It could be Manny Machado or bust for Phillies as Dodgers make room for Bryce Harper
Machado got most of the headlines this week, but the Phillies are still pursuing free agent Britton and trade candidate Minor as upgrades to the pitching staff.
A day after Manny Machado knocked on their front door, the Phillies found themselves in a position where their offseason could be coming down to landing Machado or bust.
And they might not find out about the All-Star infielder until after the holidays.
The Phillies chances of landing Bryce Harper -- whom the team viewed as a fallback option if they failed to sign Machado -- slimmed on Friday as the Dodgers created both payroll room and a space in their outfield for Harper to fill.
The Dodgers shipped outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds as part of a seven-player trade. The Dodgers are in on the Harper sweepstakes and Harper -- perhaps baseball’s biggest star -- is keen on playing in Los Angeles.
But first the Dodgers had to find both the money and lineup spot. The trade -- which also included the Dodgers parting with Kyle Farmer and Alex Wood while acquiring prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray and pitcher Homer Bailey -- saved the Dodgers roughly $25 million for 2019 and freed up right field. The stars seem to be aligning for Harper to land in Hollywood.
The Phillies met last week with Harper’s agent Scott Boras — but Harper was not present — at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, Harper’s hometown. They continue to monitor the star right-fielder’s market, realizing it’s likely that he’ll sign after Machado. According to a report by Jon Heyman, Machado told teams that he will not make a decision until 2019.
Machado flew home to Miami on Friday morning after spending more than four hours inside Citizens Bank Park and then dining in Center City with team officials. In three days, he met with the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, and Phillies. The Yankees seem to be the biggest competition for Machado, but they are not willing to offer the amount of money and length of contract that the Phillies are.
It’s not known whether Machado went home with any offers. Even if he did, though, a contract of this magnitude — Machado is seeking a record-setting pact that could exceed either the average annual value of Zack Greinke’s deal ($34.4 million) or the overall total of Giancarlo Stanton’s ($325 million) — often includes the negotiation of player opt-outs, a no-trade clause, and other complexities.
It won’t come together in a day or two, and perhaps not even until after the holidays or early January. The 26-year-old superstar has informed the three teams that he will be waiting until after the start of the New Year to reveal his choice, the MLB Network reported Friday.
Clearly, though, the Phillies have made Machado their top priority. After answering his knock on Thursday, they’re hoping his next visit to Citizens Bank Park will be to sign a contract.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have other needs to address. Here's a look at where things stand as they head into Christmas week:
1. Will the pitching staff take a left turn?
The Phillies continue to seek left-handed pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen. Problem is, the free-agent options are dwindling.
Andrew Miller was a prime Phillies target, according to multiple sources, and would’ve been a good fit for manager Gabe Kapler’s bullpen considering his willingness to pitch in any role. But Friday, the 33-year-old signed a two-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly worth $25 million.
The Phillies could now turn to fellow lefty Zach Britton. Team president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak and assistant GM Ned Rice worked for the Orioles in Britton’s early years in Baltimore, and the Phillies pursued Britton before the trade deadline in July.
But Britton is the most accomplished lefty reliever remaining on the market and doesn’t lack for suitors. Craig Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino are right-handed, and Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a nine-figure contract. It’s doubtful he will get it from the Phillies.
2. Is a Minor trade in the works?
According to two sources, the Phillies have talked with the Texas Rangers about trading for lefty Mike Minor, who would get a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation but has a strong track record in the bullpen.
Minor, 30, posted a 4.18 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 157 innings over 28 starts for the Rangers last season. He had his most success in a relief role for the Kansas City Royals (2.55 ERA, 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings) in 2017.
But the Phillies have gotten only three starts from a lefty in the last two seasons, all by 23-year-old rookie Ranger Suarez this year. It seems they view Minor as a middle-of-the-rotation upgrade at the reasonable cost of $9.3 million in each of the next two years.
The Phillies have some interest in free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel. But given his majors-leading groundball rate (53.7 percent last season), Keuchel might not be a fit for the Phillies unless they greatly improve their infield defense, which brings us back to …
3. What will it take to sign Machado?
The Phillies almost certainly will have to outbid the Yankees, who can offer Machado the chance to both follow his childhood idol, Alex Rodriguez, to the Bronx and play shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from right elbow surgery.
If Machado insists on staying at shortstop, the Phillies could always move newly acquired Jean Segura to second base or even third. He had the best offensive season of his career as a second baseman in 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Klentak noted that Segura “certainly has the arm strength to play third.”
Still, it seems the Phillies will have to overpay for Machado. By how much? Think about five years ago, when the Seattle Mariners went three more years and $65 million more than the Yankees’ best offer to land Robinson Cano.
Phil Gosselin, an infielder and product of Malvern Prep, is among seven players who signed minor-league contracts with the Phillies and received non-roster invitations to major-league spring training. Gosselin went 3-for-24 with one homer in 20 games last season for the Cincinnati Reds.
Other non-roster invitees include left-hander Jeremy Bleich, right-hander Josh Martin, catcher Rob Brantly, utilityman Matt McBride, infielder Gregorio Petit, and outfielder Shane Robinson. McBride, a native of Bethlehem and a Lehigh University product, spent last season in the Phillies organization at triple-A Lehigh Valley.