I spent the past month telling myself that it wasn’t worth thinking about the possibility of the Phillies adding Manny Machado ahead of this winter’s free agency period.
“Nope. No way they do that,” I assured myself, all cavalier and shit.
I reasoned that there was simply no way a front office that has spent recent seasons arduously rebuilding a bankrupted minor league talent pool would hastily send a package of several top-tier prospects down I-95 just because the big league team was a bit ahead of schedule. They certainly weren’t going to do it when it’s reasonable to think they will be a favorite to land him in a few months. I figured they would make a less-celebrated trade to sure up the bullpen and find an alternative way to improve a streaky, and often impotent lineup. I knew better. But then this happened:
I am getting the vibe that the Phillies are angling to land Machado AND Britton is same deal. https://t.co/VaSulQpHjn
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) July 14, 2018
#Phillies the most likely destination for Manny Machado due to Adonis Medina's expected involvement, unless another suitor increases offer. @JonHeyman reported earlier today that trade is "very close." Here’s our latest story tonight: https://t.co/03ihiwLzWD @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 17, 2018
And that’s all it took. Suddenly, the prior caution I had exercised in avoiding Machado Madness was gone. I was all in. You know, #BeBold and all of that happy horeshit. The expensive price tag for a short-term rental didn’t matter, nor did the reality that the Phillies were likely more than just the addition of Machado away from truly contending with a bullpen and bench that are each one piece short. It was easy to be seduced by the idea of adding a 26-year-old superstar with 24 homers and a .963 OPS to a first-place team in desperate need of a difference-making bat. I lost control in the heat of the moment. Did it make sense? Probably not. Was it dangerous and maybe a little bit reckless? For sure. But damn–it would have been fun.
We now know that Machado is headed west. That Magic Johnson, man. We presume that Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail weren’t willing to step up beyond their reported offer headlined by highly-touted pitching prospect Adonis Medina, and we were thus left with this Kodak moment between two soon-to-be teammates:
Absolutely brutal. pic.twitter.com/FejzChiEZZ
— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) July 18, 2018
So now what?
Fair or not, the Phillies are on the verge of developing a perception problem with several fans in the wake of missing out on Machado. While there are many fans who understand the Phillies’ reluctance to land Machado at all costs, there are also many who feel the team is all bark and no bite when it comes to doing what it takes to win big. I absolutely know many of you are about to roll your eyes four seconds from now, but it matters when one of the city’s most prominent sports media personalities tweets this:
Two mid-season predictions: Phillies will not win the NL East, and they will not get Manny Machado. Why not? Because they are not hungry enough. It’s that simple.
— Angelo Cataldi (@AngeloCataldi) July 16, 2018
I don’t know if Cataldi’s assertion that the Phillies are not hungry enough is fair. In fact, it’s probably not. I would argue that they didn’t make a panic move and overpay was the right decision. Still, the pressure is about to mount for a front office that has roughly two weeks to prove that it has the willingness, creativity, and wherewithal to execute a “Plan B” that helps propel this team into the postseason.
Yes, the postseason.
The air went out of the balloon with the Machado news, and I know whatever they do now will likely feel cut-rate, but there is still a reasonable path to success moving forward. A left-handed reliever and a bench piece, while desperately needed, won’t be enough. The Phillies must add a difference-making bat to jolt what has been a stagnant lineup if they truly want to get serious about October baseball. Whether that jolt comes in the form of Mike Moustakas, Eduardo Escobar, or whoever else–there will be plenty of time to discuss the particulars in the coming days–Gabe Kapler and this team have earned the right to get help from the front office and ownership. A failure to provide it sends the wrong message, not only to the players in the clubhouse, but also to this city’s skeptical baseball fans that have been reluctant to fill the seats this summer. Missing out on Machado is perfectly fine, but now it is time to get to work.
Your move, Matt Klentak.