7 Teams In The Running For Machado
As we approach the All-Star break, the Manny Machado rumor mill party is picking up the pace. On Saturday, Eduardo Encino of the Baltimore Sun reported that seven teams have made offers for the Orioles’ star.
The report cited an unnamed source (general manager Dan Duquette?), who even ranked the offers in order of appeal, though the source couched that the offers are “very close.”
That order is: Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs.
This is a fascinating list, a mix of big and medium-to-small market teams, all of them contending – some of them with each other, actually. The first two teams on the list are battling each other in the NL West. The Brewers and Cubs are duking it out in the NL Central, and the Phillies and Braves are essentially tied in the NL East. The oddity here is the Indians, who are not remotely threatened in the AL Central, though they would face a murderer’s row of heavyweights in the AL playoffs in the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros.
Let’s take a brief look at each of these teams and try to glean whether each is a good fit for the Orioles.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have shaken off their World Series hangover, pushed themselves back into the race and are now in a neck-and-neck battle with the D-backs (with the Rockies and Giants still lurking).
While we don’t know who the Dodgers offered the Orioles, we do know that they have not offered top-prospect outfielder Alex Verdugo or pitcher Yadier Alvarez. That fits right in with their history under the guidance of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, who have resisted dealing their top prospects in favor of lesser deals and building organizational depth. It’s a strategy that has yet to yield a championship, however, and I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that last fall’s epic seven-game World Series would have ended differently if Justin Verlander had been wearing Dodger blue instead of Astro orange.
Even so, I don’t see the Dodgers changing their strategy now and would be shocked to see Verdugo head to Baltimore – especially for a rental (this will be a common theme).
The good news is that the Dodgers have a top-10 farm system even after having back-to-back NL Rookies of the Year in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, so there are plenty of other players to choose from. They also have loads of cash to entice Machado to re-sign after the season – though the potential opt-out of Clayton Kershaw does complicate matters.
The bad news? The Dodgers don’t necessarily need offense – only the Cubs and Braves have scored more runs among NL teams, and only the Cubs have a better OPS+ of 105. What the Dodgers really need is starting pitching.
L.A.’s involvement here seems more like an effort to make things as difficult as possible for the Diamondbacks than anything else.
Speaking of which …
What an interesting season it’s been for the D-backs, who have so far survived a wave of injuries and a slow start by star Paul Goldschmidt to stay atop the NL West. The reason, in part, is that their pitching has been outstanding. Arizona trails only Houston in ERA+ (125) and are fourth in MLB in runs allowed/game (3.79). The bullpen has been especially good. Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano, T.J. McFarland and Andrew Chafin have all been outstanding, each with an ERA+ over 200.
The D-backs figure to be a strong candidate for Machado. They have already shown a willingness to dive into the rental waters, having brought on J.D. Martinez last season, and they know their championship window might be brief with A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin hitting free agency after this season, and Goldschmidt doing the same after 2019.
And Arizona, while not having a top farm system, could probably put together a package to entice the Orioles, including top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier. It should be noted that Duplantier has struggled with injuries and comes out of Rice University, which doesn’t have the best reputation regarding protecting pitcher health. (Keith Law writes that he “wouldn’t tell any young pitcher to go to Rice…”).
Would the Orioles be willing to ship Machado West for a package of Duplantier, right-hander Taylor Widener (their No. 4 prospect, per MLB pipeline) and infielder Ketel Marte? It feels like there is a potential deal to be made here.
Reports from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman suggest that the Brewers might be more in tire-kicking mode at this point, but you never know where things could go from here. The Brewers certainly have a need, sporting an OPS+ of just 91 and getting very little out of the shortstop position until recently opting for a combination of Brad Miller/Nate Orf/Tyler Saladino over Orlando Arcia. Machado would obviously be a huge upgrade there.
What would the Orioles want in return? I’m sure that former top prospect Arcia could be had, though you have to be concerned about his recent struggles even though he is still only 23. They don’t have a top 10 farm system, and their top prospect according to MLB Pipeline is second baseman Keston Hiura, currently hitting .297 in Double-A. They also possess a couple of right-handers in their top 5, Corbin Burnes and Luis Ortiz. This feels like a long shot, but the Brewers are a solid fit for the Orioles and they do have a history of going for it when they have the chance. See: Sabathia, CC; Greinke, Zack.
The most recent reports have the Phillies moving on from Machado talks. It could be mere grandstanding, or perhaps not, but the surprising Phillies are in a virtual tie for first with the Braves, sitting five games ahead of the favored Washington Nationals.
The Phillies’ offense has been fairly average, and the left side of the infield has been a weak spot, with third baseman Maikel Franco still laboring to fulfill the promise of his breakout in 2015-16, and Scott Kingery yet to hit his stride.
The Phillies have a healthy stockpile of prospects, having entered the season with the No. 5 farm system, including six players ranked in the top 100. One of those is Kingery and I have a hard time envisioning the Phillies parting with him. But they do have shortstop J.P. Crawford and two top pitching prospects in Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina. The downside? Sanchez and Medina are at high-A Clearwater, so perhaps not as big-league ready as the Orioles would prefer.
The Phillies look like a solid match for a Machado deal. It’s just a matter of whether or not they can find a package that meets the Orioles’ asking price.
The Braves have been mentioned as a Machado candidate in the past so it makes sense that they are among the seven listed, especially considering the surprisingly rapid success of their rebuild. It also makes sense for the Braves to go for it now as the division seems imminently winnable and they have a top-5 farm system with which to dangle prospects.
But when you consider the long-term situation, a deal for Machado makes less sense. Would the Braves give up on shortstop Dansby Swanson, who is only 24 and showing improved power? Would they part with third baseman Johan Camargo, who is also 24 and sporting a 118 OPS+?
Yes, six of the Braves’ top seven prospects are pitchers, yet Jon Paul Morosi reports that a package of two of them – Ian Anderson and Max Fried – would be a non-starter as the Braves might have them pegged for needed late-season bullpen roles.
In the end, Machado feels more like a luxury than a need for the Braves and they are likely keeping contact just in case a palatable deal for them makes sense.
Brandon already did a great job making a case for a deal with Cleveland, so I won’t go too deep on that here. I will say that a Machado deal would be an incredibly bold move by the Indians, who have a great offense and solid pitching, yet trail their fellow AL heavyweights in New York, Boston and Houston in both categories.
Of course Machado would have to be willing to play third – he’s not going to move Francisco Lindor off shortstop – with Jose Ramirez moving to second. He’d also likely be a rental for Cleveland, which would mute the return Baltimore would receive. This feels similar to the Atlanta situation, in which the other side is staying in the mix in case a Godfather offer surfaces, but remains a long shot.
The Cubs have been floating around out there for a while now as a potential destination for Machado. And while their minor league system isn’t what it used to be, they’re enticing to Orioles followers given the major league talent that could potentially head Baltimore’s way.
The Cubs’ infield is already pretty stacked with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo. So while the assumption is that Russell would be included in a Machado deal, it seems unlikely the Cubs would deal a player who is two-years younger than Machado, under club control through 2020 and having his best big-league season to date.
If anything, the Cubs need to shore up the back end of their rotation, which is a mess with Yu Darvish’s health problems and Tyler Chatwood’s effectiveness problems.
Logically, the Cubs have put themselves on this list mainly to drive up the price for their division rivals in Milwaukee, sort of like the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. But never underestimate Theo Epstein when it comes to these matters.
Bob Harkins is a former editor and writer for Time Warner Cable Sports in Los Angeles, where he helped cover the Dodgers and Lakers. Prior to that, he was a senior editor and writer for NBCSports.com, leading the site’s coverage of Major League Baseball for nine seasons. He always believed that Major League catcher was the toughest job in sports -- until he wrote a series on professional rodeo cowboys. Talk about tough!