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What if Manny Machado didn’t come to Philadelphia alone?

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A thought experiment about additions to a possible Machado deal

Philadelphia Phillies v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Manny Machado rumors are starting to get hot and heavy as July draws to a close. There is no need to inundate you with recaps of what these rumors actually are since, if you’re anything like, you’re refreshing Twitter almost hourly to stay up to date with them as they come rapid fire. He’s the biggest catch this trade season and the Phillies are definitely still interested in retaining his services.

The catch has always been what to give up in order to get him. Most everyone around here agrees that giving up a top prospect along the lines of Sixto Sanchez for two months of Machado is far too much to give up. It just makes no sense to give up someone with Sanchez’s prospect pedigree for a player who may not even be here in 2019. My thought, though, was this: what is it that makes us as fans hesitant? Are we fearful of Sanchez turning into an ace for another team? Are we afraid that we will give up that kind of arm in exchange for, for lack of a better term, a “rental”? Do we want that assurance that we will have something to show for trading Sanchez past this 2018 season? It got me to thinking about the return the Phillies would need to get from Baltimore in order to trade Sanchez. So, I posed this question on Twitter the other night:

If the Orioles were to include one of their team controlled arms in a deal with Machado, do you think the team should pull the trigger on including Sanchez?

Now, you can see the results here from the poll and they aren’t really surprising. Neither were some of the replies to this poll:

Is it truly something the Phillies might be interested in? After all, they’d be getting a talented arm that they would control beyond 2018 in return for, let’s face it, a prospect we aren’t sure will make it to Philadelphia all in one piece.

Before we consider it, we have to briefly look at Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Both come with some pedigree, having been drafted with top five picks in their drafts (both were drafted 4th overall). They had been at the top of prospect lists all the way up until their arrival in the big leagues where their progressed stalled, either due to injury (Bundy) or inconsistency (Gausman). However, both have proven that they are capable of providing effective middle of the rotation innings at a reasonable rate. And perhaps most importantly for this exercise, they both have lots of team control left on their contracts (Bundy through the 2021 season, Gausman through the 2020 season).

Here is how they have fared so far this year (through Thursday):

Gausman and Bundy

Player IP ERA DRA K% BB% GB% fWAR
Player IP ERA DRA K% BB% GB% fWAR
K. Gausman 112.1 4.32 3.97 20.0% 5.2% 46.7% 1.2
D. Bundy 103.1 4.30 4.03 25.7% 7.7% 34.6% 1.0

These aren’t the top of the rotation numbers that Orioles officials were hoping for when they drafted these players, but they are more than serviceable for the middle of a contending rotation. They can strike people out, don’t walk too many people and everyhing they have done thus far seems to have matched their expected outcomes. Were they to join the Phillies, they would probably be the #3 or 4 starter on this Phillies team, bumping one of Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta to the bullpen. Yet is that something the team would want to do?

Aaron Nola has been incredible this year, worthy of being in the Cy Young race. Jake Arrieta has been as expected, having ups and downs in the season, but generally worth what the team paid for. Eflin has been a revelation since the beginning June, giving the rotation depth. Velasquez and Pivetta have had good starts and poor starts, but overall, have been much better than anticipated. Enyel De Los Santos showed in his spot start that is capable of manning a rotation spot if needed. Ben Lively began the season with the team and has been alright at the AAA level. There is also names like Thomas Eshelman, Cole Irvin, etc. that the team could call upon if needed.

To put it another way, the rotation isn’t as much of a need as it has been in the past. The rotation wasn’t supposed to be this strong at the beginning of the year, yet the results have been quite positive. It’s not an area the team really needs to be adding to right now. Linking either Gausman or Bundy to Machado in a trade would, on paper, be appealing, but doesn’t really suit this roster’s needs as much as attaching a reliever like Zach Britton or Brad Brach, two Orioles relievers, would. It also isn’t enough to get the team to give up their best prospect in a deal. Sanchez has the chance to be something great and unless they are receiving a player who is already a 5-6 WAR player and still has team control left, it isn’t enough to justify taking the risk of getting rid of Sanchez.

So, as much as I would like to get my hands on either one of these two young starters, I’d have to agree with the results of the poll. Neither is that top of rotation stud the Phillies should want in a return for their best prospect, making the trade unnecessary.