A little more than a month remains until baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. For the Orioles, this means one thing: It’s Manny Machado trade season. With their 23-57 record, there can be no more dithering. They must improve the team for the future and Machado is the only real trade chip they have left after other injuries and ineffectiveness.
Two recent reports have started to narrow down the list of interested teams. USA Today’s Bog Nightengale reported that the Dodgers are the favorites to acquire Machado and suggested the Diamondbacks as another interested team. In another report, Jon Heyman also tabbed the Dodgers, adding that the Phillies also appear to be aggressive at the moment.
Noteworthy about both of these reports is that they are citing sources who are in the Orioles organization: “a high-ranking Orioles executive” and “an Orioles-connected person.”
This does not appear to be the kind of hazy speculation that often appears in trade season where other team executives speculate on who is the favorite for big deals. Orioles people are talking to the reporters. If the Orioles people don’t know what they’re talking about, the information may not prove to be accurate - see the whole Dexter Fowler situation from two years ago.
One need not have any sources anywhere to glance at the standings across MLB and figure out who might want to trade for Machado. The American League playoff spots are mostly wrapped up already, barring a major collapse. The only question is whether the Yankees or Red Sox will win the AL East, and I think it’s safe to say the Orioles aren’t trading Machado to either of them.
The National League, on the other hand, is more open. Three teams are still alive for each division race. Machado could be the kind of difference-maker that boosts a team to a division title. No surprise that the list of interested teams is from this group. Heyman also thinks that the Cubs may be a suitor for Machado.
That’s a solid four teams to work with, and hopefully it creates leverage for the Orioles to have them bidding against one another to get the best trade that they can.
Nightengale reported that the Orioles have sent scouts to focus primarily on the Dodgers farm system. The Dodgers have five players on MLB Pipeline’s recently updated top 100 prospects list, one sign that they may have the deepest farm from which to deal for Machado.
The others of the currently interested teams are not so deep with top prospects. The Phillies have three top 100 guys, while the Diamondbacks have just one and the Cubs have none. Heyman reported that the Phillies are willing to trade their top prospect, pitcher Sixto Sanchez. The 19-year-old righty hasn’t pitched since June 3 due to elbow inflammation. Awfully convenient that they’re now willing to trade him where they weren’t before.
Of course, top 100 prospect lists are not the be-all, end-all of who will be a good future big leaguer or even a star. Sometimes these guys bust. Orioles fans know this feeling well after experiencing the cavalry. Sometimes players who were never top 100 prospects turn out great. It’s a starting point for discussion.
If the O’s are savvy enough - yeah, yeah, I know - they could find a player or two who are on the verge of a breakout into next year’s top prospect lists. That would be the kind of thing that could make a trade a smashing success. Getting a good immediate headline name would be nice too. The Erik Bedard trade was The Adam Jones Trade.
Can Dan Duquette or whoever is actually in charge make this happen? That is the question to cause anxiety in Birdland right now.
Another factor that may impact the Machado chase is his remaining salary for 2018. The season is about halfway over now, so he’s due another $8 million. It’s not a lot of money for a team to add to get a player of his caliber, but that might be the kind of thing squeezing out a smaller-payroll team like the Brewers or Braves.
The O’s should offer to offset some of the money if it gets them more interested teams or better prospects in return. I have no idea whether they will actually do this. It’s the smart thing, but then, so is investing money in international amateurs and not waiting until after spring training starts to sign 60% of your starting rotation, and we know how the O’s are about those things.
A lot can happen in a month. A new suitor could arrive in the discussion if some team suffers an unfortunate injury to a shortstop or third baseman. A team might bow out from Machado discussions and instead think about a jabroni like Mike Moustakas, who isn’t as good but won’t cost the salary or prospects of Machado. For now, it’s the Dodgers, Phillies, and Diamondbacks. I hope the O’s get a good deal.