A Chicago Sun-Times report came out yesterday (May 8th) that said the Cubs would be pursuing Manny Machado via trade over the next few weeks. I don’t doubt the validity of the report—the Cubs are in the middle of their contention cycle and seeking a return to the World Series and the Orioles are decidedly out of the playoff picture despite the fact that we are just a month and change into the regular season—but I am confused as to why the Cubs, not the Dodgers are the first team to be linked to the Orioles’ star infielder.
For starters, the Dodgers would make the most sense for a Machado landing spot prior to the July trade deadline. Shortly after Dodgers SS Corey Seager was placed on the DL for the rest of the season due to a torn UCL, Machado to the Dodgers was floated around by MLB Trade Rumors and other websites. The Dodgers, however very clearly indicated that they preferred to go with in-house options a la Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez, at least in the short run. Taylor and Hernandez are by no means bad ballplayers (Taylor owns a .271/.333/.471 triple-slash with 27 HR in just over 200 games with the Dodgers and Hernandez owns a just-about-league-average .232/.310/.413 triple-slash in just over 350 games with the club), but neither is going to lead the Dodgers to the World Series.
There are not many players in baseball who will be able to replace Seager’s production; the 24-year-old is the owner of a .302/.372/.494 triple-slash with 54 HR in 355 games. Manny Machado is one of the few.
Machado has a .282/.333/.482 career triple-slash line in just under 800 games for the Orioles. During his career in Charm City, he has knocked 147 HR (that’s a 162-game average of 30) and played fewer than 156 games just once (save for his rookie season when he was called up mid-year) in his seven-year career. The Miami native is also just 25 years old (he turns 26 in July) but that is rendered irrelevant by the fact that he will be a free agent at season’s end if he does not sign a long-term extension with the Orioles or whatever team lands him in a trade. So Machado’s contract, not his age, would be more of a deterrent in a potential trade.
Getting a star player as a short-term rental is typically a turn-off to teams because the team that gets the star typically has to surrender significant prospect capital for just half a season of a player. The Dodgers, though, have demonstrated that they are not averse to half-season rentals; last year the team acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers for the team’s #4 prospect, Willie Calhoun, and two other lower-level prospects (A.J. Alexy, a projectable right-handed pitcher, and Brendon Davis, an also-projectable infielder). This is not a huge package to give up for Darvish, but losing an organizational top-five prospect is never a cheap price to pay for a rental.
This brings me to the Dodgers acquiring Machado. It would certainly take more than the Darvish package to acquire Machado, but that should not deter the Dodgers, who have one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball. MinorLeagueBall.com ranks the Dodgers’ system as #10 overall which indicates that they can afford to lose a little bit of minor league talent to improve the MLB roster and bring the team back to the World Series.
Putting Together a Package for Machado
What would the Dodgers need to give up to get Machado? This is a difficult question to answer because the price is going to be somewhat market-dependent. Machado will obviously be a target for many teams prior to the trade deadline, but if teams with deeper farm systems (think Yankees) don’t pony up and make offers for Machado, that will severely limit the upside of a potential package heading back to Baltimore. If the Yankees do make a push for Machado to bolster their roster for the playoffs, though, a bidding war for the Baltimore infielder could very likely ensue.
At the very least it seems that the Dodgers will have to give up at least one of Mitchell White, Yadier Alvarez, or Dennis Santana, the top three pitching prospects in the team’s system. Unfortunately for whoever ends up going to Baltimore, the Orioles have an absolutely awful track record with developing pitching talent.
I’m not saying that being shipped to Baltimore is a death sentence for any of these pitchers, but the Orioles are notoriously awful at developing pitching prospects. Jake Arrieta, Andrew Miller, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Josh Hader are just a handful of pitchers who were unimpressive with the Orioles and then blossomed into reliable starters/relievers with other teams. Arrieta is the most notable example of the group though Rodriguez has been more than serviceable during his tenure with the Red Sox, and the latter two pitchers have developed into lights-out relievers.
In addition to one of the aforementioned arms (White, Alvarez, and Santana), the Orioles with probably ask for a solid infield prospect and another lower-level guy. Ryan Mountcastle, the Orioles’ #2 prospect, is a third baseman but could likely make the move to second fairly easily should any acquisition necessitate it. Gavin Lux and Cristian Santana are both infielders at the Dodgers High-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga, with the former being a middle infielder and the latter being a third baseman. Lux has drawn mixed reviews with his bat but the consensus is that he will end up at the very least a good defensive second baseman. Questions still remain with the bat.
Cristian Santana, on the other hand, is more of an offensive threat. That is not to say he will be a big league slugger, but he has solid raw power from the right side and should be an average player in all facets as a third baseman.
Beyond one player from each of the above groups, it is nearly impossible to predict what the Orioles will ask for. Baltimore could probably net another prospect or two outside the Dodgers’ top 30 but whoever is shipped to Baltimore with a pitcher and an infielder is going to be far off from the majors.
If adding two more lower level guys (note the fact that I used “guys” and not “prospects”…it shouldn’t take a ton more beyond the players I mentioned above) to the deal gets Machado to Los Angeles, the Dodgers should jump at the opportunity. Adding Machado to a Dodgers lineup that already features Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner (who will return soon), Yasiel Puig, and Alex Verdugo (who might I add, is unlikely to be moved this deadline considering that the Dodgers do not exactly have a surfeit of big-league ready outfielders to replace him) would be lethal. Machado would easily slot in at SS which would allow the Dodgers to deploy the aforementioned Chris Taylor in the outfield, should they so choose.
Additionally, the Dodgers would have a shot at extending Machado. It’s unlikely, especially because Machado has indicated that he wants to “test the waters” at the very least, but if there is a team who has the funds to make it happen, it’s the Dodgers. And even if LA can’t make a Machado extension happen, adding Machado would likely make the Dodgers instant favorites to repeat as National League champions. Anything in addition to that is just icing on the cake.
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