It’s Time to Find Manny Machado a New Home
It might have been over before it started, but now it’s definitely over.
The Orioles cruised into Wednesday’s action 9-27, 17 games out of first place and sinking faster than quicksand in a division that the Yankees and Red Sox are clearly the class of. The Yankees have been piping hot of late, but they’re no flash in the pan. They’re going to win 100 games.
The Red Sox aren’t bad either — Wednesday night meltdown notwithstanding. Maybe they win somewhere around 100 games, too. The Fangraphs projected standings have the Yankees finishing 101-61 and the Red Sox just three games off that pace.
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What that means, however, is that someone will have to play the little brother in the most brutal division in baseball. That’s right, it’s your Baltimore Orioles.
They’re just one of four teams with quadruple zeroes in terms of odds on Fangraphs as far as winning the division or wild card, making the playoffs or *gasp* winning the World Series. The other teams are the Chicago White Sox (9-25 entering Wednesday), Miami Marlins (13-23) and the Cincinnati Reds (10-27).
All three of those teams have taken the approach the Orioles must now embrace — strip it to the studs and start over.
The Orioles have the one thing those other teams don’t, however — Manny Machado. Sure, the Reds have Joey Votto, but he’s signed for like the next decade. The Marlins literally have no defining face of the franchise other than Derek Jeter, the evil wizard calling the shots behind the curtain. The Chicago White Sox have Jose Abreu who is probably worth something, but they also fancy him as a good mentor for fellow countryman Yoan Moncada as the latter finds his way in the big leagues.
Machado was ripe to be dealt from the outset, but at this point, it’s time for someone to pluck him before he becomes overripe. Despite the team’s struggles, Machado has been absolutely brilliant. He came into Wednesday hitting .346/.432/.617, and at the tender age of 25 — 26 in July, I suppose — he’s ready to cash in big time this offseason.
The Orioles could hold out for the highest bidder, but it’s possible things won’t get better in Baltimore. If they keep losing, they run the risk of Machado backing them into a corner with a trade demand. Of course, that’s not to say they wouldn’t still bring back plenty in a trade, but it can dampen the enthusiasm of the acquiring team to offer their top package in a deal.
But there’s no chance Machado makes it to the offseason in Orioles orange. He’s worth more to the Orioles than the pick that comes back with a qualifying offer, and even as a rental, he’d bring back enough pieces to jump-start a revival at Camden Yards.
The Orioles can part this thing out and still get something for Brad Brach, Zach Britton and hell, maybe even Adam Jones. Don’t hold your breath on the last one. But those are small potatoes compared to Machado, who is the entire state of Idaho in this analogy.
So who makes sense for Machado?
Los Angeles Dodgers
They’d have to be the favorites in the clubhouse, and it isn’t just because Corey Seager is out for the year. In addition to their need at shortstop, they’re the only team to get less production from their third basemen (62 wRC+) than the Orioles have this year (72).
The Dodgers have intriguing minor leaguers coming out of their ears, and pretty much anything the Orioles could covet no matter the position. There’s really no compelling reason to believe a deal couldn’t get done. The Dodgers came into Wednesday with a 15-20 record and in fourth place in the NL West. Clayton Kershaw just went on the disabled list.
Are the shirt cuffs getting a little tight around Chavez Ravine?
Call it what you want, a rental or a strategic addition with the potential for a negotiating window. But Gabe Kapler has the Phillies in contention — granted, just 35 games into the season and behind the Braves (!) of all teams — despite no production at shortstop (65 wRC+). How much might the Orioles like J.P. Crawford and/or Maikel Franco as return pieces?
Franco has already played in five MLB seasons — he’s controlled through the 2021 season — and looks to be back near his 2015 form. There’s also no shortage of really, really intriguing prospects on the farm for the Phillies, including Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, Mickey Moniak, Franklyn Kilome and many others.
Sure, the Phillies would probably prefer to wait until the offseason and just throw the money at Machado with only a draft pick going in the other direction, but opening the contention window with gusto isn’t the worst idea, either. Even if they aren’t in on Machado now, the Phillies are a team to watch this winter.
Few teams possess the young offensive talent the Braves have, and that was true even before Ronald Acuna Jr. announced his arrival in a big way over the last dozen or so games. An infield of Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Machado? It’d be hard to come up with a better one in recent memory.
Ryan Flaherty is off to a good start and youngster Johan Camargo is in the mix, but c’mon. Let’s be serious here.
St. Louis Cardinals
Shortstop has been fairly productive for the Cards (122 wRC+), but third base has been a collective sore spot as the team has combined to get just .192/.322/.374 production to this point in the season (96 wRC+). If the Cardinals were willing to center a package around Jack Flaherty or Alex Reyes, it’d be hard to imagine something not getting done.
The AL Central has been a tickle fight to this point, but the Indians can put the stamp on what might be their final run toward the World Series by nabbing Machado while moving Jose Ramirez to second base and letting Jason Kipnis fight for playing time between the infield and outfield.
The following Indians are free agents at the end of the season: Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall and Zach McAllister. That’s not exactly the kind of talent that got away from Kansas City this offseason — then again, Mike Moustakas came back — but it’d be hard to overcome that moving forward if the Twins continue to progress.
It feels like a longshot, but it would be the shot in the arm the Tribe needs.
New York Yankees
The Yankees feel like the elephant in the room in this situation, but they have a stacked farm system and no real pressing needs. Miguel Andujar has done a fine job — though his on-base skills leave a bit to be desired — and this team has the makings of a sure-fire pennant-winner with Machado on the roster.
Would the Orioles trade him within the division? Would the Yankees try to acquire him in advance of his free agency? The answer to both of those seems like no — though it’s worth noting they should probably both actually be yes — but until Machado is moved, the Yankees have to be considered among the possibilities.
Is it impossible to think someone else could get involved? Not really, though it seems pretty unlikely. Toronto has a hole at shortstop after Troy Tulowitzki got hurt, but it’s hard to imagine them hanging around in a tough division. The Mariners and Angels don’t really feel like fits, nor do the Nationals, Cubs or Diamondbacks to this point. Could the Brewers be the dark horse here?
That’s probably the team everyone is sleeping on. They’ve gotten absolutely dismal production from shortstop this year — seriously, an MLB-worst wRC+ of 24 — but is it really worth shoving aside Orlando Arcia for a temporary fix? Or might Arcia be part of the deal, along with some surplus outfield help and some prospects?
It’s hard to say. But the one team we wouldn’t sleep on down the list would be the Brew Crew, who so far have been able to go toe-to-toe with the class of the NL Central without backing down.
Warne is a Minnesota Twins beat reporter for 105 The Ticket's Cold Omaha website as well as a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. He also contributes to FanGraphs / RotoGraphs.