The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly casting a wide net in their search for a new third baseman.
Disenchanted with incumbent Maikel Franco, the Phillies - linked in recent weeks to both Manny Machado and Adrian Beltre - have had discussions with the Kansas City Royals about veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas, a source told Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
It's unclear how much progress has been made in trade talks, but Royals scouts have been checking out Phillies minor leaguers in preparation for a potential deal.
Moustakas isn't a long-term solution for the Phillies - with a $15-million mutual option for 2019, he's virtually guaranteed to hit free agency this winter - but he represents a significant upgrade over Franco. Moving forward, every marginal win matters for the Phillies, who entered play Friday with sole possession of the second National League wild-card spot and sit just two games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves.
Through 78 games this season, Moustakas has hit .255/.310/.467 (112 OPS+) with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, and four defensive runs saved, accruing the 15th-most WAR (1.3) among third basemen. He earned All-Star nominations in two of the previous three campaigns.
Franco, meanwhile, has seen his playing time diminish in recent weeks, and the 25-year-old - once viewed as a future franchise cornerstone - acknowledged earlier this month that the Phillies were starting to phase him out a bit.
"I’ve never been in that situation before," Franco said of his new part-time role. "I can't tell you if it’s going to work or not. I’m not used to it because all my career, even in the minor leagues, I played every single day. When I came here I played every single day, too. I don't know if that’s going to work. I don't know how that’s going to go. But I'll just try to figure it out. I'll just do everything that I can do to improve that situation. We'll see what’s going to happen."