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An early view of possible Manny Machado trade partners for the Orioles

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Every team would surely like Manny Machado, but there are only so many competing teams with a hole in the infield and prospects to spare. Here’s an early survey of the possible market.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

One truth about the 2018 Orioles stands out above all others. They must trade Manny Machado before the July 31 trade deadline. Dan Duquette’s Memorial Day deadline came and went with no improvement from the team. The draft and its drain on organizational brainpower is over with. It is time to get down to business.

There are more than seven weeks until the non-waiver deadline. It’s easy to say that the Orioles should trade Machado sooner rather than later, because an extra month of Machado should be worth a greater trade return from a team. I don’t know if other teams see it the same way or what. And it may be that the Orioles are going to drag this thing out to the July 31 deadline because they’re the Orioles and they must act in the most bizarre possible fashion at all times.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, dogged critic of the Orioles ownership and front office that he is, tackled the possible Machado trade frenzy on Wednesday. He outlined some of the challenges that the O’s will face as they try to deal Machado:

(Machado) still will be owed just under $5.5 million of his $16 million salary at the deadline, putting him out of financial reach for some clubs. He also is intent on maintaining his commitment to shortstop, his original position, after returning to that spot from third base this season. The metrics show Machado is below-average at short, but a team that acquired him to play third would risk unsettling him, even if his lack of a no-trade clause would leave him powerless to stop such a move.

If that’s not enough to cause you stress about whether the Orioles will trade Machado, Rosenthal is also here to remind us that all of the above doesn’t even grapple with whether the Orioles “can operate coherently enough to successfully pull off a Machado blockbuster,” factoring in both the ever-stringent Orioles medical reviews and general front office dysfunction making it unclear who has the final word about such a deal.

I can’t seriously reckon with the idea that the O’s won’t trade Machado. Maybe it’s possible and even likely that things will work out like that. Not unlike an ostrich, I will bury my head in the sand until that reality cannot be avoided. In that spirit, let’s look at some possible Machado trade partners, because seriously, the Orioles have to trade him. It sucks, but that’s the only way.

This early, it’s a process of elimination. I think we can rule out any AL East team and the Nationals (Angelos temperament), any team that’s not good, any smallish market team unlikely to deplete the farm for a rental (Pirates), and any team that doesn’t really have room to squeeze in a shortstop or third baseman, no matter how good he is (Astros).

The list may change between now and July 31. Fringe teams may drop off or appear on the list. Injuries may unsettle a team that had solved its infield. Top prospect rankings are from MLB Pipeline’s current top 100.

  • The team: Los Angeles Angels
  • The jabroni: 2B Ian Kinsler and his .212/.277/.363 batting line
  • The solution: Machado moves 3B Zack Cozart to second base. Plus, Andrelton Simmons is hurt right now.
  • The top prospects: OF Jo Adell (#53), SS Kevin Maitan (#78), 2B Jahmai Jones (#83), OF Brandon Marsh (#94)

Maybe not a great fit for the Orioles, given that none of their top prospect-caliber players are pitchers and the Orioles, well, you know. There’s also the question of how much the Angels would want to go hard at just making it to the AL Wild Card game.

  • The team: Atlanta Braves
  • The jabroni: Ryan Flaherty started 27 games at third base
  • The top prospects: OF Ronald Acuna (lol no), RHP Kyle Wright (#25), RHP Mike Soroka (#26), LHP Luiz Gohara (#41), RHP Ian Anderson (#43), LHP Kolby Allard (#50), LHP Max Fried (#76), 3B Austin Riley (#73)

The Braves are a team with exciting young talent on the roster, unexpectedly in first place in early June facing a weaker division leader than anticipated. Are they going to sell out to try to jump start their success a little bit with a rental? Soroka, Allard, and Fried are all at Triple-A and two of them have had a little MLB time, possibly fulfilling the Orioles eccentric “MLB-ready” condition.

  • The team: Philadelphia Phillies
  • The jabroni: SS Scott Kingery is batting .212/.263/.315
  • The top prospects: RHP Sixto Sanchez (#23), RHP Adonis Medina (#77), OF Adam Haseley (#84)

National baseball writers love to remind people that a lot of the Phillies current front office was involved in drafting Machado. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that over the winter, the Phillies weren’t parting with Sanchez. As they, too, have arrived at success a bit earlier than expected, with no dominant NL East team to date, could Machado tempt them?

  • The team: Milwaukee Brewers
  • The jabroni: SS Orlando Arcia is batting .203/.242/.275
  • The top prospects: 2B Keston Hiura (#48), RHP Corbin Burnes (#59)

The Brewers were 86-76 last year, six games behind the Cubs. No one is dominating the Central this year. Perhaps the team that gets Machado can boost itself above the field for good. They don’t have a lot of prospects to dangle, so I don’t know how greatly they would pursue Machado.

  • The team: St. Louis Cardinals
  • The injured: SS Paul DeJong is out 4-to-8 weeks
  • Bonus jabroni: 2B Kolten Wong is batting .183/.278/.310
  • The top prospects: RHP Alex Reyes (#15), OF Tyler O’Neill (#74)

Forget about Reyes, who pitched one game before hurting himself again and needing season-ending surgery for a torn lat tendon. However, the Cardinals also have some young big league pitchers, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Hicks, of whom the Orioles were asking for two over the offseason, according to Kubatko. Whether this pitching will be offered now that Reyes is out is not any kind of sure thing.

  • The team: Arizona Diamondbacks
  • The jabroni: SS Nick Ahmed is batting .211/.263/.397
  • The top prospects: RHP Jon Duplantier (#64), 1B Pavin Smith (#82)

Here is another division that is unexpectedly wide open. Do the Diamondbacks want to surge towards through that opening? They’ve already made one trade, adding OBP machine Jon Jay just this week. Their #3 prospect is a shortstop with the awesome name of Jazz Chisholm (and a good .266/.333/.475 line in Low-A at age 20) and they’ve got a strikeout machine in their #4 prospect, Taylor Widener, at Double-A.

**

This may be a conservative estimate as far as ruling out teams as trade partners. Perhaps the Dodgers would make room for Machado, although underperforming third baseman Justin Turner is signed through 2020 and their rotation is racked with injuries so they probably can’t spare pitching. The Indians have Jason Kipnis struggling mightily at second base, but why would they displace either Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez?

Machado is a superstar player who is clearly playing at a superstar level this season. He could make a difference for somebody. That is an easy sales pitch for the Orioles to make. Eventually, though, they will have to get real.

The Orioles might not get a top 10 prospect in the game for half a season or less of Machado. They might not get multiple MLB-ready prospects or multiple top 100 pitching prospects. When push comes to shove, only so many teams will be seriously bidding. What then? Hopefully, when Orioles fans find out the answer, it is an answer that helps them be successful in the future.