Beginning the season in a 9-for-63 (.143) slump is bad enough, but yesterday Brad Hawpe’s early struggles extended to his defense at first base, as his misplay contributed to the Braves’ five-run inning in a 7-0 defeat of the Padres.
Hawpe had started a grand total of eight career games at first base prior to this season and any problems there defensively are no doubt being magnified by the fact that he’s replacing two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez.
Stepping into Gonzalez’s shoes no doubt isn’t helping Hawpe’s cause offensively either, although there isn’t much of a cause to begin with at this point. Not only is he hitting just .143 through 21 games, Hawpe has zero homers and four walks versus 23 strikeouts, leading to a hideous .382 OPS. To put that into some context, considering that NL pitchers have a .326 OPS.
Hawpe is coming off a career-worst season with the Rockies and his raw numbers with Colorado were always inflated by Coors Field, but he’s still a career .269 hitter with an .829 OPS on the road and for a modest $3 million investment he seemed like a worthwhile pickup for the Padres.
Instead he’s been perhaps the worst player in baseball through four weeks and is in danger of being replaced.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.