The Baltimore Orioles currently have the worst record in baseball at 26-66. Baltimore star shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado is an upcoming free agent. Add all that up, and it should result in the Orioles trading Machado before the July 31 trade deadline.
Of course, the Orioles should’ve traded Machado a long while ago- teams are unlikely to give up a massive haul for only 2-3 months of a position player (unless it’s Mike Trout). So maybe the Orioles will just keep Machado and end up with nothing more than a draft pick as compensation when he signs elsewhere in the offseason. But that’s probably too stubborn for even this Orioles organization; they need to turn Machado into multiple intriguing prospects (or at least one very good prospect/young player) to help accelerate their rebuild.
And recent reports suggest the Orioles are indeed getting closer to trading Machado. The teams reported as suitors for the 26-year-old, .959-OPS’ing slugger are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies.
So, which team should trade for Machado? Let’s rank the nine suitors by who needs him the most.
9. Cleveland Indians
Three obvious reasons Machado to the Indians doesn’t really add up:
1. They have Francisco Lindor at shortstop. He currently leads all shortstops in WAR according to FanGraphs (fWAR) at 5.2.
2. They have Jose Ramirez at third base. He currently leads all non-Trout players in fWAR at 5.7.
3. They’ve basically locked up the AL Central already. They’re 8.5 games up on a second-place Minnesota Twins team that is 40-49. The division is a dumpster fire. Trading for Machado would all be about helping their chances in a playoff series.
Is it really worth it to give up long term assets for that? For an ace, sure; adding a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard to a team could make for a series-changer on paper, for example. For a position player? The odds he makes enough of a difference over the alternative options in such a small sample just aren’t very large. And in the case of the Indians, one of Machado/Lindor/Ramirez (probably Ramirez) would be going to second base, and we don’t know how that would go. The payoff just isn’t there for the Indians on the surface, especially compared to these other eight suitors.
8. New York Yankees
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday that the Yankees are “showing increased interest” in acquiring Machado. But even if the Yankees want to do a deal, Baltimore may not be willing to do it with their AL East rival (even though the Orioles should just take the best damn offer they can get to kickstart their rebuild and not worry about other organizations). And even if the Orioles are willing to do a trade with the Yankees, their asking price would likely be higher.
.@SimplyAJ10 knew it, Wayne Kirby knew it…Goodbye, home run!
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 11, 2018
It’s hard to see the Yankees going all-in for Machado, and they probably prefer to target starting pitching. Additionally, 23-year-old rookie Miguel Andjuar has provided solid production at the hot corner — despite below average defense — with 12 homers and an .810 OPS. And at shortstop, Didi Gregorius has been worth 2.4 fWAR and provides much better defense than Machado would.
While Machado would make things even better offensively, the Yankees are second in the majors in slugging percentage (.461) and OPS (.792). General manager Brian Cashman will surely look to add wins wherever they can at the trade deadline, but ideally on the starting pitching front.
7. Boston Red Sox
There hadn’t been much talk about the Red Sox and Machado until Tuesday, when the Baltimore Sun reported that Boston and Baltimore made recent contact. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, for pretty much the exact same reasons it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Yankees. And, just like the Yankees, the Orioles may not be willing to do a deal (at least reasonably priced) with the Red Sox.
Boston leads the majors in OPS, SLG, and wOBA. They have a very good young shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, and a promising third baseman in Rafael Devers. Now, Devers has only an 88 wRC+ and .292 OBP, and perhaps the Red Sox think the 21-year-old could use some more time in Triple-A while they try to hold off the Yankees and win the AL East. But the need to go all-in for Machado just isn’t really there.
6. Chicago Cubs
Chicago was constantly rumored as a Machado destination for a while. But Javy Baez — who plays good defense all over the infield — has played at a borderline MVP level, and 24-year-old shortstop Addison Russell has been over a 2-WAR player. Even 37-year-old Ben Zobrist is back to looking like his 2016 World Series MVP self. Kyle Schwarber is showing he’s not the guy we saw in the first half of 2017. Albert Almora is batting .319. Ian Happ has a .378 OBP. And Jason Heyward appears to be good again!
Honestly, the only reason I have the Cubs even this high is because of… Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo? The heck?
Bryant’s been out since June 22 due to a shoulder injury, an injury that probably explains why he only hit one homer for five weeks before landing on the disabled list. He returns Wednesday for the Cubs and hit two homers in a two-day minor league rehab stint, but we’ll have to see if he looks like the same guy in the majors over the next few weeks.
And Rizzo has looked way off this season (and really bad the last few games), with a .736 OPS. Rizzo’s been an .899-.928 OPS hitter in each of the previous four seasons, and that data means more than his numbers to this point of 2018 when projecting the rest of his season. But if the Cubs are very concerned about Rizzo’s production, and are also concerned about Bryant’s shoulder/power, pursuing Machado could make some sense. But odds are they keep their focus on pitching at the trade deadline.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
Now we’re at the teams that should make a real push for Machado, and by all accounts these teams have been doing so. There have been specific prospects mentioned in the reported dialogue between the Dodgers and Orioles, for example.
Source: #Orioles have mentioned Keibert Ruiz and Dustin May in talks with #Dodgers on a Manny Machado trade. (@BNightengale was first to link May and Baltimore.) L.A. is not likely to trade Ruiz for a rental. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 9, 2018
After a miserable start to the season and a myriad of injuries, the Dodgers find themselves just 1.5 games back of the Diamondbacks in the NL West and are still the favorites to win the division. They probably don’t *need* Machado to win the division and be a serious contender to reach the World Series in a wide-open National league.
But he’d certainly help, and he’d make them feel a bit better about surviving the season-ending injury to star shortstop Corey Seager (of course, *Max Muncy* has already made up for the expected production from Seager). Additionally, Yasiel Puig is expected to miss several weeks with an oblique strain and the Dodgers may now feel they’re a bat short. And acquiring Machado would of course prevent him from going to the Diamondbacks.
4. Atlanta Braves
Now we’re entering the surprising team territory, and these teams are surprises because they don’t have the proven talent on paper that the five teams already shown on this list do. And it’s possible regression hits, so acquiring a proven talent like Machado would help fight that regression.
The Braves have “arrived a year early” and are sporting a 50-40 record, one game back of the Phillies in the NL East (and 4.5 games ahead of the Nats). Their position players have been terrific, coming in at No. 5 in WAR on FanGraphs’ team rankings. They have promising young players in the rocket-armed Johan Camargo (third base) and former No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson (shortstop) on the left side of their infield, but Machado would provide a short-term upgrade on paper. You can understand the ascending Braves wanting to save their long term assets instead of going all-in for a rental, but they have a real playoff opportunity as well.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
For the second straight season, the Brewers are putting pressure on the NL Central-favorite Cubs in the first half of the season, with a 1.5-game advantage at the moment. Unlike last year (when they fell apart in the second half and finished with 86 wins), they really do appear to be a very good team this time around. But the FanGraphs and Five Thirty Eight projections still have Milwaukee four games behind the Cubs, and the Brewers should definitely look to improve their team in the coming weeks.
They should primarily be looking for starting pitching help, but the deGroms, Syndergaards, and Archers are probably unrealistic targets. So acquiring Machado to play shortstop over Tyler Saladino is another way to add a couple wins on paper.
But here’s where I’m concerned about this idea for the Brewers:
Milwaukee leads the majors in defensive runs saved (DRS) by a lot, at +78. Machado is dead last for DRS among shortstops at -20. It’s hard to determine how much the data really tells us over half a season of defense, and odds are Machado is at least better than *that* bad at shortstop. But Milwaukee’s elite defense — to this point — is arguably the main reason they’re 55-37, so do they really want to threaten making it much worse at a premium position? You could say, “Sure, because Machado will still hit the crap out of the ball,” but it’s a tough call.
It’s also unlikely that the Brewers would sign Machado in the offseason, so he’s probably just a rental and it may not be in their best interest to go all-in just yet.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are second on this list, but they would be first on my list of where I think Machado will sign in the offseason. Machado even recently talked about how much he likes what the Phillies have going on:
“They’re a good ballclub. They’re young, they’re hungry, they want to win,” Machado said of the Phillies. “They’ve been impressive.”
Machado added that he would not be surprised if the Phillies were aggressive in trying to land him.
“I know how [Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] works,” Machado said. “I’ve seen those guys work, and they’ve turned this organization around.”
Like their NL East rival Braves, the Phillies are in playoff contention a year or two earlier than anticipated. Philadelphia is led by an excellent starting rotation, but may need some more thump in their lineup (they’re 23rd in SLG at .394). Enter Manny Machado.
machado is still the top target for Phillies (they had a scout with o's last night) but they are targeting other infielders as backup plans
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 10, 2018
Machado could provide a short term upgrade at third base or shortstop for the Phillies (he keeps saying he’s a shortstop only, but you’d think he wouldn’t put up a fight if a contender trades for him and tells him where he’s playing), and it’s of course possible he turns into the long term answer for them.
It’s easy to see the Phillies doing what it takes to acquire Machado now, and then paying him what it takes in the winter to keep him in Philadelphia for many years.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks should do everything they can to acquire Manny Machado (having the necessary prospects could be a problem, but they need to at least try hard here).
After being 8.5 games up on the Dodgers in mid-may, Arizona now holds just a 1.5 game lead in the NL West. It quickly went from looking like the Dodgers could be dead to the Dodgers being NL West favorites again. Right now, FanGraphs projects the D-Backs for 86 wins and the Dodgers for 90 wins. Five Thirty Eight projects the D-Backs for 88 wins and the Dodgers for 89 wins. The computers still think the D-Backs have a legitimate shot to win the NL West, but are a little bit short.
Machado can be that difference, especially when you consider Arizona’s lackluster left side of the infield (21st in team shortstop fWAR, 19th in team third base fWAR).
And how many chances are the D-Backs going to get to catch the rich, usually-juggernaut Dodgers in the coming years? Paul Goldschmidt turns 31 in September. Zack Greinke turns 35 in October. A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin will be free agents in the offseason.
This is it. This is the opportunity. Even if the Dodgers turn it on and win the West, the D-Backs would still be an NL Wild Card favorite with Machado. And they would see a big boost in fan interest for the rest of the season. The reasons to go all-out to acquire Machado outweigh the reasons not to do it for Arizona.