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Phillies have discussed Manny Machado with Orioles, price is 'too steep'

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

It would be pretty shocking if Baltimore Orioles SS/3B Manny Machado didn't reach free-agency this offseason. If he does, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that Phillies managing partner John Middleton is expected to meet any free-agent asking price for the three-time All-Star. But that apparently hasn't stopped general manager Matt Klentak from inquiring on the 25-year-old as we move towards the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. 

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Phillies have guaged the asking price for Machado, but currently believe that Dan Duquette and the Orioles want too much in return for their free-agent-to-be: 

The Baltimore Orioles are now engaging with teams regarding superstar Manny Machado, including the very logical trade partner, the Phillies — but if anyone thinks the price tag is heading down from the winter based on games having come off the schedule, well, just check the league’s leaderboards.

The Phillies love Machado and have indeed reached out, and seem like a favorite over others (and could be part of an NL East battle; more on that below). One Phillies-connected person suggested the Orioles are asking for four young players, and that at present, the price is “too steep.”

This follows up a report from Roch Kubatko of MASN that noted that the Phillies "left open the possibility of engaging in talks" for Machado when they visited Baltimore in May. 

In Heyman's report, he spoke to an unnamed person in the Phillies organization that said that the Phillies value Machado over any potential free-agent his offseason. Remember, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Patrick Corbin are among those expected to make up one of the greatest free-agent classes in baseball history. In many respects, the Phillies still seem more likely to acquire Machado in free-agency, when they wouldn't have to surrender minor league talent. 

It would be one thing if there was a belief around the league that Machado would be willing to negotiate a long-term contract as a part of a trade. But if he was, he very likely would have been traded last winter. Just months away from free-agency, it's hard to imagine him changing his mind on that stance. 

If the Phillies completed a trade for Machado this summer, it's possible he would enjoy his time in Philadelphia so much that the Phillies would become an overwhelming favorite for his services this winter. Cliff Lee enjoyed his first three-month stint in Philadelphia so much that even after being traded and ultimately making the World Series with another team the next year, he returned to Philadelphia on somewhat of a discount in free-agency. (Granted, the 2009 Phillies made the World Series, even with Machado the 2018 Phillies would be very unlikely to do that.)

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But the counter argument to that is that even if Machado enjoyed a few months in Philadelphia, another big market team could woo him this winter. Mark Teixeira hit .358 in 54 games for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, only to sign with the New York Yankees that offseason. Zack Greinke went 6-2 for the Angels after being acquired at the 2012 non-waiver trade deadline, but left to sign with the Dodgers that offseason. Given how steep the asking price that Heyman suggests that Orioles have for Machado, it would seem like a great risk to trade for Machado this summer without a guarantee that he'll sign a long-term contract. 

Of course, what it would take to acquire Machado in a trade is unclear. The Athletic's Jayson Stark suggested in May that the Phillies would likely need to part with top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez and/or Scott Kingery to acquire Machado. That falls in line with what Kubatko wrote last December, when the Orioles gauged the Machado market at the MLB Winter Meetings. However, Heyman suggested a week ago that shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa, who MLB Pipeline says is the Phillies No. 8 overall prospect, and pitcher Enyel De Los Santos, who the club acquired for Freddy Galvis this offseason, could headline a package. An anonymous National League scout suggested to Lauber that the Orioles have delusions of grandeur if they think they're going to get more than one "prized prospect" in return for Machado. 
 
If the price tag hasn't lowered much, as Heyman wrote, the Orioles would likely ask for Sanchez in a return. Even with a long-term contract agreement from Machado, the Phillies would be unlikely to trade Sanchez, who has been compared to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. But any package of top 10 prospects would feel steep for a rental, which is what Machado is. Some rentals re-sign, but if the Phillies feel they can just sign Machado this offseason, they may not feel inclined to move top prospects this summer.  
 
Machado, who will turn 26 next month, is having the finest offensive season of his career. Entering Thursday, Machado is slashing .323/.393/.621 with 18 home runs, 49 RBIs and a 20.8 oWAR. Machado was a two-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, though in his move back to his natural position of shortstop, Machado has graded out as just the 23rd best fielder at his position in 2018. 

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