Zach Eflin is good, but he’s not Manny Machado good
Some people may have glanced around at the news on Thursday and saw a Manny Machado trade story once again which may or may not have connected him to the Phillies once again.
Of course, Machado has been a major subject of trade rumors for the better part of the season stemming all the way back to last year, as the Phillies struck a new TV deal with Comcast, and geared up for the free agency class of 2019, when both Orioles shortstop Machado and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper would be available.
Now, as the Orioles currently sit in the cellar of the AL East at 24-61, the worst record in Major League Baseball, the trade talks for Machado to head to a possible postseason contender have continued to heat up. The Phillies, who have been rumored to be the frontrunners for Machado in free agency next year, are now linked to the Orioles as a possible trading partner with the Phillies battling the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East.
Obviously, for a player at the caliber of Machado, the cost for the SS/3B is going to be reasonably high. Trading a couple of scrubs and some washed up major leaguers isn’t going to tempt Baltimore of giving up its best player.
Especially right now, as Machado has been swinging a hot bat in his last 10 games, slashing a .324/.390/.514 with a .904 OPS. Machado has smashed two home runs, drove in four runs, and walked four times during that stretch. In a two-game series against the Phillies this past week, Machado went 1-for-6 (.167 AVG) with a double and two strikeouts. He also walked twice, adding to his season total of 38.
Over the last several weeks, there have been grumblings that the Orioles have been extremely interested in Phillies SS/3B J.P. Crawford, as well as a few minor league controllable starters. The Phillies have an advantage in all of these negotiations thanks to former O’s executive Andy MacPhail as the current president of the Phils, as well as Phillies GM Matt Klentak, who worked under MacPhail in Baltimore. This is exactly why a Machado trade to Philadelphia makes more sense than anywhere else because of who they’re dealing with.
The Phillies are obviously trying to be careful with who they give up, with the uncertainty that Machado will re-sign following this season. They really don’t want to give up possible future players for only a couple months of Machado and a hopefully long postseason run. If he walks and the Phillies are unable to win the title this season, it won’t be worth it in the end.
At the end of the day, with Machado you have one of baseball’s brightest players, a guy that would absolutely revolutionize a young, growing team. And of course, that’s what the Phillies are attempting to do. They’ve already proven that they can compete in the National League East, cruising by with a 47-37 record through July 5. Who knows if the Phillies are one or two pieces away from truly contending for a pennant at this present time.
But what are the Phillies truly willing to give up for Manny Machado? I previously mentioned J.P. Crawford as a talked about name that could be included in a deal. And those young, controllable starters I mentioned? LHP Cole Irvin might be one of those considered in a deal.
But what about recently surging right-hander Zach Eflin? Would the Phils be willing to give up their third starter in a deal for Machado? Even if it was a one-for-one trade?
Apparently no, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.
Prior to this season, Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin had a career 5.85 ERA in 22 Major League starts. He was sent to Triple-A at the end of this Spring Training and spent all of April in the Minors. If the Orioles had called in April with a one-for-one trade proposal — Machado for Eflin — it’s reasonable to believe the Phils would have accepted.
Now? The circumstances have changed. Eflin has a 2.97 ERA in 11 Major League starts this year. If Baltimore made the same proposal today — a half-season of Machado for 4 1/2 of Eflin — Philadelphia likely would say no, one source told MLB.com.
Morosi also mentions that the Phillies would also be highly unlikely to give up the team’s No. 1 prospect of right-hand pitcher Sixto Sanchez, who could be the next ace of the rotation if he stays healthy.
Besides Eflin and Sanchez, the Phillies might be more inclined to include their No. 2 organizational right-handed pitching prospect Adonis Medina in a deal for Machado, per Morosi.
On the Eflin notes, isn’t that reported response by the Phillies on trading Eflin just ridiculous? Would the team really turn down a Top 5 transcendent baseball player in Machado for Zach Eflin, who just happens to be pitching the best month of baseball in his career in the right place at the right time? Just imagine looking into a crystal ball at the future of Zach Eflin, and the result would more likely than not be mediocrity. Only a few pitchers can sustain this type of success Eflin has had this season for a long period of time. The likelihood of Eflin somehow never losing again is so slim and an absurd argument.
If the Orioles were trying to get Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta, of course it would be a different story.
In my eyes, dealing Eflin for Machado straight up would be an absolute steal for the Phillies. They have a plethora of young pitchers coming up that would fit in nicely to replace Eflin if he would be moved. Not to mention that the Phillies will need to figure out who to move out of the rotation anyway if they should indeed trade for left-hander Cole Hamels before the trade deadline or the All-Star Game as Morosi previously reported.
The bottom line about Eflin is that he’s a good pitcher; a solid pitcher that has totally fit his billing over the last month. He’s 6-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his last six starts allowing just one home run during that stretch. But he’s no Manny Machado.
We all knew how difficult it would be for the Phillies to trade for Machado in the first place, but if it really is as simple as sending Zach Eflin and a couple prospects to the Orioles for Machado, I can’t see how you could pass something like that up.
Josh Liddick is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and Sixers managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLiddickTalk.