While the Philadelphia Phillies seem to have become the speculative favorite to sign Baltimore Orioles shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado this offseason, there's another potential transaction that could happen in the interim that has league circles buzzing.
According to Robert Murray of FRS Baseball, scouts around the league believe that the Philadelphia Phillies would be an ideal fit for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas:
Unlike the offseason, I expect there to league-wide interest in Moustakas. One team to watch: the Philadelphia Phillies.
This is a fit that scouts are buzzing about. I expect the Phillies to be a significant player for Moustakas via trade.
Moustakas, 29, returned to the Royals on a one-year/$6.5 million contract for the 2018 season. Many free-agents were victimized by the slowest moving free-agent market in recent memory last offseason, Moustakas among them. He's currently slashing .259/.314/.474 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. Even in the sport's weakest division, the Royals are 22-48, 14.5 games out of the American League Central lead. They are widely expected to be one of the biggest sellers prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, with Moustakas likely to be traded.
The former No. 2 overall pick would certainly represent an immediate upgrade at third base for the Phillies. Maikel Franco, the team's Opening Day third baseman, is currently slashing .241/.284/.405 with a -5.8 offensive WAR and a -0.6 defensive WAR. He appears to have fallen out of favor since J.P. Crawford has returned from the disabled list. Crawford, the organization's long-time top prospect, entered Sunday hitting under the Mendoza Line, but has graded out very well at third base, even better than at his natural position of shortstop. Given that Crawford is playing in just his 55th major league game Sunday, the Phillies may want to get a more extensive look at him at third base.
However, despite a 5-9 start to the month of June, the Phillies entered the day just four games out of the National League East leading Atlanta Braves and very much in the National League Wild Card race. Given that the Phillies haven't gotten consistent offensive production from third base, shortstop, right field or catcher, Moustakas would add some more stability to a young lineup. The two-time All-Star has played in the World Series twice, having won the 2015 World Series with the Royals, so he would also add postseason experience to the youngest roster in baseball.
If general manager Matt Klentak did make a push for Moustakas, the Phillies likely wouldn't view him just as a rental piece. He has a mutual option for $15 million in 2019, and even if both sides didn't exercise that option, the Phillies certainly possess the financial wherewithal to re-sign him.
It would be interesting to see how the Phillies would continue to work Crawford and Scott Kingery into their future plans if they acquired Moustakas. The duo could compete for time at shortstop, though that wouldn't be an option if the Phillies sign Machado in the offseason. Second base could open up for Kingery if the Phillies trade Cesar Hernandez, but Hernandez is under team control through 2020 and has been one of the team's most productive players in recent seasons, so they may not be in a rush to do that. Kingery has some experience playing in the outfield, although Crawford does not.
All of this is of course contingent on the Phillies remaining in the postseason race. The Phillies are unlikely to altogether fall out of the Wild Card race in the next month plus, though they could find themselves in a position where they are such a long-shot that it would make sense to ride the season out with their current lineup and then just pursue Moustakas in the offseason.