First it was LeBron James. Now it's Manny Machado. Which franchise-changing superstar will Los Angeles swipe next from Philly? The Phillies — much like the 76ers did earlier this month with James — appear to have struck out, as reports surfaced that the Orioles struck a deal with the Dodgers to send Machado to Hollywood. The Phillies will have another shot at Machado after the season in free agency, but it looks like the first-place Phils will have to keep their playoff chances alive without him.
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It was just a day ago that we let ourselves imagine what a Phillies lineup would look like with Manny Machado in it. Life moves pretty fast. And for the Phillies, life moves on without Machado.
There is still time for general manager Matt Klentak to improve his first-place club before the final two months of the season. The trade deadline is still two weeks ago and it would be surprising to see the Phillies not make a move before July 31.
Here's a look at three players they could target:
RP Zach Britton, Baltimore: San Diego's Brad Hand is the top reliever on the market, but he'll probably be too pricey for the Phillies. Britton, a free agent after the season, would be an ideal lefthander to bolster a bullpen that lacks a true shutdown lefthander. His velocity is not all the way back after missing the first two months with an Achilles injury, but his fastball is building and he's allowed no runs in his last seven appearances. Gabe Kapler could use him as a closer or just use him as another late-inning weapon.
3B Mike Moustakas, Kansas City: The Phillies didn't get Machado so they have to add an infielder, right? This is where it gets tricky. Maikel Franco is quietly batting .269 with a .459 slugging percentage, which ranks second on the team behind Odubel Herrera. Both of those numbers – along with a .776 OPS – are roughly the same to what Moustakas has recorded. Franco has definitely not been consistent, but he is going through his best stretch of the season. The Phillies have to decide if that best stretch is enough to keep him in their plans or just enough to increase his trade value. The Phillies could also look at Texas' Adrian Beltre and Minnesota's Eduardo Escobar.
SP Cole Hamels, Texas: It's been 10 years since Hamels pitched the Phillies to a World Series and he's certainly no longer the same pitcher. But you can never have enough starting pitching, and the Phillies will have to add another starter if Zach Eflin's blister becomes a nagging issue. Hamels hasn't been great this year, so the Phillies could look in another direction. Toronto's J.A. Happ and Detroit's Michael Fulmer are available, but the Phillies would love to pry Chris Archer away from Tampa Bay.
Aaron Nola hasn't pitched in a playoff game, but he said Tuesday night's All-Star Game gave him a preview of what a playoff atmosphere might feel like. Our Scott Lauber was in Washington to see Nola pitch a scoreless fifth inning. The Phillies ace seemed to fit in just fine in that atmosphere.
Manny Machado seems headed to L.A. but is former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ headed back to Philly? Lauber caught up with Happ, who is an all-star with the Blue Jays, and the former Phil said it's something he's aware could happen.
Wednesday: Phillies are off.
Thursday: Phillies are off again, but we're hosting an event at Yards, 6:30 p.m.
Friday: Phillies host Padres to open second half, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Chase Utley comes to town with the Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.
Aaron Nola sure looked like an all-star on Tuesday night as struck out two batters and then retired Eagles superfan Mike Trout with a pop-up. When Nola returns to the mound, he will carry a 2.30 ERA from the first half. Just how good is that number? The last two Phillies starters to finish a season with a 2.30 ERA are both Hall of Famers: Steve Carlton had a 1.97 ERA in his incredible 1972 season and Jim Bunning had a 2.29 mark in 1967.
Question: I was wondering if the Phils might be much better served by taking the package of prospects/players they putting together for a Machado rental and make two separate deals for Nick Castellanos of Detroit and Scooter Gennett of Cincinnati? Not sure of the contract situations for those players but even if they can lock up one, that seems like a better use of resources than a 3 month rental. — Mike M., email