The Baltimore Orioles probably haven’t received enough credit for what they’ve done the past six seasons. They’ve reached the playoffs three times in that span, the same as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They’re sixth in the majors in total wins, just seven behind the Yankees and 18 ahead of the Red Sox. With that track record of success, it’s understandable why Orioles owner Peter Angelos and general manager Dan Duquette are reluctant to trade Manny Machado, their three-time All-Star third baseman who has twice finished in the top five of the MVP voting.
It’s also understandable why the Orioles are finally engaging other front offices in trade talks for Machado. Sure, they could give it one more run with this group. Like Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are impending free agents. After all, the Minnesota Twins went from 59 wins to 85 wins to earn a wild-card berth. Anything is possible! On the other hand, the Orioles are coming off a 75-87 season in which they were outscored by 98 runs. The current projections at FanGraphs have the Yankees and Red Sox at 91 wins and the Orioles way below that at 75. The odds of keeping Machado and winning the division appear slim. The odds of re-signing Machado as a free agent are even slimmer.
So, there are trade rumors. Buster Olney said the Yankees and White Sox are interested. Other reports have mentioned the Phillies and Cardinals, although the Cardinals acquired the big bat they desired in Marcell Ozuna. Machado’s stated desire to play shortstop in 2018, however, opens up a wide range of trade possibilities. Let’s take a look.
Indians: Make it happen, Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff!
This idea has me so excited, I’m considering moving to Cleveland and buying season tickets. The Indians loved the way Jose Ramirez played second base in 2017, which is why they’re shopping Jason Kipnis. That leaves an opening at third base; nothing against Yandy Diaz or Giovanny Urshela. Machado essentially replaces Carlos Santana’s bat, and he gives the team excellent defense at third base — and maybe this lineup:
3B Manny Machado
2B Jose Ramirez
So, can the Indians make the money work? Machado should receive $17-18 million in arbitration, which is a big contract for the Indians to take on; but if they trade Kipnis to the Mets — one rumor that’s out there — that’s only a $4 million increase. Any team can afford $4 million.
The time is now for the Indians. The lineup needs another hitter. The pitching is arguably the best in baseball, and more importantly, it will enter 2018 in good health. We all know what can happen with pitchers, and maybe in 12 months you’re looking at three guys needing Tommy John surgery. You’re not hoping to keep Machado long term, but you might win it all in 2018.
The Orioles reportedly want young arms, so this trade will probably cost you top pitching prospect Triston McKenzie. It will be worth it.
Yankees: It makes sense, but it’s not going to happen
The Yankees could use a third baseman for 2018, giving prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar a little more time in the minors. They have some highly rated pitching prospects, including Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo. From a personnel standpoint, it’s a perfect match. But if you’re the Orioles, why help your division rival? Sure, maybe you hurt the Yanks by extracting a couple of prospects, but if you give Machado a season in the Bronx, maybe he loves it so much that it becomes more likely that he signs with the Yankees as a free agent. If I’m Duquette, I don’t want to see Machado in pinstripes. At least not of my own volition.
White Sox and Phillies: Trade and sign
This would be the White Sox’s or Phillies’ scenario: Trade for Machado, get him acclimated to your organization and city, convince him of the bright future of the club and sign him to an extension. Stranger things have happened. The Phillies don’t seem to be as interested in this idea, according to reports. While you will no doubt be going after Machado as a free agent, why give up prospects in a year you’re very unlikely to contend for the playoffs? The odds of Machado signing any kind of extension before hitting free agency are slim. Just wait until next offseason and make your pitch.
Giants: The obvious candidate
The Giants have a gaping hole at third base, unless you believe in some rejuvenation of Pablo Sandoval. They missed out on Giancarlo Stanton. They intend to make a playoff push. The trouble is, they don’t look like a good match for the Orioles. Tyler Beede is their top pitching prospect — the only pitcher in their top 10, according to MLB.com’s list — and he had a 4.79 ERA at Triple-A, with poor peripherals. If the Orioles do trade Machado, they can find better prospects from another team.
Teams that could use him at shortstop
Here’s the weird thing: The good teams, or the teams we think we know are good, already are set at shortstop. Here are the teams with the highest projected WAR at shortstop, according to FanGraphs:
Astros: 6.1 (Carlos Correa)
Indians: 5.9 (Francisco Lindor)
Dodgers: 5.4 (Corey Seager)
Nationals: 3.9 (Trea Turner)
Angels: 3.7 (Andrelton Simmons)
Cubs: 3.6 (Addison Russell)
Red Sox: 3.6 (Xander Bogaerts)
Yankees: 2.9 (Didi Gregorius)
Giants: 2.9 (Brandon Crawford)
A list of teams with less than 2.0 projected WAR that made or contended for the playoffs last season includes the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Brewers. The Rockies and Brewers would have to punt on Trevor Story and Orlando Arcia, respectively, at least for one season; that’s possible but not likely. The Diamondbacks have Ketel Marte and could certainly use a bat to replace J.D. Martinez, but their system is also thin in pitching prospects. As fun as it is to think of Machado playing shortstop, there isn’t an obvious match here.
Cubs: The challenge trade
Well, here’s an idea. Would you trade four years of Addison Russell for one year of Machado? The Cubs love their infield defense, but Machado would be a big upgrade at the plate — and the Cubs could potentially re-sign him if they’re comfortable with his defense at shortstop. The Orioles wouldn’t get a premium pitching prospect back in the deal, but getting four years of a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who can pop 20-plus home runs would be a nice return.
Angels: Billy Eppler clinches executive of the year
Then we have the Angels. They’ve already signed Shohei Ohtani and re-signed Justin Upton. They picked up Ian Kinsler. They still have a hole at third base. There appears to be room in the payroll. Like some of the other teams here, however, they’re a little thin in the pitching prospect department, as their top prospects are outfielders Jahmai Jones and Jo Adell.
Maybe there’s a sleeper team out there. After all, if you can get Manny Machado, you make room for him. Maybe the Twins make a surprise move. Maybe the Cardinals still aren’t done. Maybe he does go to the Yankees.
Or maybe Machado just stays in Baltimore and the Orioles see where they are in July.