When we look back at the legendary 2018-19 Phillies off-season (we can call it “legendary” now because it all worked out), we’ll reminisce about four months of mind games, negotiations, false rumors, depression, hope and finally elation and feel great joy in our hearts.
What we won’t remember is that Sixto Sanchez is the reason the Phils have both J.T. Realmuto AND Bryce Harper right now.
Sometimes, it’s the road not taken that ends up being the right move. Last year, there was a lot of debate in Philadelphia over how aggressively the Phillies should go after Manny Machado at the trade deadline. The Phils were in first place, battling the Atlanta Braves in a tight race, but reinforcements were needed, especially at shortstop, where Scott Kingery was simply not getting it done.
Machado was a pending free agent, so any team that traded for him knew they were only going to have him for two months. But the thought around the Phillies was his presence could have been the difference between ending their seven-year playoff drought and watching the playoffs from home once again.
At the time, the debate centered around what the Phils should give up in order to get him. Reports indicated Matt Klentak and the front office were dead set against giving up Sanchez, their top prospect, and instead tried to center a deal around Adonis Medina, Adam Haseley and others. However, some fans and radio people pushed for the Phillies to include Sanchez in a deal, arguing that having Machado for the last two months of the season might make him more amenable to signing a free agent contract with the Phils later that winter.
The latest report states that the Dodgers are now the favorites to land Manny Machado. If the Orioles call and ask for Sixto Sanchez as a part of the package... do you add him? Join us 10-2 at 610-632-0975— Gargano and Myrtetus Middays (@975Middays) July 17, 2018
However, the Phils didn’t budge and, although they really wanted him, the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped in at the last minute, made the best offer, and kept him from getting to Philadelphia. The Phillies instead traded for Asdrubal Cabrera, who was dreadful during his time with the Phils, and the team ultimately suffered a massive collapse that ended up with them in third place.
Would Machado’s presence alone have prevented the collapse? Almost certainly not. Was he more likely to sign a free agent deal with the Phillies had he played in the city for two months? Machado signed with the San Diego Padres this off-season because they offered him more money than anyone else, so it’s highly unlikely playing one-sixth of the calendar year in Philly would have had any effect on his decision-making whatsoever. But let’s say it would have had an effect and Machado would have signed a free agent deal with the Phils as a result.
That would have been awesome. Landing Machado would have been great. However, would you rather have Machado, or the combination of Realmuto AND Harper heading into 2019?
If Machado had signed with the Phillies this off-season, they obviously would not have pursued Harper. And without Sanchez as a trade chip, they would not have had enough to swing a deal for Realmuto.
By not wasting their best trade piece on a rental who may or may not have signed a free agent deal with them, the Phillies took that piece and used it for the best catcher in baseball. And with no Machado on the roster, it allowed them to sign Harper, the player more fans wanted anyway.
The people who wanted the Phils to use Sixto in a Machado deal last summer are obviously are quite happy with how things went down, but it should serve as a reminder the next time a short-term rental becomes available at the trade deadline. Teams must utilize their resources in the wisest way possible and, in this case, should not waste them on a temporary patch, no matter how pretty it may be.
Unless it’s Mike Trout, of course.