HOUSENICK: For Philadelphia Phillies, a Manny Machado deal would bring significant risks
- The Philadelphia Phillies reportedly have a handshake deal to acquire Manny Machado.
- The Baltimore Orioles star is expected to become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season.
- The Phillies lead the National League East Division at the All-Star break.
A roar built up from the lower bowl to the upper reaches of the 400 level at Citizens Bank Park.
The sound from the more than 40,000 fans had that playoff reverberation to it.
My clock and calendar assured me, however, that it was 20 minutes before first pitch on July 30, 2011.
Newly acquired Hunter Pence created the stir by taking the field for pregame stretch.
A more significant roar came 30 minutes later when Pence stepped into the batter’s box for the first time as a Phillie.
The Pence deal was supposed to push the aging Phillies back over the top.
The club, with the outfielder being the only regular position player younger than 30 years old, was leading the National League East by five games at the time of the deal.
Pence started his Philly career with an eight-game hitting streak and slashed .324/.394/.560 in his 54 regular-season games in red pinstripes.
The Phillies won the NL East for a fifth year in a row by 13 games with a franchise-record 102 victories. They seemed destined to run over the other postseason participants en route to their second World Series title in four years.
They roughed up the Cardinals in Game 1 of the best-of-5 division series and led 4-0 after two innings in Game 2.
Then the unthinkable happened. Cliff Lee and Co. couldn’t hold a four-run cushion at home and the offense never got going again.
The Cardinals won the series with a 1-0 Game-5 victory in Philly. Pence was 1 for his last 13 and hit .211 in the five games.
Just like that, the Phillies’ five-year playoff run was history. And the next year Pence was gone.
Running ahead of schedule: Seven years later, the organization has a strong minor-league system, an impressive core of young players starting in Philadelphia and sits in the first place in the NL East at the All-Star break.
A year ahead of schedule in the eyes of many, this flawed Phillies team is rumored to have a handshake agreement to acquire free-agent-to-be Manny Machado, a four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glover with 162 home runs in his first six-plus seasons.
No guarantees: There are no guarantees that any of the Phillies minor-league prospects alleged to be part of the deal are major-league certainties.
Machado has star power. He’s a proven commodity believed to be good enough to lead the Phillies back to the postseason.
I can hear the roars for Machado starting in batting practice.
A warning, however: Be careful what you wish for, Phillies fans.
This could be Pence all over again.
Possible scenarios: Best-case scenario: Machado flourishes in Philly. The Phillies win the division and make the playoffs. Machado loves Philly and signs a long-term extension in the offseason, and the organization begins another lengthy run of postseason appearances.
But there is the other side. The prospects given up excel with the Orioles. Machado is booed regularly as he flounders during the next two months. The Phils don’t make the playoffs and the 26-year-old walks.
It could happen. So, too, could many other scenarios in between the best and worst cases.
There is significant risk involved in making this deal.
Phils have issues: With or without Machado, the Phillies have problems masked by their first-half success in the weak National League.
The offense is inconsistent. The bench lacks production. The defense is weakened by players being out of position.
A lot of uncertainty remains about the future of several young, contributing players, though there is no denying their potential.
And, Machado’s desire is to play shortstop. Phils rookie Scott Kingery has a 2.6 defensive runs above average ranking. Machado is at minus 3.4.
Reward comes with risks: The Phillies are honoring the 2008 World Series championship team in early August. Surely, there will be memorable roars that night from a large crowd.
If the club makes the Machado deal, it is banking on sellout crowds roaring well into October … and the next few years.
That reward doesn’t come without franchise-altering risks.