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Manny Machado and Padres take on Bryce Harper and Phillies for first time

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Phillies will meet Manny Machado and the Padres in San Diego

The Philadelphia Phillies (33-26) pay their lone visit to Petco Park this week to take on the host San Diego Padres (30-29) in a three-game series.

The Padres currently reside in third place in the National League West Division standings, 10.5 games in back (10 in the loss column) of the rampaging Los Angeles Dodgers.
After leading the division for a full week in the middle of April, the Padres slumped into a six-game losing streak. They followed that up by winning five in a row. But after appearing to have regained their equilibrium, the club has gone 14-18 over the last six weeks and slowly fallen off the pace.
Entering this series, San Diego has dropped two straight, three of their last four, and five of their last seven games. The Phillies will enter having dropped a season-worst four games in a row, and are now clinging to a one-game lead in the NL East Division.
A huge problem for the Padres has been their inability to score. They are just 13th of the 15 NL teams in runs scored and OPS. However, their hitters are fourth in the league in home runs, so they do have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. This should be of particular concern to the Phillies, whose pitching staff has surrendered the most homers (92) in the National League.
Pitching has been their saving grace. The San Diego staff has combined to tie for the third-best batting average against figure (.240) in the entire NL and the seventh-best BAA mark and ninth-best ERA in all of Major League Baseball.
This series will end a pivotal 23-game stretch for the Phillies. Over the course of that three-and-a-half week endurance test they will have faced a tough gauntlet of opponents from outside their division, with 13 of the games coming on the road. The Phillies have gone 10-10 over the first 20 games, so a winning series would mean they came out ahead during what will arguably be the roughest part of their entire 2019 schedule.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Eric Hosmer: The 29-year-old first baseman has been by far the Padres most consistent offensive performer, slashing .291/.340/453 with nine homers. He leads the team with 34 RBIs and 31 runs scored.
Hunter Renfroe: A 27-year-old left fielder, Renfroe was the club’s first round pick at 13th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft. He leads the team with 17  home runs and 27 extra-base hits, and is second with 33 RBIs.
Franmil Reyes: Now in his second big-league season, the 23-year-old Reyes is the club’s right fielder. He is second with 16 homers and third on the club with 28 RBIs on the season.
Wil Myers: The 28-year-old Myers has seen action at three positions this year, but lately has taken over as the regular center fielder. His 10 home runs are third on the team, while he is tied for the club lead with six stolen bases.
Fernando Tatis Jr. A 20-year-old rookie phenom, the shortstop has been on the IL since suffering a hamstring strain in late April. He begins a rehab assignment today (Monday) and his return to the big-league lineup will be determined by how he feels and performs in the coming days. He is likely to miss this series.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Manny Machado: Phillies fans are well-acquainted with Machado following this most recent off-season. The Phillies pursued Machado aggressively, including hosting him for a day at Citizens Bank Park, when the 26-year-old superstar hit the free agent market. In the end, Machado chose San Diego, and the Phillies nailed down the other big prize of the off-season, outfielder Bryce Harper.
Machado’s deal with the Padres is for 10 years and $300 million. However, unlike Harper, who wanted a guaranteed no-trade in a 13-year deal in order to make a true home for the rest of his career, Machado’s deal has an opt out. He can opt out of the contract following the 2023 season, at which time he will be 31-years of age, and again enter the free agent market.
This season has been a disappointment. He is slashing just .251/.339/.412 with nine homers, 27 RBIs, 27 runs scored, and 16 extra-base hits. After playing almost the entire month of April as the club’s starting third baseman, the Padres shifted him to shortstop. He has played there exclusively since the end of April.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

  • Eric Lauer (LH-MON): 4-4, 4.45 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 60 hits allowed over 58.2 IP across 11 starts with a 49/14 K:BB
  • Chris Paddack (RH-TUE): 4-3, 2.40 ERA, 0.817 WHIP, 34 hits allowed over 56.1 IP across 10 starts with a 62/12 K:BB
  • Joey Lucchesi (LH-WED): 4-3, 3.96 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 53 hits allowed over 61.1 IP across 11 starts with a 62/15 K:BB

KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECES

Josh Naylor: 21-year-old rookie 1B/OF was just recently called up for the first time and has appeared in eight games. He is hitting just .207 with one homer over his first 29 big-league plate appearances. The lefty hitter was originally the first round choice of the Miami Marlins at 12th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Manuel Margot: The 24-year-old has spent time as the starting center fielder, but a cold start has seen him lose playing time of late. He is slashing .231/.259/.313 with just seven extra-base hits and 13 runs scored while stealing six bags.
Kirby Yates: One of the top closers in the game today, the right-hander has allowed just 16 hits over 26 innings with 25 Saves. He sports a 1.04 ERA, 0.923 WHIP, and has a tremendous 45/8 K:BB ratio. Yates also has not surrendered a home run yet this season.
Craig Stammen: A top righty setup man who has allowed 27 hits over 30.2 innings across 28 appearances. The 35-year-old is a 10-year veteran former starter who has a 23/2 K:BB ratio.

THE SKIPPER

Andy Green is now in his fourth season at the helm in San Diego. He has a career 235-310 mark, and prior to this season the club had lost 91 or more games in each of the first three years under his guidance, finishing in last place in two of his three seasons.

THE BALLPARK

Petco Park is located in downtown San Diego, California. With a normal seating capacity of 40,209 the fans enjoy some of the most consistently nice outdoor weather conditions in all of baseball.
Petco is 334 feet down the line in left, 322 down the right field line, and 396 feet to dead center field. It is also known for having deep power alleys: 382 feet out to 391 in right-center, 357 out to 390 in left-center field. The park was actually intentionally designed to be an extreme pitcher’s park.
It opened on April 8. 2004 and hosted both the semi-finals and finals of the first World Baseball Classic back in 2006. On August 4, 2007, Barry Bonds bashed the 755th home run of his career at Petco, tying Hank Aaron‘s all-time career MLB record. The park also hosted the 2016 MLB All-Star Game.
The Western Metal Supply Company building, a hundred-year-old brick structure that had been scheduled for demolition to make way for Petco Park, was saved and incorporated into the ballpark design. It now contains the team store, private suites, a restaurant, and rooftop seating. The southeast corner of the building actually serves as the left field foul pole, and is protected by a strip of bright yellow angle iron.

SAN DIEGO SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Much as with their just-concluded series in Los Angeles, the Phillies will enjoy three days of stable, beautiful, perfect baseball weather in San Diego. High temps will be around 70 degrees each day, with game temps in the 60’s, light winds, and only a 10% chance of any type of showers.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies series opposition preview: San Diego Padres

Manny Machado reportedly opts to stay in the SoCal sun – in San Diego

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Machado will be playing in the SoCal sun for years to come

According to a number of reliable sources, the San Diego Padres have come to an agreement with free agent infielder Manny Machado.

The deal is reportedly for 10 years and $300 million, which would make it the largest total dollar value guaranteed contract in American sports history. There is also reportedly a player opt-out after the fifth year in the deal.
This deal also pushes the Padres, who entered the pursuit late in the off-season as a “mystery team”, over the $100 million total salary mark for the first time in franchise history.
With top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr considered nearly ready at shortstop, the Padres could either play Machado at third base and go with Luis Urias at short for now, or begin 2019 with Machado at short until Tatis is ready.
The Phillies were considered an early favorite for Machado, who met with club officials back in December at Citizens Bank Park. Despite both sides saying all of the right polite things, nothing seemed to ever get close between the Phillies and Machado.
The Chicago White Sox were considered co-favorites for Machado’s services at one point. The Chisox added Machado’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signed their workout partner Jon Jay in order to help lure the free agent. Chicago reportedly had a seven-year, $175-million dollar offer on the table for the infielder and were confident in their chances.
Don’t be surprised if the White Sox now shift their full focus and resources into a battle with the Phillies in trying to lure Bryce Harper, with the San Francisco Giants and his former Washington Nationals team also still in the hunt.
The Machado contract is certainly going to establish a base in Harper negotiations. It would not be surprising to see the outfielder get something along the lines of a 10-year deal worth between $325-350 million with a similar opt-out.
Robert Raiola, CPA and Director of Sports & Entertainment for the PKF O’Connor Davies accounting and advisory firm speculated just yesterday that such a large contract for both Machado and Harper would likely contain language to protect it from high California taxation.
On Harper/Machado::

Both players will ask for large signing bonus'(SB) as part of contracts. Both players rep live in no tax state. If proper language is included in contracts,(sb) will not be taxed in state where team is based

Deferred comp will likely be part of both deals.

You might ask why a player such as Machado would want to sign long-term with an organization such as the Padres? It’s a logical question, since San Diego has been a perennial loser since entering Major League Baseball as part of the 1969 expansion.
The Padres have participate in 50 seasons and have reached the postseason just five times, during each of the five seasons in which they have won the NL West crown: 1984, 1996, 1998, and 2005-06. The team has experienced just 14 winning campaigns, and has finished with a losing record for the last eight years. Last season, the Padres finished at 66-96 and in the division basement for the second time in three years.
But the San Diego executive team led by chairman Ron Fowler, general partner Peter Seidler, and executive vice-president A.J. Preller are committed to changing the perception of the club. The Padres were recently ranked by Baseball America as having the top minor league talent in the game.
They made an initial splash one year ago when they lured veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer with an eight-year, $144 million free agent contract that lasts through 2015. Earlier this off-season the Padres added veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler with a two-year, $8 million deal.
For the Phillies, this means that all of their eggs are now in one basket. Despite the proclamations of management that the off-season is a success without landing one of the two biggest names, that is not how the fan base sees it. If the Phillies now fail to finalize a deal with Harper they can expect considerable backlash from those fans.

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“One thing’s for sure, Harper is going to get more than Machado.”

With Manny Machado off the board, @JimBowdenGM predicts Bryce Harper’s potential contract and destination.

The pressure is now on, and the focus now appears clearly on one prize, the top prize: Bryce Harper. There will be increased competition from at least the White Sox. It is now time for the Phillies ownership and management to put up or shut up and bag the big game name in what has been an agonizingly lengthy off-season free agent hunt.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as BREAKING: Padres reportedly land Manny Machado

Jumping in as late suitors, Padres will make a pitch to Bryce Harper

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San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller will make a late pitch for Bryce Harper

Last week’s big news on the Manny Machado free agency front came when it was revealed that the San Diego Padres were the previously rumored ‘mystery team’ to enter the race for the young superstar free agent infielder.

Now today comes word from perhaps the most reliable MLB insider in the business that the Padres are tossing their hats into the ring for Bryce Harper as well.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted out the following message this morning:
Early in the off-season, San Diego was considered a long-shot to land either of the big names. The logic behind that thinking was that the Padres were probably at least a couple of years away from contending status in the National League West Division.
However, as this off-season has developed their organizational strategy has clarified. The Padres selling point is that they are considered to have one of the top, if not the very top, group of minor league prospects in the game today.
Harper or Machado would theoretically be signing long-term, possibly as long as a decade. So the superstar(s) would be part of an incremental improvement right away, and then become the centerpiece of a genuine long-term contender that would emerge over the next couple of years.
Just yesterday, Jack Dickey at Sports Illustrated described that San Diego system as follows: “The farm system is as flush as any in recent memory; just days ago, MLB.com ranked 10 Padres prospects among the game’s top 100, with five of them, including No. 2 overall prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr., expected to contribute as major leaguers in 2019.
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, president of baseball operations Erik Greupner, and executive vice-president/general manager A.J. Preller are now exploring every avenue to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that hasn’t won the division since back-to-back NL West crowns in 2005-06.
The Padres have not experienced a winning season since 2010, and have finished no higher than third place in the division since that point. The club finished in the NL West basement twice in the last three years. They have experienced just 14 winning seasons in the 50-year history of the franchise.
Believing that the gems in their minor league system are for real, that San Diego brain trust appears ready to make a sincere attempt to write a better story for their future. They began this off-season jumping into the free agent game back in December by signing pitcher Garrett Richards and second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Landing Harper and/or Machado and adding them to a core group that also includes first baseman Eric Hosmer (29), outfielders Wil Myers (28) and Hunter Renfroe (27) and those talented, emerging prospects led by Tatis, Francisco Mejia, and Luis Urias would theoretically make the Padres at least a dangerous team in the short-term.
In the longer term, improving the pitching staff will be the key to San Diego getting and staying competitive. That will be true even if they are able to somehow reel in both Harper and Machado. Fortunately, nine of the top dozen prospects in what is considered baseball’s #1 system are all pitchers. That group should reach the bigs at various points over the next 2-3 years.
We’ll learn how serious the San Diego bid for the two free agents was as the process finally draws to a close at some point. It is entirely possible that allowing the Padres into the process this late in the game is simply a ploy by the agents to drive up the final contract value for their clients.
Many Phillies fans have begun expressing extreme frustration at the lengthy process. That frustration draws partly on the club’s collapse last summer, partly from the losing of the last half-dozen years after a decade of huge success, and partly from the Phillies genuine interest in pursuing the two talents.
What we somehow need to keep in mind is that these are two 26-year-old young men who are likely trying to make a decision that will affect the major portion of the next decade of their lives, both on a professional and personal level.
Whichever organization either Harper or Machado choose to sign with is likely going to become the place they perform during the entirety of their prime playing years. It will become the team with whom they are likely to become most identified for the rest of a potential Hall of Fame history.
Tonight’s meeting in Las Vegas between Harper and the Padres contingent is, for now, just one more step in what has been a long off-season negotiation process. Why anyone ever thought that actually signing one of two generational talents was going to happen quickly is anyone’s guess.

Manny Machado close to a decision, with Phillies a strong finalist

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Machado would immediately make the Phillies an NL East contender

The Philadelphia Phillies have been linked to superstar infielder Manny Machado for some time now. Going back to the approach of the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline and on through the early months of this current off-season, Phillies fans have waited to see if the young superstar might choose to make Philadelphia his long-term baseball home.

Based on numerous reports across the baseball landscape over the past 24 hours that wait may soon be over. The Phillies are reportedly one of three finalists for his services, joined by the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
For the past few weeks it appeared as if the Yankees were emerging as favorites. However, New York just agreed to a deal with free agent Troy Tulowitzki. While that deal doesn’t necessarily knock the Yanks out of the Machado sweepstakes, it does appear to mitigate their need on the left side of the infield.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Philadelphia wrote today that the Yankees signing of Tulo absolutely has some bearing on their interest in Machado: “The signing is seen as inexpensive insurance should the team fail to sign Machado. It also could be a negotiating signal to Machado that the Yankees won’t wait forever.
The Yanks would use Machado at shortstop, the position he has publicly stated as a preference, for at least the first few months of the 2019 season. Incumbent Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius needed Tommy John surgery on his right throwing elbow back in October, and could miss at least the first half of the upcoming season.
But longer term, New York would have to work out that shortstop situation. That positional usage could also be an issue with the Phillies, who obtained shortstop Jean Segura in a trade with the Seattle Mariners earlier this off-season.
In the Phillies case, they could either overpay to get Machado to play third base, which would make incumbent Maikel Franco trade bait, or they could flip Segura over to second base. Segura received NL MVP votes during the 2016 season when he spent the entire year as the Arizona Diamondbacks starting second baseman.
Salisbury commented on the possibility of the Phillies possibly needing to overpay Machado to keep him out of the Bronx:

“The Phillies like the idea of using Machado at third base and would probably have to significantly outbid the Yankees to land him. The Phillies have been gearing for this offseason for years and have the resources to do just that — if Machado would say yes to their offer.” ~ Jim Salisbury

It is still believed that the Phillies have offered up to a 10-year deal valued at between $300-350 million to Machado. The White Sox had previously been rumored to be willing to go the same 10 years. However, Bruce Levine at 670 The Score, one of Chicago’s leading sports talk stations, reported this afternoon that the Chisox are falling short of that level offer:
Reports of the White Sox offering ten plus years for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper are ”Without any substance and flat out wrong “ according to high ranking industry sources . Wh Sox will not be giving offer of more than 7 years for either player.

553 people are talking about this

Considering recent long-term free agent deals signed by youngish free agents such as Jason Heyward, who got eight years from the Chicago Cubs back in December of 2015, and Eric Hosmer, who received an eight-year deal from the San Diego Padres last off-season, a 10-year deal taking either Machado or fellow star free agent Bryce Harper through their age 35 seasons is not out of line.
Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors commented on just that fact regarding the two 26-year-olds:

“Either player could quite reasonably still be productive in their age-35 season, when a ten-year deal would conclude…It’s almost impossible to see Harper or Machado taking less, considering that both have delivered considerably more superstar-level production than either Heyward or Hosmer at the time of their deals.”

Jeff Passan at ESPN reported earlier today that in the wait for decisions from Machado and Harper, the infielder is likely to make his choice first, and that decision could come soon.
“Machado is going to sign first, and perhaps soon, choosing from among the New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox. While one cannot rule out a mystery team — agent Dan Lozano is keeping a tight lid on the proceedings, just as he did when the Miami Marlins were among the final bidders on Albert Pujols — Machado’s fit among the known interested teams is strong enough not to necessitate a furtive suitor.”

There is a very real chance that we could get a Machado decision by this coming weekend or sometime next week. If he goes to the Yankees, the Phillies would throw their considerable financial resources towards Harper.
If Machado chooses to play in Philly, it will be interesting to see if the Phillies then drop out of the Harper sweepstakes or take a shot at landing both superstars.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies remain a finalist as Manny Machado readies to make his decision

Whit Merrifield breaks out as Royals return to contention

Whit Merrifield emerges as productive second baseman
When the Kansas City Royals opened play for the 2017 MLB season, very few prognosticators picked them to be a contender.
The Royals captured back-to-back American League pennants in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And in 2015, they won the second-ever World Series crown in franchise history. That isn’t all that long ago.
But fortunes of big league mini-dynasties can turn around in a hurry these days. The Royals slipped to a .500 finish a year ago. With the Cleveland Indians on the rise in the AL Central Division, and with an aging homegrown core, the Royals looked like yesterday’s news.
Flash forward a few months, and here we are in the Dog Days of summer. Heading into play on Tuesday, August 8, Kansas City is tied for one of the two American League Wildcard playoff berths. The club also sits just three games behind the Indians in the division.
As the season was set to open back in late March, Royals skipper Ned Yostannounced that then 21-year old Raul Mondesi Jr had won an open battle for the team’s second base position.
The losers in that battle, Whit MerrifieldChristian Colon, and Cheslor Cuthbert, were left to battle for bench roles with the club in the final days of spring training.

PLAYER PERFORMANCES RESULT IN CHANGED PLANS

Merrifield had an option remaining, and so ended up opening the year back with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. He quickly showed that he could rake AAA pitching. Over 37 plate appearances, he hit for an outstanding .412/.432/.794 slash line with three home runs.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, to say that Mondesi was over-matched would be an understatement. He slashed just .103/.167/.179 over his first 14 games and 46 plate appearances. Mondesi did steal five bases, but he simply wasn’t reaching often enough to make a real difference in that regard.
Into the breach stepped Merrifield. Given an opportunity to start with the big club, he took it and ran. The 28-year old is now hitting .294 over 401 plate appearances. He has 13 homers, 49 RBI, 50 runs scored, and stolen 18 bases. In short, Merrifield has been an unexpected gem for the Royals.
A little over a week after Merrifield took over the job at the Keystone position, Kansas City began to win. Since May 1, the Royals have a 50-38 record.
Rustin Todd of the Kansas City Star noted in a piece earlier this month that the Royals’ vice president for communications, Mike Swanson, was reporting that Merrifield was in rare company.
Per Swanson, Merrifield was just the seventh player in big league history to produce 175 hits, 80 runs, 40 doubles, and 20 stolen bases over the first 162 games of his career.
“With his versatility, there’s a lot of things he can do,” Yost was quoted by Todd. “He can steal a base, he can bunt, he can swing the bat, he hits the ball to all fields. He gives you a good at-bat.”

IMPROVED APPROACH LEADS TO BREAKOUT

Merrifield was Kansas City’s selection in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of South Carolina. As he rose through the Royals farm system, a strong 2014 season split between AA and AAA was the only sign that he might be more than a big league bench player. At least so far, he has turned out to  be so much more.
In a recent piece for Beyond the Box Score, Anthony Rescan broke Merrifield’s success down in a more analytic fashion.
“This year, Merrifield has displayed a solid amount of offensive upside. His aggregate offensive statistics have spiked up significantly. He currently sits at a 111 wRC+, .339 wOBA, and a .289 TAv. All of this is being done at a .309 BABIP as well.” ~ Anthony Rescan
Merrifield’s consistent production has been a key to the turn-around of the Royals lineup. Not once this season has he gone more than two games without producing a hit.
Since the MLB All-Star break, Merrifield has only upped his game, hitting for a .327/.366/.577 slash line and six home runs in that span.
The Royals have surprised many by fighting back into contention here in the 2017 season. However, the club has now dropped six of their last eight games. And they just lost their all-star catcher and team leader Salvador Perez until September.
To stay in the race, Kansas City is going to need their remaining veteran core of Eric HosmerMike MoustakasLorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon to step up in the lineup. Continued production from Merrifield is also sure to go a long way towards the Royals returning to postseason baseball.