What Would a Machado Trade Even Look Like?
The offseason has ground to a halt, which is to say that it was moving like molasses in January in the first place. The elephant in the room, at least as far as Orioles fans are concerned, is what will happen with star third baseman Manny Machado between now and next offseason’s free-agency bonanza.
It’s not exactly earth-shattering to suggest the Orioles could move Machado, and frankly, that might be the best course of action. They have the payroll room to extend him if he was interested in that conversation, but at this point, there’s not much of a reason for him to forego playing out the string and shopping his wares.
And even if the Orioles managed to sign Machado — this winter or next — there’s still the pesky idea of how to surround him with enough talent to seriously threaten a burgeoning New York Yankees roster and a Boston Red Sox team that’s always a tweak away from 95 wins and a deep October run. The Orioles are an oddly-crafted roster; one that has lots of assets in corners (Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis) and relievers (Zach Britton and Darren O’Day), but not enough up the middle to make up the difference.
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That’s not to say the Orioles aren’t talented up the middle. If Machado were to move back to short, Chance Sisco, Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones is at least an intriguing quartet, if nothing else. With that said, Sisco is unproven, Schoop needs to ward off regression concerns centering on his walk rate, and Machado and Jones are free agents after 2018.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that it doesn’t make sense to surround Machado with talent to make this an 84-win team — a nine-win improvement over last year — if the Orioles won’t have anything to show for it but a pair of so-so compensation picks when Manny and Jones leave. To that end, the Britton injury hurts as well; he too will be a free agent at year’s end, but there won’t be enough time for him to get healthy and provide either a significant enough difference to push the needle further in what’ll be a tight Wild Card race or to put enough on tape to get a significant trade return.
So it’s really a big mess, and to be frank, the best bet would be to trade him.
Of course, that’s also operating in a weird vacuum. It takes two to tango, and the Orioles rightly have placed a ton of value on Machado — he’s not only a terrific young player, but any team acquiring him for a full year can slap a qualifying offer on him if no extension is reached — and teams are leery of paying what Baltimore wants in return.
What it’s amounting to is an epic stare down in a winter full of them.
The other weird dynamic is Baltimore’s alleged unwillingness to move him within the division, or allow a negotiation window for the acquiring team to work on an extension. The latter is certainly strange, but not dealing him in the division really doesn’t make any sense.
Trading Machado effectively waves the white flag on 2018 for the Orioles. Regardless of who Machado plays for, he can sign wherever he chooses of his own volition a year from now — even in the AL East, if he’s that vengeful or let’s be honest, the Yankees/Red Sox/Blue Jays are just flat the highest bidder.
It’s a weird dynamic, but near as I can tell from this distance (Minnesota), it’s pretty emblematic of how Peter Angelos does business. For this exercise, we’ll pretend he isn’t part of the deal, and can’t scuttle any move we make in the division.
Which teams can actually consummate a deal for Machado in terms of assets, and what would it look like? I’m glad you asked:
Boston Red Sox
For the Red Sox, I enlisted the help of Evan Drellich, whose work can be found on NBC Sports Boston as well as WEEI radio.
“So this is speculative more than anything,” Drellich said. “But, I don’t think it ever happens for those two reasons you named.” Drellich is referring to me saying the obvious caveats are the Orioles’ hesitancy to allow a negotiating window, along with their disdain for in-division trading, especially of a player this caliber.
“If it’s only one year of Machado with no negotiating window, I think the Orioles asking price has to be lined up with that reality,” Drellich continued. “The Orioles would have to zero in on one — or two or three? maybe different tiers? — of the prospects they like rather than say, Xander Bogaerts, or one of the other established Sox players who have more than a year left. I just don’t see the Red Sox giving up two, three years of one of those kids for one year of Machado. I could be wrong on that.”
Ultimately, Drellich concluded, it’s not likely the Red Sox will subtract from their MLB roster in a move for Machado.
“But if it’s a win-now move, which it would be, then the cost has to help the win-now effort, not hurt it by detracting from current major league team. The Sox would also have to be willing to mortgage more of their future and that’s a tough sell too. (It’s a) tough sell all around.”
For the record, I tend to agree. It’s hard to find a fit on this roster with Bogaerts and Rafael Devers as in-house options, and it’s virtually impossible to imagine the Sox trading them.
New York Yankees
For the Yankees, we caught up with Mike Axisa of CBS Sports and River Avenue Blues.
“The Yankees won’t trade (Gleyber) Torres, so it would have to be built around some combination of (Clint) Frazier, (Chance) Adams, and (Justus) Sheffield,” Axisa said. “The Orioles supposedly want pitching, and the Yankees have a ton of lower-level arms to use as third and fourth pieces in a trade.”
If the Orioles could get past their obsession about not moving Machado within the division, the Yankees would actually make for a great fit. The MLB.com top-30 prospect list for the Yankees is loaded with pitching, and that’s even after considering the team dealt Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Twins in the Jaime Garcia deal. Axisa didn’t even mention Domingo Acevedo, Albert Abreu, Freicer Perez or Matt Sauer — and that’s just the names in the top-10 of the Yankees list. Dillon Tate is an intriguing lottery ticket, and overall, the Yankees have 18 pitchers among their top-30 prospects.
This would be a great fit, not only from a positional-need standpoint — something teams typically shy away from unless there’s a good match — but also a quality point of view. Alas, again this is probably unlikely, though it makes a bit more sense with third and second base a bit in flux. Torres is going to be the man at one of those spots eventually, while Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar can fight over what’s left — most likely third base at least in Andujar’s case — but these are the kinds of players easily shoved aside to make room for a guy like Machado.
Chicago White Sox
As far as the White Sox go, I caught up with Dan Hayes, who is currently a free agent but spent this past season covering the team for CSN Chicago.
“Start with (Lucas) Giolito or (Reynaldo) Lopez and then add another good arm, I think. I’m not sure. I don’t think the Sox would pay that much for a one-year guy.”
Frankly, the White Sox haven’t made much sense from the outset, and with Yoan Moncada completely off the table, it’s going to be hard to find a good fit. There are some really, really intriguing prospects atop their list — pitcher Michael Kopech and outfielders Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford — but a one-year audition with a rebuilding Sox team just doesn’t make any sense. They’ll probably be worse than the Orioles this year — with or without Machado.
Matt Trueblood is a fountain of wisdom for all things Cubs, and his work can be found on Baseball Prospectus as well as his personal newsletter, Penning Bull.
“It’d start with (Addison) Russell,” Trueblood said. “Then throw Mike Montgomery in there, and the negotiation would come down to the Cubs offering an Eddie Butler as a buy-low project or Jose Albertos as a far-off dream, while the O’s would try to dig in and demand Adbert Alzolay or Thomas Hatch as something more comfortably in the middle. Probably it’d be more of the Butler (or Alec Mills) type.”
A deal centered around a shortstop makes a lot of sense for the Orioles, though reading between the lines on Trueblood’s Twitter timeline suggests it wouldn’t be Javier Baez, who is an exciting, up-and-coming player and one of the finest defenders at short. With that said, he hasn’t played shortstop exclusively due to the existence/emergence of Russell, who took a bit of a step back personally and professionally in 2017.
Nonetheless, that move to shortstop probably wouldn’t come if the Cubs traded for Machado either, because that would mean Manny is manning short with Kris Bryant at third base. When’s the last time a team had this good of a left side of the infield? A-Rod and Derek Jeter? Probably. It’s too bad Nolan Arenado never played with a fully healthy Troy Tulowitzki.
Anyway, the rest of this deal is kind of…..meh. Butler and Montgomery aren’t terribly intriguing — but take a look at the rest of the Orioles rotation, and they have some appeal for sure — and the prospects listed are good, but more atop the Cubs list because their system has graduated and traded so many players more than anything.
This would make for one hell of a story — but it probably won’t happen.
St. Louis Cardinals
Aha. Now we might be onto something.
Here we caught up with Craig Edwards, who does fine work over at Fangraphs and also runs SBNation’s Cardinals site, Viva El Birdos.
“It’s hard to know what the Orioles want,” Edwards said. “My guess is something like (Jack) Flaherty, (Randal) Grichuk and (Jordan) Hicks — but I think that price is probably too high for Cardinals.”
It’s an interesting thought. Flaherty is the team’s No. 3 prospect, but that plays up due to the fact that he’s an MLB-ready asset who saw some work (21.1 innings, 6.33 ERA) with the big club last year. He’s going to possibly leaned on heavily this upcoming season with Adam Wainwright’s future in the air and Lance Lynn, at least not for now, not coming back.
The team website lists the current rotation as:
1. Carlos Martinez
2. Michael Wacha
3. Adam Wainwright
4. Miles Mikolas
5. Luke Weaver
6. Jack Flaherty
“(Jedd) Gyorko, Grichuk and (Dakota) Hudson probably isn’t enough,” Edwards said. “But it’s likely closer to what Cardinals might offer. Maybe Hicks, Hudson and Grichuk. I just don’t see the Cardinals giving up a 2018 rotation piece plus unless they had plans to add another starter.”
And maybe that’s where Lynn could come back if the price is right. It’s still too early to know where the market will lie for the non-Yu Darvish starters, but it does seem as though the big payday prospects of those guys have dimmed a bit.
It’s at least something to think about. If the Cardinals can sign another pitcher and flip an MLB-ready youngster plus some prospects to the Orioles, is that enough for you to move Machado?
Let us know in the forums!