also has to take into account Andrew McCutchen, signed last week and likely to bat somewhere in the top six. Machado, though, should easily slot in that third spot in place of Herrera. That’s the smart call, anyway, given the latter’s inconsistency.
Given who he’s replacing at third and where he’ll hit, Machado would be a big upgrade for the Phillies. But there’s more to do even after he’s added. Philadelphia needs starting pitching depth, more bullpen arms (particularly a closer, or at least a top-flight setup man to pair with Seranthony Dominguez), and a versatile reserve infielder alongside Scott Kingery (or in place of him, if his 2018 struggles carry into next year). There’s also the possibility of pulling off the audacious double dip of signing Bryce Harper along with Machado. There’s room to do it financially and on the roster—Harper would displace Nick Williams—but McCutchen’s addition probably pushes that possibility to a pipe dream.
Still, Machado can’t be the last move of Philadelphia’s winter. He makes perfect sense for that roster as constructed and would help establish the team as a true contender. But he can’t do it alone.