Manny Machado will be one of the hottest free agents on the market once the 2018 Major League Baseball season comes to a close.
The Baltimore Orioles’ infielder is batting .306 on the season with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs and certainly is making his case for a big contract for the 2019 campaign.
O’s general manager Dan Duquette has made it clear Machado will test the free agency market come winter, regardless if he’s on the Baltimore roster or not. With the MLB trade deadline a month-and-a-half away, it’s possible the 25-year-old will don a new uniform before this season comes to a close.
But Duquette said even if Machado is traded, there’s no guarantee he will stay where he ends up.
“I think any team that would be interested in Manny would do so knowing he’s a rental,” Duquette said, via Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “I don’t think any team would go into something like that without that reality.”
The free agent class will be loaded heading into the offseason, with names like Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz, to name a few. And while Machado could provide solid defense at either third base or shortstop to a team who may need short-term help at either position, he likely will go where the money takes him come winter.
There’s always the possibility he will stay put for the remainder of the campaign. Last season, teams thought the asking price was too high for Machado, so we’ll just have to wait and see where he ends up come July.
Daydream on this potential Red Sox lineup. Go ahead, I won’t stop you. It would be the relentless kind that leads to many parades – around the bases, and in perhaps in October, deliriously through the city streets:
RF Mookie Betts
LF Andrew Benintendi
DH J.D. Martinez
3B Manny Machado
1B Mitch Moreland
SS Xander Bogaerts
2B Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia
CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (He’s going to go on a tear any day now, honest)
C Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez
Even with the weaknesses at the bottom of the lineup (I’m starting to think Bradley’s annual torrid six weeks when he hits like his buddy Mookie isn’t coming this year), that lineup would be what Theo Epstein liked to call a run-scoring machine when talking about those explosive early 2000s Red Sox lineups.
Looking at that lineup on paper (or the screened device of choice, I suppose) is almost enough to make a Red Sox fan want it to happen. The speculation, via The Athletic’s trustworthy and informed baseball writer Ken Rosenthal, that the Red Sox could be positioned to make a blockbuster offer for Orioles star Manny Machado, is impossible to resist at face value.
Machado, who turns 26 next month, is one of the best dozen players in baseball, and that might not be giving him enough credit. He’s basically the infield version of Mookie Betts, with a .957 OPS and 18 homers for the wretched Orioles this season.
He’s a free-agent-to-be, and Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette, whose club is 27.5 games out of first place in the American League is and 29 games below .500, should be fired on the grounds of incompetence if he doesn’t get all he can for him soon. There’s a case to fire him on those grounds anyway, but still, he’s got a chance to add one more great trade to his resume.
Would it be a surprise if Rosenthal is onto something and the Red Sox did get in on the bidding? Well, it certainly sounds like something Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski would at least ponder doing, doesn’t it? He’s going to have an interesting Hall of Fame case as an executive when his career is done, and that career has largely been built on his willingness to swing a mega-deal.
Looking at that potent what-if of a lineup card, it’s understandable why Red Sox fans would be excited by the thought of Machado joining Betts, Martinez, Bogaerts, and the rapidly ascending Benintendi in that lineup. They might score 1,000 runs even with the catcher/Bradley dead weight at the bottom.
The problem is that it makes sense for the Red Sox only in a daydream. It’s possible to be excited about the idea of acquiring Machado while also recognizing such a deal is painfully shortsighted. There are too many variables and consequences that strongly suggest how foolhardy it would be.
First, it would cost Rafael Devers, the Red Sox’ 21-year-old third baseman. And the thought of including him – an elite prospect currently struggling for a team with championship aspirations — along with presumably other remnants of a once-fruitful farm system, for one of the best players in baseball has to be percolating in Dombrowski’s mind.
Devers, so precociously excellent at the plate last year after his call-up, is struggling. He has 10 homers, so the power is there, but he’s hitting just .238 with a .698 OPS. And his defense remains a work of moderate progress.
His struggles are not alarming. Devers rocketed through the minors – at this point last year he was a Sea Dog – and as Aroldis Chapman knows, he has proven he can hit a major league fastball. Small sample-size fun: He actually had a higher OPS in the majors last year than Machado. He’s going to be a terrific player. It’s simply his turn to adjust.
Virtually every young player of considerable talent endures this. Consider: At Devers’s age, Machado hit 12 homers and drove in 32 runs in 82 games for the Orioles before suffering a knee injury that ended his second season. Another example: Adrian Beltre hit .270 with 15 homers at age 20 in his first full season with the Dodgers. He grew into one of the most likable and accomplished players of his era.
The only way the Red Sox could make a deal for Machado without including Devers is if they included Benintendi. That would be, to put it kindly, idiotic beyond belief. He’s having a season (.931 OPS, 12 homers, 47 RBIs) nearly as dynamic as Machado’s. Benintendi cannot be a free agent until 2023, while Machado can be in four months. Anyone who suggests that as a logical possibility is either trolling you or ought to be in concussion protocol. Maybe both.
The bigger variables and consequences involve the long-term roster and salary structure. Because the Red Sox’ best prospects of recent seasons have either graduated to the majors or been traded for established stars in mostly successful deals, the farm system is thin. Perhaps they restocked it in the recent draft in which they focused on college players with their early picks, but the reality is that the Red Sox need some cost-controlled talent on their roster.
J.D. Martinez has a nine-figure deal. As you may have heard, so does David Price. Chris Sale is up after next year. Bogaerts is up in two years, Betts in 2021, and both are going to start making big annual salaries soon in arbitration. Betts, if he stays healthy, is going to be at least a $300 million player, and he’s shown no inclination so far to take a discount, nor should he.
There’s more. Craig Kimbrel is in his walk year. So is Joe Kelly. The Sox are shedding some bad money (is anyone going to sign Hanley Ramirez?), but not as much as it seems – Pablo Sandoval is still on the books for approximately $19 million next year, and Dustin Pedroia is under contract through 2021.
The suggestion that Machado, just months from a free-agent jackpot and the chance to live and play where he desires, would sign a long-term deal upon coming here is wishful to the extreme. That’s not happening. The Red Sox need cost-controlled young regulars the next couple of years to balance things. Benintendi is one. So is Devers.
So you’d have Machado for three months. You have Devers under control for 5.5 years. That matters, especially with the Red Sox already past the $197 million luxury tax threshold and in serious danger of going $40 million or more over, which would lead to the incurrence of a 42.5 percent tax and their next first-round draft pick being lowered by 10 spots.
That is a staggering price, and one I cannot imagine they would ever be willing to pay. There has to be more context to it than looking at two players at different stages of their career and saying “Gimme the star now!’’ without considering all of the other crucial big-picture factors.
Perhaps Machado would be the difference between winning the AL East and playing in the wild card, or the difference between winning a playoff round and winning the World Series. But there are too many what-ifs and maybes here, too many long-term fallouts and effects.
When all are considered, it’s clear. Devers is too much to give up for a rental, even a rental of Machado’s magnitude. If the Red Sox are going to win it all – and at 48-22, they’re currently on a 111-win pace with what they have – they’re going to have to do it without the assistance of a blockbuster deadline deal.
Sorry, no Machado for you. But hey, at least this doesn’t ruin my baseball daydream: How about picking up Beltre at the deadline from the faltering Rangers for relative cheap? Here’s to that one becoming reality.
What if, and bear with me here, Manny Machado wasn’t dealt for prospects?Nick Wass/Associated Press
Let’s get weird.
With Major League Baseball trade proposals, that is.
With the July 31 trade deadline getting closer every day, ’tis the season for such activity. But the goal here is to forgo the usual trade proposals—i.e., Prospects X, Y and Z for Star Player Man—in favor of ones that are more interesting.
These are thought experiments that are wildly unlikely to come true, and yet just plausible enough to slide into the file marked “Maybe.”
We have five to get to, each of which is wilder than the last.
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Although he hasn’t even been back with the team for half a season yet, it’s safe to say that the New York Mets made a mistake when they re-signed Jay Bruce for three years, $39 million.
For one thing, his OPS is down to .636. And with Yoenis Cespedes set to return from the disabled list, Bruce’s presence threatens to create a playing-time crunch that could cost Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo at-bats they deserve.
At this point, the Mets’ only hope of trading Bruce is in a bad contract swap. Such deals are tough to make.
However, they might be able to work something out if they call the Kansas City Royals about Ian Kennedy.
The veteran right-hander is slipping further from grace in the third year of a five-year, $70 million contract, as he has a 5.58 ERA since the start of 2017. To boot, his contract is backloaded. He’s making $16 million this year and has $31 million due through 2019 and 2020.
By contrast, Bruce is making only $11 million this year and $28 million over the next two years. The Royals would therefore save some money if they swapped Kennedy for Bruce.
For the Mets, simply opening up unfettered playing time for Conforto and Nimmo would be worth the extra cost. As a bonus, a move from the American League to the National League could turn Kennedy into a reliable innings-eater that the Mets starting rotation sorely needs.
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As No. 4 starters go, the Cleveland Indians have a darn good one in Mike Clevinger. He has a 3.56 ERA in 43 starts since 2016.
Trouble is, a good No. 4 starter is a mere luxury for the Indians. They have a need for a good bat in their outfield, and an even bigger need for a shutdown arm for a bullpen that has an MLB-worst 5.93 ERA.
Cleveland has another problem regarding its trade chips. Among the organization’s best prospects is one that’s slumping (catcher Francisco Mejia) and one that’s hurt (right-hander Triston McKenzie).
Because Clevinger is 27 and under club control through 2022, the Indians might be able to sell him to a team that needs an impact starter in the bush more than an impact reliever it has in hand.
For their consideration: the San Diego Padres and Adam Cimber.
He’s a 27-year-old rookie submariner who’s pitched in 26 games and put up a 2.84 ERA over 31.2 innings, with 39 strikeouts and six walks. According to FanGraphs WAR, he’s the fourth-best reliever in the National League.
But as valuable as Cimber is, the Padres’ primary concern should be establishing a foundation for their rotation of the future. Capitalizing on Cimber’s supercharged value in a trade for Clevinger would do the trick.
Cleveland would be getting sorely needed support for Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and Clevinger’s spot could be easily filled with Shane Bieber or Adam Plutko.
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In light of their NL-best plus-90 run differential, the Chicago Cubs might get away with doing nothing this trade season.
And yet, they could use help for a rotation that’s been banged up and ineffective. The tricky part is how they can get one. Their farm system wasn’t good to begin with, and many of its alleged best players have struggled in 2018.
So, they might have to trade Ian Happ.
In following up last year’s .842 OPS with an .836 OPS this season, Happ is still proving he can hit despite his strikeout habit. But he’s far from being Albert Almora Jr.’s equal on defense in center field. He also can’t go back to his natural position at second base, where the Cubs have Javier Baez.
Happ is a valuable spare part. If the Cubs seek to deal him for a similarly valuable spare part, they might find a taker in the Los Angeles Angels.
They sure could use a switch-hitter like Happ to balance out a lineup that skews right-handed. Even better, he would fill the offensive black hole they have in right field.
In return, the Angels might be willing to give up Jaime Barria. The rookie right-hander has shown he can pitch in the majors with a 2.48 ERA in seven starts. But due to their six-man rotation and the generally fluid nature of their pitching staff, the Angels can’t guarantee him regular action.
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Yup, this slide is seriously suggesting a trade of the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner for a dude who was playing in Korea that year.
But, hey, stranger things have happened.
Dallas Keuchel is spending his walk year as a member of a Houston Astros rotation that ranks among the most dominant ever. He is, however, the weak link with a 4.13 ERA through 13 starts.
In the meantime, Houston has fallen behind the Seattle Mariners in the AL West in part because last year’s historically great offense has vanished. Among other things, it needs more production from first base and designated hitter.
So, let’s talk Eric Thames.
Assuming his rehab assignment for left thumb surgery goes well, he should soon rejoin the Milwaukee Brewers lineup. This is a good thing in theory, given that he has an .889 OPS and 38 home runs in 160 games since last season.
But in reality, it’s complicated. Jesus Aguilar has broken out at first base during Thames’ absence. He’s too good to bench, and the Brewers can’t put Thames in their outfield without disrupting its stupendous defense.
Rather than risk Thames’ value depreciating, the Brewers should shop him and the year-and-a-half remaining on his contract. Among the potential returns, a half season of a former ace who could take off in the NL and help them retain the league’s best record would certainly be acceptable.
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Manny Machado has compiled a 1.014 OPS and slugged 18 homers while playing shortstop every day for the Baltimore Orioles. So even though he’s a rental, surely he’s worth a boatload of prospects in a trade.
Or is he?
There’s always been a question to how motivated teams will be to pay through the nose for Machado. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the question remains even with the deadline looming.
“I could see them getting a borderline elite prospect in A-ball for him. Doubtful the guy is at the upper levels unless the seller has reason to doubt him,” one executive told Rosenthal.
Maybe, just maybe, the best the Orioles can do is a deal similar to the Jon Lester-for-Yoenis Cespedes trade. In that, the Boston Red Sox traded a half a season of a star for a season-and-a-half of a slightly lesser star, who they later flipped.
Hence the St. Louis Cardinals and Michael Wacha.
With a 2.41 ERA through 12 starts, Wacha is turning into an ace in his penultimate season before free agency. But relative to virtually every other starter with his ability, he’s somewhat superfluous in a rotation that’s also getting good stuff from Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and, lately, Luke Weaver.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals need bats for an offense that ranks 10th in the NL in OPS and 11th in runs. Slotting Machado at shortstop would go a long way toward fixing that.
If nothing else, it’s one last interesting idea to consider.
Saturday, I wrote about how the Cardinals acquiring Manny Machado could be difficult despite the apparent good fit between St. Louis and Baltimore. Today, in a flurry of only-writing-about-one-thing blogging reminiscent of Stantonmania (with, let’s hope, either a better or at least less enraging outcome), I’m writing about Machado again. Last time I wrote to address the difficulty of getting him in the first place. This time, I’m writing to address the difficulties that would arise afterwards if they did.
The thing about a team like the Cardinals acquiring a guy like Machado midseason is that he’s going to push guys aside. For the ordinary team, this wouldn’t be a big deal; an incumbent in the starting lineup who probably isn’t that great anyway (hence the trade) moves to the bench, and somebody from the bench moves to the minors. For the Cardinals, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but it’d be slightly more awkward than the typical story. The Cardinals are unusually deep with infielders.
Machado would presumably keep playing shortstop, which is where he wants to be in his walk year. That would leave three infield spots to be split up among Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez, Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, and (in July) Paul DeJong. That’s not impossible — Wong and Gyorko would mostly serve as luxury backups, I’d guess — but it is awkward. It means Yairo Munoz sits in the minors, which doesn’t hurt anything, but he’s good enough to help a MLB club in a reserve/utility role. Oh, and Greg Garcia’s out of options. So unless they want to expose him to waivers (they don’t) or carry seven infielders on the roster (they could, but really can’t if they intend to keep giving Matheny his eight-man bullpen), adding Machado officially brings the Cardinals into Too Many Good Infielders territory.
That’s difficulty #1. Difficulty #2 requires you to take a bit of a leap with me, but I think it’s a reasonable leap. The reason (as I wrote Saturday) that the Cards and O’s might have trouble getting a trade done is that it’s really hard to peg the main guys Baltimore would love to target (Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, and Luke Weaver) with trade values. Are they priced as prospects, or as established MLB-level talents? The waters are muddy. The easiest path to clarity here is what creates Difficulty #2. The easiest path for the Cardinals to acquire Machado — and the one I think they’ll realistically have to take to get a deal done — is to build the deal around Jordan Hicks. An evaluation of that deal on the merits is a topic I’m going to blatantly skip (that’s my privilege as the only guy with my login information), but it leaves us staring at Difficulty #2: what does the Cardinals bullpen look like right now without Jordan Hicks?
It looks bad, is how it looks. It already looks pretty bad anyway, so far, but without Hicks it’s bad. The Cardinals went out and threw medium-quality volume at the ‘pen in the offseason, but Luke Gregerson and Dominic Leone are out with arm troubles until who knows when, and Greg Holland is out with a case of being terrible and is on a similar timetable. Right now it’s Bud Norris and a rotating cast of who-knows-who out there… plus Hicks. Hicks scuffled early in the season (though a fluky low BABIP and strand rate helped him disguise those struggles), but he throws a billion miles an hour and has gotten better results lately. Losing him would be a hit to an already shaky relief unit.
So, let’s tackle these problems (having too many good infielders, and too few good relievers) together. You already see where I’m going here. And, for the record, let’s say the Machado trade package was Hicks, Dakota Hudson, and a third guy I’ll discuss later.
Step 1: don’t trade anybody yet
The Cardinals just lost (in this scenario) a fireballing young RHP with only one developed secondary pitch and iffy command; he’d been working as a starter in the minors until the team decided he really had a reliever profile anyway and that he could be useful right now in the bullpen. Fortunately, the team has another one (or three) guys like that. They’re just not on the 40-man roster. Let’s fix that. (Note: Machado takes Hicks’ 40-man spot, so we need to make a spot for anybody we add.)
First up: Ryan Helsley. He’s got a classic reliever profile in the first place (the Trevor Rosenthal arsenal, basically) and is a guy I think would contend for a late-inning role right away. And Steve Baron (sorry Steve) serves no purpose on the roster after Yadier Molina is back, so that’s an easy spot to open up.
Next: Daniel Poncedeleon. He appears fully recovered from the scary injury he suffered last year, striking out guys by the pile in AAA as a starter, albeit with a few too many walks. That’s a reliever. These guys are relievers, can they just be relievers?, etc. Either Ryan Sherriff (superfluous if they’re going to give Austin Gomber looks as a reliever) or Derian Gonzalez (why is he taking up a 40-man spot if he’s not part of the bullpen shuttle?) is the cut here.
Step 2: okay, now trade somebody
It was always going to be you, Kolten.
I’m not excited about trading Kolten Wong — I’ll always have a soft spot for him, personally. But the simple fact is as a defense-first player, he’s going to be the odd man out in this group as long as Mike Matheny’s making the calls. Run free, Kolten.
Trade Wong to SURPRISE HE ALSO WENT TO BALTIMORE! I cheated. I had him in the Machado trade; he’s the unidentified third guy. He’s tacked on in order to get Baltimore to tack on RHP Mychal Givens. Baltimore maybe has to include a mid-tier prospect to true the value up here, but that’s just details. For their part, Wong provides a solid and cheap player to replace Jonathan Schoop (another near-lock to be traded this summer), and a good buy-low candidate to be flipped later during their rebuild.
Trade Jedd Gyorko to Texas for Mike Minor and OF prospect Bubba Thompson. The lefty was nails out of the Royals bullpen last year, and Texas made a bet on him as a starter. That bet’s gone terribly. The Rangers shed the rest of his contract and acquire a successor to Adrian Beltre, and St. Louis bets on Minor as a relief ace again. They also get a high-risk, high-ceiling prospect in the 19-year-old Thompson.
The 2018 Cardinals are left with an infield that goes (probably) DeJong-Machado-Carpenter-Martinez on most nights, with Yairo Munoz and Greg Garcia filling in as necessary. The bullpen features Norris, Givens, and Minor at the back end, with a mix of Helsley, Poncedeleon, Sam Tuivailala, Brett Cecil, Tyler Lyons, and whoever isn’t hurt and is pitching well getting in there as appropriate.
The 2019 Cardinals… they’ve got a hole to fill. They’ve also got a bunch of money to spend. And, hopefully, they just gave Manny Machado a taste of the going to the playoffs wearing red. Who knows.
With his first-inning home run representing the Orioles‘ only run in Friday’s 4-1 loss to the visiting New York Yankees on this first day of June, shortstop Manny Machado continued to be the only true bright spot in the team’s dull offense, just as he was through April and May.
“I don’t know if you could ask anybody to play at that level all year, but sometimes he makes you think that he might,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Machado’s home run was his 17th of the season, putting him two off the major league lead and staking the team to an early 1-0 lead they wouldn’t be able to sustain or build on.
This one came to right field, just Machado’s third home run to anywhere right of dead-center field and part of a recent preponderance of taking the ball the other way. He’s gone to the opposite field a career-high 29.6 percent of the time this season, according to FanGraphs, showing some of the struggles that came when he got pull-conscious last year are gone.
“Manny’s been locked in since the first day of spring, and I actually think he’s gotten — I don’t want to say more comfortable, but he’s been a lot more at ease with all the plays now at shortstop, and he’s settled in there nicely, too,” Showalter said.
Machado also had a single in the sixth inning and a walk in the eighth to bring his season line to .329/.398/.626 with 17 home runs and a team-high 46 RBIs.
“He’s a star player,” Friday’s Orioles starter Andrew Cashner said. “That’s what star players do. It’s pretty fun to watch him every night, and it’s pretty crazy how good he is.”