It’s far too early in the season, I get it. It is also far too early for major trades to happen. Normally between the All-Star Break and the Trade Deadline, that is where the flurry of the big trades happen. And of course when you have non-competitive teams that have stars who are impending free agents then all eyes will be focused on them, barring a huge contract extension from the current team.
And look no further to Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
Baltimore is tied for the worst record in baseball alongside Cincinnati at 8-26 entering Monday’s play. It’s really hard to believe the Orioles will turn things around given they have the worst offense stat-wise in the AL and the pitching is near the bottom in the League as well. Machado is a free agent and really from all looks of it will not sign any extension with the Orioles during the season. Which means, hello trade time.
So, let’s look at the teams who may be in the mix of landing Machado, who can play either 3rd or shortstop.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The strength: Arizona is having a great year again and leading the NL West thanks in part to all the Dodgers injury woes and Colorado’s struggles with their pitching. They also have made key trades in the past before the deadline such as last year of getting JD Martinez from Detroit, which really put the D-Backs into the Wild Card given how he played for them. The weakness: Arizona doesn’t have a lot in the farm system to really entice Baltimore, and while the Orioles are more of the team that wants MLB-ready prospects, I don’t think the Diamondbacks are a match, unless they consider moving a few guys like Nick Ahmed or even Taijuan Walker (who won’t be ready until next season after surgery). Baltimore is not Detroit where the Diamondbacks historically fleece over on trades (Luis Gonzalez, Robbie Ray, Martinez). It probably would take a third team to help the Diamondbacks get Machado.
Atlanta Braves: The strength: Atlanta is loaded on the farm and until Austin Riley comes up, third base is a bit of a hole (Jose Bautista is a band-aid for a gusher right now). The Braves could offer what Baltimore wants and possibly keep Machado after the season. The weakness: Atlanta’s wishes are elsewhere at pitcher, desperately needing a front-end starter. And the last time the Braves tried to make a huge splash at the deadline, it ultimately backfired (Mark Teixeira in 2007). Trading away prospects which may include Riley, Joey Wentz, and/or Ian Anderson, is probably not the best move for the Braves, who are ahead of schedule at least early on in this rebuild.
Boston Red Sox: The strength: The Red Sox always seem to be interested in any player with a pulse. And they have a figure in Dave Dombrowski who can orchestrate any trade he possibly can to net the guy he wants. Yes, Xander Bogaerts is at SS, but they can move Machado back to third. The weakness: While Dombrowski is never one to shy away from making a trade within his own division (he did it with the Tigers), I am not sure if seeing Rafael Devers is the best situation for the next 10 years against the Red Sox, especially if Machado walks (and you have to figure Devers would be in any Machado trade). Also, the Red Sox farm system isn’t what it once was either, especially after the Chris Sale trade.
Chicago Cubs: The strength: The Cubs have really shown they want to go all in, even with the young team they have. Of course, the Cubs would keep Kris Bryant at third and that means any package involving Addison Russell is on the table. The Cubs are struggling early on to score runs. And given how the NL Central is, if the Cubs are fighting with the Brewers, Pirates, AND Cardinals by the deadline, they may have to consider this move. The weakness: The Cubs farm system after the Quintana, Wilson/Avila, and the Chapman trades, is pretty thin now. They would have to be shrewd in what they offer, which means possibly a Russell/Happ package (I don’t want to hear how the Cubs would give up too much with Russell being sent for Machado, because Russell hasn’t shown a fraction of what Machado has done). But Russell is not going to be a free agent until after 2021 while Machado is a free agent after this year. That will probably be a sticky point for the Cubs.
Houston Astros: The strength: file me under the “I’m not sold with Alex Bregman” bit. The Astros have the prospects and other things that can easily entice Baltimore. Just imagine a team of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Machado. They’d be telling the Yankees to “bring it.” The weakness: Machado will command a lot of money on the market. And while the big hitters of the Astros aren’t going anywhere anytime soon (Springer won’t be a FA until 2021, Correa not one until 2022, and Altuve until 2025), it is going to be hard to keep the likes of Keuchel and Cole, who both are closer to free agency and the Astros need those guys. But Houston isn’t one to shy away of making a trade and could consider opening up the book to Machado.
Los Angeles Angels: The strength: Well, Machado would be an obvious upgrade at 3rd over Luis Valbuena. And they are in contention. Adding Machado to Trout would be a sick 1-2 punch. The weakness: The Angels don’t have a strong farm system to help and there isn’t much in that way nor really anybody not named Trout, Ohtani, or Simmons helping them. Like the Diamondbacks, the Angels would need a third team to really help them out in getting Machado.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The strength: Well, Corey Seager is out so the need for Machado grows for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has a wealth of prospects and money on top of it. It could satisfy the need for the Orioles to make a deal. The weakness: Machado is a free agent as is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. I don’t see the Dodgers offering a variety of prospects for a rental. They may get burned on the Darvish deal they made last year.
Milwaukee Brewers: The strength: Milwaukee has prospects. Good prospects and while losing Lewis Brinson as a piece hurts, he’s one of a few good ones the Brewers have to offer. And if the Orioles want a piece or two that can play right away, they have that too. Milwaukee is a good trade partner I believe for Baltimore in this deal. The weakness: I don’t think it is “could Milwaukee keep Machado past 2018?” it is more of “who will replace Machado the minute he leaves the Brewers?” Milwaukee couldn’t afford his asking salary, but in a division where it is tough as nails and the Brewers have a smaller window than their rivals in Chicago and St. Louis they could take that hit.
New York Yankees: The strength: The Yankees have prospects out the wazoo as well. They have the money on top of it to keep him put in New York after the season and there is a need for a 3B though Miguel Andujar hasn’t been bad for them to this point. Adding him to that lineup would just be insanely sick. The weakness: Machado has been rumored to the Yankees as a free agent this off-season. While it isn’t necessarily a weakness for New York, the Yanks could wait it out, have the Orioles net prospects from the Dodgers, Astros, Phillies, etc. and then have Machado sign with the Bronx Bombers in the off-season.
Philadelphia Phillies: The strength: Philadelphia has the prospects like the Braves, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros and are really looking to make a splash. JP Crawford is a good prospect for the Phillies but he’s no Machado. He could be used in a package and then Philadelphia sounds like they are going to open the pocketbooks this off-season and try to net one of the big name stars such as Machado or Bryce Harper. The weakness: It’s still early so one wonders if the Phillies will be in contention for the NL East or a Wild Card by then.
Seattle Mariners: The strength: Seattle’s window is closing fast. Robinson Cano is 35, Nelson Cruz is 37, Dee Gordon is 30, and Jean Segura is 28. It wouldn’t be too stunning to see the Mariners try to get Machado though Kyle Seager is at the hot corner (but hasn’t done much to this point in 2018). And with the AL West being rough & tumble, it’s not out of the realm that Seattle really makes things interesting. The weakness: the last time the Mariners and Orioles made a big trade, Seattle is actually still paying for it seeing what Adam Jones is doing. But the Mariners are not too deep in the farm system. They’d have to be creative in what they can do to offer a good enough deal for Baltimore. And right now the Mariners biggest need is pitching.
St. Louis Cardinals: The strength: The Cardinals find ways to get the guys they need. They had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he turned them down. They can get a good deal in place for Machado I believe. The weakness: getting to keep Machado would be the bigger issue after the season. I think many around baseball would be concerned he would leave after a team paid a high price to get him at the deadline. St. Louis would be no different.
Overall I believe that the Yankees and Phillies should be considered front-runners for Machado as they could position themselves as not only a push for an October berth (or in the Yankees case, a World Series appearance), but also to show how it is for the future. Houston if they don’t consider Bregman a strong solution, could be another intriguing possibility. Milwaukee also has an outside chance pending if they are willing to think 2018 is their year.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat