When it was announced that Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager needed Tommy John surgery and is out for the year, the entire baseball industry sang in chorus: Manny Machado could be traded to the Dodgers. It makes sense on the surface. The Orioles sit at 8-23, the division is all but out of reach, and they could be headed toward a rebuild. The Dodgers plan on contending this season and lost their best position player for the season.
This trade is something that probably won’t happen immediately, thought everything can change with one phone call. It is rare for a player of Machado’s caliber to be traded this early in the season. It would serve the Orioles’ best interest to wait until closer to the trade deadline when more teams with World Series rings on their minds are willing to bid for his services.
While the Dodgers have a need at Machado’s position, there are several reasons to think this won’t be a match. First, Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman places great value on his prospects and prefers not to give up his best young players. Second, Los Angeles is barely under the luxury tax limit and they have said they would like to stay there. Taking on Machado’s salary would push them over that threshold and cost them money. Finally, it is a safe assumption that the team who winds up trading for Machado would like to keep him long-term. The left side of the Dodgers’ infield will be handled by Seager and Justin Turner for the foreseeable future. Machado would likely be only a rental in Los Angeles.
But this potential match, a contending team with a top-10 farm system and a need, plus a struggling team with an expiring contract that they have almost no chance of resigning, is foolish to ignore. What names should Orioles fans be looking at in the Dodgers’ system?
Given that Machado-Dodgers rumors will persist regardless of the parties involved say, below is a list of five prospects that I would start the conversation with if I were Dan Duquette. Getting three of these players would be my goal. Los Angeles’ system is heavy on catching, outfielders, and starting pitching. I did not include catchers on this list, working on the assumption that Chance Sisco is the long-term answer behind the plate in Baltimore.
Considering Machado’s current offensive numbers, his ability to play plus defense at two positions, and the fact that he is still 25, the Orioles need to aim high in potential trade talks. All of these players are in the Dodgers top-15 prospects according to MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.
RHP Walker Buehler- Buehler is major league ready and currently in the Dodgers’ rotation following the recent injury to Hyun-jin Ryu. MLB.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch lists Buehler as the organization’s top prospect and the 12th best prospect in the game. The right-handed starter was drafted with the 24th overall pick in 2015, but slipped in that draft due to an injury and has already undergone Tommy John surgery. His minor league ERA is 3.29, but he struck out 170 batters in 126 innings. Being promoted to the majors with less than a full season’s worth of innings shows just how advanced he is. The Orioles are always in the market for pitching and Buehler is undoubtedly on their radar. Whether or not the Dodgers would give up a player that is currently being counted on to produce at the major league level is unknown.
OF Alex Verdugo- The 21-year old left-handed hitter was drafted in the 2nd round in 2014 draft and is currently in the majors. Coming into the 2018 season, he was considered one of the best all-around hitting prospects in baseball. He produced an average of over .300 and an OPS of .799 throughout the minors and showed a good power-speed combination. While he has played center field for most of his professional career, some say he projects better as a right fielder. His arm grades as one of his best attributes. Verdugo is also being counted upon at the major league level this season and, like with Buehler, it is difficult to say if the Dodgers would want to subtract hm from their team.
RHP Mitchell White- White is more raw than then previous two, being drafted in the second round in 2016’s draft. He is also ranked in the top 100 of MLB.com’s Prospect Watch, coming in a #99. White’s fastball tops out at 97 MPH and he has a plus slider. His curveball has fantastic movement and he is currently working on a changeup. These pitches have added up to over 11 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor league career. It is his command that is currently lagging behind pure stuff, but that is not uncommon for pitchers his age. He could potentially contribute to the Dodgers later this summer, but still needs more seasoning.
OF Jeren Kendall- Just drafted in 2017, Kendall is not projected to be ready for the big leagues until 2020. Some analysts thought he could be a potential first overall pick, but strikeout concerns caused him drop to #23. (He would fit right in in Baltimore!) His speed, defensive range in center field, and arm strength are all well above average. If his bat catches up to the rest of his game (.232 batting average in his first professional season), he has the opportunity to become a star. Scouts think highly enough of that potential to rank him as the seventh best prospect in the Dodgers’ system.
2B/SS Gavin Lux- The Orioles desperately need help at middle infield, and Lux fits that need. Lux rates lower on the Dodgers’ prospect list (13th) than the previous players, but is included because of the O’s need at this position. He was drafted out of high school in 2016 and was the first shortstop selected. Scouts are currently split on whether he projects as a shortstop or second baseman. He had a difficult time adjusting to professional pitching in 2017, posting a .244/.331/.362 slash line. But he is still young, raw, and would fill a major organizational need in Baltimore.
The baseball industry will spend much time between now and the July 31 trade deadline analyzing what a player of Manny Machado’s ability is worth from the Dodgers or another team. I would ask for one of Buehler and Verdugo (both ready to contribute in the majors), one of White and Kendall (raw talents that will require development), and Lux (great organizational need). Three top 15 prospects for one of the most talented players in baseball seems fair for both sides.
Orioles fans undoubtedly understand the need to get this and other trades this season right. It can dictate the trajectory of the franchise for years. Erik Bedard was turned into many years of Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. Is the next face of the O’s in the list above?