Phillies Mailbag: Williamsport, Franco, and Machado
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag! We take your questions each week and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. Have a Phillies question? Send it to @FrankKlose on Twitter at any time and tune to 97.3 ESPN FM in South Jersey or 973espn.com to hear your answer.
Why didn't the Phillies get the Little League World Series game? They played it at a Phillies minor league park!
Historic Bowman Field is one of the lesser-known treasures in professional baseball. Located in Williamsport, PA, and home to the Phillies Short Season affiliate the Williamsport Crosscutters, the field dates back to 1926 and is considered the second oldest professional baseball park. the Crosscutters have been a Phillies affiliate since 2007. So why, then would the Phillies not have the opportunity to play in this game?
The answer is rather simple: poor planning.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made a point of saying that the Phillies would be a "logical choice" for the next Little League game. Mitch Rupert of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported that the Phillies were already scheduled to be on a West Coast road trip and the schedule was complete before baseball put this game together. It remains to be seen when baseball will do this game again; MLB has tried to use various locations for a special game in the past, such as when the Braves hosted a home game at Fort Bragg.
The good news for the Phillies this time: Susquehanna Park at Historic Bowman Field saw $4 million worth of renovations prior to the season, and MLB completely overhauled the turf to make sure it met MLB specifications. The Phillies certainly will benefit from this going forward.
At least the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to make it work. While Philadelphia is about 25 miles closer to Williamsport, the Pirates are about 200 miles away and prior to the Phillies taking over the Crosscutters franchise, it belonged to the Pirates from 1999-2006. That means some stars in the game such as Andrew McCutchen played there. It was a second choice to have the Pirates there, but a good second choice. Perhaps next time the Phillies and Pirates can meet there.
Does J.P. Crawford playing some third base mean the end of Maikel Franco?
This question is a good one, but I do not think that any conclusions have been reached just yet. The Phillies showed their willingness to get young players at bats by putting them at other positions this past weekend. Saturday's game featured Rhys Hoskins in left field and Jorge Alfaro at first base. Crawford may get some at bats in the majors by playing some third base later this season.
Franco has failed to really take charge of the third base position, that is true. The team had high hopes for Franco, expecting some power and solid defense from Franco. But baseball is a sport built on results, not promise and the Phillies are at least aware that Franco is playing below expectations to the point that they are willing to take at bats away from Franco to see what else they have for the future.
Franco's fate could rest in how the trade market plays out. The Phillies may look to clear some spaces on the diamond for their young players. Cesar Hernandez and Franco both probably have some value in trade, if they can staff those positions internally. Freddy Galvis has been a defensive whiz at shortstop, but he too could be moved in his final year before free agency.
I tend to think Galvis is best served in a super-utility role, but if poor play at other positions creates an opportunity for Crawford, so be it. Crawford's future on the team is still likely at shortstop. Even though Scott Kingery is a hot second base prospect, Crawford will even play some second base, too. It's a matter of giving the team options for later. The trade market is not something totally predictable; the club perhaps can make some decisions going forward knowing they have some versatility in their young talent.
Do you think the Phillies will sign Manny Machado after the 2018 season?
This is a really good question, because after talking about the 2018 free agent class for years, the Phillies are just one year away from it. The Phillies could end up with the top overall pick in the 2018 draft and then be able to load up on big name free agents afterward. The key word here is "could".
I would say that if the Phillies were in a situation where Machado was sitting in front of them as a free agent, they would be most interested in signing him. The problem is, it is hard to take for granted that 1) Machado will be a free agent at all or 2) The Phillies would necessarily have the edge to sign him. For all the talk about Machado and Bryce Harper, here are two things to consider:
First, Orioles owner Peter Angelos loves Manny Machado. Angelos is known for being a stingy owner at times and failing to give his general manager the proper resources to build a contender. But Angelos has money and likes to spent it on nice shiny things that he likes. He may open the pocketbook to sign Machado because he really likes him.
A couple off-seasons ago, the Orioles gave Chris Davis seven years and $161 million. That amount was by far more than any team was willing to give him. The Orioles seemed to be bidding against themselves. But, Angelos wanted Davis so he spent the money. That could be a consideration, too.
The second scenario is that the Phillies battle other teams aggressively to sign Machado...and lose. The Phillies will not be the only team going after the likes of Machado and Harper. The Yankees probably will go after one of the two stars (or both?) and there are plenty of teams losing star players that offseason that will have some payroll flexibility to sign them. Granted, the Phillies probably will have the most payroll flexibility of all, with only Odubel Herrera signed beyond this season.
In 2003 the Phillies went hard after Jim Thome and successfully pried the first baseman away from the Cleveland Indians. But it could have easily gone the other way. If the Phillies do not have the opportunity to sign someone like Harper or Machado, the question could be, "Now what?" The Stanton rumors could be a sign that the Phillies recognize that they may lose out.
The Phillies have money and prospects to trade, so perhaps either way they can find an impact player.