Well, I’d like to say it was a fun few days, but it’s in a handbook on writing somewhere that leading off with a lie is usually a bad way to gain your readers’ trust. So I won’t blow smoke: The Phillies were dealt a blow to the heart with news that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the ones to trade for star shortstop Manny Machado, disrupting what had been an exciting start to the week.
Can report with more certainty: Machado to #Dodgers happening. Among remaining questions, in addition to specifics of return beyond OF Yusniel Diaz: How much money, if any, #Orioles will send #Dodgers to secure a better package and help ease LAD’s luxury-tax concerns.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 18, 2018
Word had started leaking onto the front pages of the internet that the Phillies had emerged as a serious suitor for Machado, and might have even been closing in on a deal. Whether that was true or ultimately leverage to get the Dodgers to up their proposal is moot; the deadline’s top trade target is going to Los Angeles, and the West Coast burns Philadelphia on star player acquisition for the second time in a single summer. It’s funny how these sorts of things sting the most only after you start to believe they might actually be in your grasp.
And so the Phillies remain exactly where we left them: In first place, a half-game up on Atlanta, with their Major and minor leagues still wholly intact. It got them this far, and that’s not a bad spot to restart from. But it’s still clear that this team needs help, and must turn their attention elsewhere, to Plans B, C, and D.
Just one question: What are Plans B, C, and D?
The Phillies are caught in a strange spot. Maikel Franco has been hitting well over the last month at third base, but hot corner guys like Adrian Beltre and Josh Donaldson are out there to, potentially, be had. The shortstop market is a bit more grim, with unrelated Escobars Alcides and Eduardo - though the latter is more a third baseman now, too - likely available and unlikely to cost much in prospect currency. Hell, if they’re really dead-set on getting a shortstop, maybe they even ask the Padres for a do-over and take Freddy Galvis back for half a season. They’ve also, of course, been linked to Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield and Mike Moustakas.
With Machado off the table, though, the urgency to add an infielder feels lessened. Sure, someone like Franco could still be moved, but without a game-changing option staring them in the face, the Phillies probably don’t want to cash out on Franco just as he seems like he might (maybe pretty please) be turning things around.
Instead, the focus could shift to a rotation or, more likely, bullpen piece. Good options like Brad Hand and Zach Britton live in that corner of the market, and lord knows the Phillies could use a good left-handed relief option with Adam Morgan’s struggles, Hoby Milner’s departure, and Austin Davis’s unproven MLB track record. Hand and Britton would both be instant upgrades, but they’re just two names in what could well be a deep relief market that may include more controllable pitchers like Cincinnati’s Raisel Iglesias.
Don’t expect the Phillies to mope about missing out on Machado
Hey, a superstar infielder would’ve been awesome to have. And maybe another one miraculously becomes available in the next two weeks that we haven’t even talked about yet. But this team has other areas of need, and we should expect them to address those areas. You don’t get through 90-plus games of a season in first place only to sit on your hands while potentially fatal flaws jump up and down and wave their arms beneath a bright neon sign.
We don’t know what the next move is. We don’t know when or from where the cavalry will arrive. But moves will happen, and the Phillies will get better. Help is on the way, and we should all stay tuned.