Teams have made trade inquiries on potential Phillies target Manny Machado

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

At this time next year, the baseball world will likely be in a frenzy, as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both have the chance to be free-agents in what may be the greatest free-agent class in the history of the sport. Harper, because the Washington Nationals have a chance to compete for the World Series in 2018, is a near lock to at least reach free-agency. Machado plays for a Baltimore Orioles team that appears like a longshot to even make the playoffs in 2018, and an even longer shot to retain him after next season. 

So you're saying there's a chance the Orioles trade him? Well, probably not this offseason, but that won't stop teams from inquiring. 

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Orioles have received calls from unidentified teams this offseason asking about Machado: 

The Baltimore Orioles have received a couple calls of inquiry on superstar third baseman Manny Machado, and while the Orioles are not shopping — and love — Machado, word is that would be willing to listen on any player – even their best player.

The relevance of this story to the Phillies is that they have been long speculated as a team that is likely to be a player for Machado if he reaches free-agency. In a separate piece today, Heyman called Machado "a likely target" for the Phillies. Current Phillies president Andy MacPhail was in charge of the Orioles front-office when the team drafted him in 2010. Current Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice were in the Orioles front-office when Machado was drafted. It's entirely possible that the Phillies were one of the teams that inquired on Machado's availability. 

Heyman speculated in the Machado article that if the Orioles make another push to re-sign their star 25-year-old and aren't successful, they may be forced to seriously consider entertaining trade offers for him. However, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette's most recent public appearance left most with the feeling that the Orioles plan to try to contend again in 2018. Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com went as far as saying that even if the team parted with some key pieces at the trade deadline, he doesn't think managing partner Peter Angelos would agree to trade Machado. 

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Things, of course, can change rather quickly. Perhaps at next week's MLB Winter Meetings they will. Teams like the Phillies should inquire on Machado now, even if they feel there's almost no chance that the Orioles move him. Come July, and faced with the idea of potentially losing him in free-agency, even Angelos, perhaps the most stubborn owner in baseball, may come to the conclusion that the team needs to trade him. Now is a good time to begin laying the groundwork, in case the Orioles are eventually willing to move him. 

Though free-agent sweepstakes for Machado would be heavily contested, him reaching free-agency still may be the best thing for the Phillies. They are one of the few teams in the league that are capable of meeting the record financial commitment it would take to land Machado. Signing him in free-agency also wouldn't require moving top prospects, which any trade would. And if Harper and Machado are both free-agents at the same time, it may make the suitors list for both a bit smaller, leaving the Phillies with a better chance of signing one of the superstars.