BREEN: Manny Machado a Dodger for now, but Phillies can still make a pitch in free agency

  • The Baltimore Orioles have traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • The Phillies were thought to be major players in the Machado sweepstakes before he landed in L.A.
  • The Phils can still make a play for Machado in the offseason, when he's set to become a free agent.

Manny Machado’s on-field selfie on Tuesday night in the middle of the all-star game with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp sure seemed to provide enough of an indication that the Phillies weren’t landing Machado.

American League, Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado walks on the field after batting practice ahead of the All-Star Home Run Derby Baseball event, Monday, July 16, 2018, at Nationals Park, in Washington. The 89th MLB baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

And a day later, the cheesing all-stars were about to become teammates. A trade between the Dodgers and Orioles reached the final stage on Wednesday night.

The Phillies can now begin practicing their sales pitch to Machado, who becomes a free agent after the season, and start charting out how they can equip their current first-place team for the second half.

Machado heading to LA is certainly deflating, but it could be worse. The Phillies won’t have to worry about the Dodgers after their series next week at Citizens Bank Park. Machado won’t stop the Phillies from contending for a National League East crown. Imagine how much more it would sting if he landed in Washington or Atlanta.

Plus, it is all but guaranteed that Machado will test free agency. They will get a chance to swoon him and you can be assured that John Middleton will have his checkbook ready.

Pitching options: The Phillies were only in the mix for Machado because their young roster outperformed expectations with an unlikely charge to first place at the all-star break. Now, the front office owes it to the clubhouse to at least compliment the roster with some reinforcement. With Machado gone, the team will focus on strengthening its bullpen, adding a bat, and perhaps a starting pitcher.

Baltimore lefthander Zach Britton is healthy after offseason surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. He can handle the late innings plus give the bullpen another lefthander. San Diego’s Brand Hand and Jeurys Familia of the Mets could be options, both will likely be pricier than Britton. Brad Brach, who filled in as Baltimore’s closer when Britton was on the disabled list, would also fit.

Zach Eflin hopes to start for the Phillies on Tuesday, which would provide two weeks for the blister on his middle finger to heal. But, if Eflin’s blister continues to nag, the Phillies could be in trouble. Each game is crucial in the second half and the Phillies can’t afford to roll out Enyel De Los Santos every fifth day if he gets hammered the way he did on Sunday in Miami. The Phillies need be ready to add a starter.

Toronto’s J.A. Happ said this week that he’s aware he could return to Philly and Cole Hamels said it would be a blessing to pitch again for the Phillies. Detroit is shopping righthander Michael Fulmer, a former first-round pick by the Mets who can’t become a free agent until after the 2022 season. Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, who has a team option through 2021, may be available. Trading for either of those would be a move with benefits past this season.

Hitting options: No team in baseball has received less from the left side of their infield than the Phillies. Their third baseman and shortstop have combined for a negative WAR, which helped fuel the team’s desire to add Machado. But now the Phillies find themselves in the predicament of deciding if adding a third baseman is an upgrade over who they already have.

The shortstop market — outside Machado — is thin so the Phillies could look at these third baseman: Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas, Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar. But are any of those three players a significant upgrade over Maikel Franco, who is playing through his best stretch of the season? That’s a decision the Phillies have to make.

If the Phils do not add an infielder, they still have to add a bat. Their OPS (.709) is actually three points lower than it was at this point last season, when they had 20 fewer wins. The Phillies are winning more this season, but they’re still not hitting.

An intriguing option is Detroit outfielder Nick Castellanos, who has a .877 OPS and would be a nice presence in the lineup. He won’t become a free agent until after next season. Adding Castellanos would also upgrade the bench as Nick Williams could slide into a reserve role as a weapon off the bench. He’s no Machado, but it’s a consolation prize that could be the second-half push the Phillies need.