The Phillies will introduce Andrew McCutchen on Tuesday afternoon and then, two days later, roll out the red carpet for Manny Machado.
The Phillies, according to a source, will host Machado for a recruiting visit Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. The visit was first reported by NBC Sports Philadelphia. Machado was to visit the White Sox on Monday and will visit the Yankees on Wednesday. The Phillies, and their loads of cash, are serious contenders.
“For any high-profile free agent, you want to do everything you can to make sure that you know the player as well as you can, and it’s hard,” general manager Matt Klentak said last week at the winter meetings. “For players who have never played in your uniform or played in your ballpark and don’t know your staff, you do the very best you can. You rely on a lot of trusted sources, and you ask a lot of questions.”
“When given the opportunity to interact with the player directly, you take it. Sometimes that might come in the form of a face-to-face meeting or someone coming into Philadelphia, and sometimes it might be phone calls, and sometimes it might be both. Whether it’s a smaller investment or a larger investment, the more you can know about the player you’re getting, the better chance you have to find success.”
The Phillies are still in on Bryce Harper, but Machado emerged this month as their top target. They aggressively tried to land him in July at the trade deadline. That aggressiveness remains. He wants to play shortstop and the Phillies can accommodate him by sliding newly acquired Jean Segura to second base. Or they can persuade Machado to play third base, a position at which he grades better defensively, and look to move Maikel Franco.
Machado came under scrutiny during the playoffs for a series of questionable plays and his comment that “I’m not the type of player who’s going to be Johnny Hustle.” It was not enough to scare away the Phillies, who are more focused on the fact that Machado is just 26, plays a premium position, had a .905 OPS last season, and has hit 33 or more homers for four straight years.
“I think the Philadelphia fan base is an incredibly passionate and devoted one, and they demand that their players play hard,” manager Gabe Kapler said last week when asked how Machado’s hustling comments would play in Philadelphia. “They set an incredibly high bar and are disappointed when players don’t meet that bar. Probably speaks to players in general rather than to any one specific player. But it’s certainly a high bar, and it should be a high bar.”
Machado has been rumored to prefer the Yankees, but it’s hard to imagine the Phillies' being outbid this winter. And it is just as hard to imagine Harper and Machado not taking the highest-possible deal, as their mega-contracts will set the market for future free agents.
McCutchen, who signed with the Phillies last week, will receive his Phillies jersey and hat at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Perhaps the Phillies can ask him to stick around until Thursday to help their sales pitch.
“I think Manny has done a tremendous job in his career of establishing a reputation of being one of the top young players in baseball,” Kapler said. “And I think he’s in an incredible position to be able to choose from a wide variety of suitors at this point. And I think wherever he goes, somebody’s going to get an incredible baseball player.”