December 12, 2017
For the last few years, the Phillies have more or less been an afterthought during MLB's hot stove season. As a team in the midst of a full-on rebuild, that's most definitely been by design.
That could change in the not-so-distant future, however, with the organization preparing to take its next step forward. And with each step inching the team closer to being competitive (and ultimately a contender), the names of free agents and trade targets being linked to the Phillies will become more an more interesting.
And even though the team is coming off its 5th-straight losing season, we're already beginning to see evidence of this.
On Tuesday, a day after the Phillies waded into hot stove season by signing former reliever Pat Neshek to a multi-year deal, reports began to emerge of the team's interest in Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, as well as Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.
Today, we'll take a look specifically at those two players and how they fit (or don't fit) into the Phillies plan moving forward.
Phillies are considering Jake Arrieta. Not perfect match since they are a year from possible contention but many of their execs know him well from when they were with the Orioles.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2017
Heyman is right that Arrietta wouldn't be a "perfect match" for the Phillies, although I think he forget an "S" at the end of "year."
Let's be honest, the Phillies are at least two or three years from being a legit contender, barring a spending spree next winter the likes of which we've never seen – not even under Ruben Amaro, Jr. So it makes little to no sense to sign a 31-year-old free agent who has seen his numbers decline each of the last two seasons after winning the AL Cy Young in 2015.
That being said, a case can be made that signing Arrieta now would be a clear indication to future free agents that the Phillies are ready to start winning some games again.
While the Phils are still rebuilding, it has been widely assumed that the team will begin to spend to its usual levels as early as next winter, when several superstar free agents will hit the market. Signing Arrieta now would serve as a clear signal that the Phillies are ready to compete, plus having Arrieta in the fold would also serve as a good selling point to next year’s free agent crop. Philadelphia is also sorely in need of rotation help now, so the team could be deciding on making a big splash now when an ace they like is on the market, rather than test the trade or free agent waters in a year’s time. On the other hand, Arrieta would cost the Phils their second-highest draft pick and $500K in international bonus pool funds, as Arrieta rejected the Cubs’ qualifying offer.
The Brewers, Rockies, Twins, Blue Jays, Rangers, Astros, and Nationals have all expressed some degree of interest in Arrieta’s services, and Theo Epstein said yesterday that he would check in with Scott Boras, Arrieta’s agent, about the possibility of a return to the Cubs. [mlbtraderumors.com]
Of course, the Phillies are hardly the only team showing interest in the veteran righty, who is represented by Scott Boras. And when you consider the philosophy being preached by the front office, it doesn't seem like a move the team would be willing to make at the moment.
The Phillies have operated this offseason on the principle that there is not one move — or two or three moves — that can morph them into contenders for the 2018 season. The circumstances should be different next winter when, coincidentally, a touted free-agent class will be available.
This offseason, they appear willing to add maybe one or two innings-eaters to the current group of young starters, whether it be through a trade or a one-year contract. A source said the Phillies were interested in righthander Tyler Chatwood and made a multi-year offer before he signed a three-year, $38 million contract with the Chicago Cubs last week. They will not spend on a Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. They question whether Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn represent enough of an upgrade to commit four or five years. [philly.com]
While the phillies love Manny Machado (most of their top execs were with the orioles at 1 time), they acknowledge they aren’t a great trade match because he has only 1 year to go and they aren’t a likely contender. Inclined to give Franco 1 more try.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2017
Geez. What is it about the Phillies showing interest in guys who aren't good matches?
Unlike Arrieta, Machado isn't going to simply require a financial commitment from the Phillies; he's also going to cost them some prospects. That's because the 25-year-old infielder is still under contract for a year, so he'd be coming to the Phillies via a trade – and then hopefully signing an extension.
Still, the Phillies are reportedly "one of the more interested parties and the Orioles have been doing their homework on the club’s farm system in case talks become serious."
According to Kubato, the Orioles like top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, top second base prospect Scott Kingery and current shortstop Freddy Galvis. The first two would likely be tough to pry away from the Phillies. The third, however, would actually make a lot of sense assuming the team is ready to turn that position over to J.P. Crawford moving forward.
A trade also would require a 72-hour window for the Phillies to sign Machado to an extension. Otherwise, he’s a potential rental and the haul for him is reduced.
I ran the names past a scout from another organization who dismissed the chances that the Phillies would part with this much young talent, but it’s worthy of discussion on Day One of the meetings. And the connection between the teams is obvious with so many former Orioles officials now with the Phillies. [masnsports.com]
Bringing Machado in would mean the Phillies are giving up on current third baseman Maikel Franco, who hasn't quite lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he was first called up a few years ago. Still, GM Matt Klentak wants to give his core players a chance to fully develop.
Oh, and waiting a year could allow the Phillies to sign Machado without having to give up any of their top prospects.
It makes much more sense for the Phillies to try to sign Machado as a free agent next winter rather than surrender prospects — and ultimately big cash in the form of an extension — for him this winter. But if the Orioles create a market for Machado this winter, the Phillies will be in on it. At the moment, all is quiet.
It's no secret that the Phillies have deep pockets and no secret that they will spend big on top talent like Machado once their rebuild gets into the red zone. Klentak confirmed that again on Monday.
"There will come a time when we are one piece away and that one piece is a fill in the blank — starting pitcher, closer, cleanup hitter — and in that moment, when we feel that we are one piece away, or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do," he said. "But for right now, we are on the cusp of getting to where we want to go, to developing this next young core. This is what happened with (Jimmy) Rollins and (Chase) Utley and (Ryan) Howard and (Cole) Hamels. We need to give these guys a chance to become that next group." [nbcsports.com]
While the names being linked to the Phillies may be getting more and more recognizable, that doesn't mean they're actually ready to sign any of them.
Of course, this could all just be one big ruse by Klentak and Andy MacPhail...
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