Manny Machado is on the trade block because the 2018 AL East doesn’t look winnable for the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees feature three powerful hitters in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez; good players in Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius; a decent-to-good starting rotation fronted by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia; and a super-bullpen containing Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, David Roberston, and Aroldis Chapman. (You can add Dellin Betances in there if you like.) Meanwhile the Red Sox have won the division two years in a row and look set to compete for it again, especially if they sign J.D. Martinez like many think they will.
The Orioles’ Wild Card chances also look dim. The Rangers and Mariners are in the thick of it, as are the revamped Angels. If the Halos get lucky and win the division, the Astros will be in Wild Card contention. The Twins and Blue Jays have an outside shot, and the Yankees and Red Sox have to be considered favorites if neither wins the AL East. The Orioles must beat six of these seven teams to get to the one-game playoff.
And then there’s this:
BREAKING: Orioles closer Zach Britton ruptured his Achilles yesterday working out in California. Expected to be out at least six months.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 20, 2017
These slim hopes have pushed the Orioles to consider trading Manny Machado. The game’s star third baseman, who can also play shortstop, is just 24 year old but has an astounding 26 WAR to his name. The only third baseman with more WAR at the same age or younger is Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews.
Which team makes the best fit for Machado? The best fits are teams who meet the following criteria:
- Plan to contend in 2018. Machado is a one-year rental, so the team that trades for him will most likely be making a push for the Wild Card or their division.
- Need an upgrade at third base or shortstop. Steamer forecasts Machado for 6.3 WAR in 2018, the third-highest total in the sport. That’s at third base; moving him to shortstop would push that total closer to 7 WAR, assuming his defensive prowess remains the same there.
- Have controllable starting pitching to trade. Eduardo Encina wrote in the Baltimore Sun last week that Dan Duquette is after “at least two starting pitchers who can remain under club control for at least the next four or five years.”
Let’s eliminate bad fits before looking at the possible ones.
Eliminating Non-Contending Teams
The following teams would most likely not trade for one year of Machado because they don’t expect to contend for a playoff spot in 2018:
- Kansas City Royals
- Chicago White Sox
- Detroit Tigers
- Oakland Athletics
- Miami Marlins
- Atlanta Braves
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Cincinnati Reds
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Milwaukee Brewers
Eliminating Teams with Established Third Basemen and Shortstops
The following teams aren’t a good fit because there’d be nowhere for Machado to play.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Turner and Corey Seager aren’t going anywhere.
- Houston Astros: I could maybe see the team swapping Alex Bregman for Manny Machado, but I don’t think the upgrade would be worth it to the ‘Stros. Carlos Correa is entrenched at shortstop.
- Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner are there for the long haul.
- Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are championship-caliber players.
- Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus are a dynamic duo.
- Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant is a superstar. If I squint hard enough I could see the logic behind replacing Addison Russell with Machado. If the Cubs were still pushing to win a championship, maybe they do this, but 2016 exorcised those demons.
- Los Angels Angels: Andrelton Simmons made a huge leap forward last year, and the team just signed Zach Cozart to play third base.
- Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts occupy the left side of the infield and project as above-average regulars.
- Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson has the hot corner locked down and the team has Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. He projects as an above-average regular but is hurt a lot, which is why the team traded for the pretty-good Aledmys Diaz to back him up.
Eliminating Teams without Controllable Pitching
The following teams have at least a narrow path to contention in 2018 and could use an upgrade at either third base or shortstop but have no significant pitchers to offer. These teams either lack depth or need all available pitchers in order to contend. The only shot these teams have would be to blow Dan Duquette away with quantity of players over quality.
- Minnesota Twins
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- New York Mets
- Seattle Mariners
The remaining teams plan to contend and could use either a third baseman or a shortstop. I’ve ranked them on a scale of 1 (unlikely deal) to 5 (likely deal).
- New York Yankees (projection: 91 wins): Didi Gregorius is at shortstop, but the team has no real projected third baseman. They also have hyped pitching prospects like Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate to barter with. But Bob Nightengale reported for USA Today that Orioles owner Peter Angelos does not want Machado to end up there. Machado would make an excellent fit in the Bronx, but it’ll never happen. Deal likelihood: 1
- Tampa Bay Rays (projection: 81 wins prior to the Longoria trade): I’m not sure that the Rays think of themselves as contenders. But they showed enough signs last year that they are, so I’m putting them in the “yes” column. After today’s trade, the team is now without an established third baseman and their shortstop Brad Miller projects for only 1.2 WAR. Getting Manny would be a five-win upgrade that could push the Rays into Wild Card contention. The team also has controllable starting pitchers to trade in Chris Archer, Jake Faria, Blake Snell, and Jose DeLeon (among others).
I don’t see this deal happening though. First, the budget-conscious Rays depend on controllable pitching even more than the Orioles do. They can’t afford to make a mistake; when they go in, they need to be surer than most about their chances at playing in October. Second, they’re in the AL East and represent a threat to the Orioles in 2018. I doubt this deal happens. Deal likelihood: 2
- Colorado Rockies (projection: 79 wins): Nolan Arenado is Manny Machado’s NL equivalent, but the team is vulnerable at shortstop with Trevor Story projected for about 2 wins there. Plus, star CF Charlie Blackmon is in his last year of control. The Rockies can also offer up Jeff Hoffman, Riley Pint, German Marquez, or Kyle Freeland to fulfill Duquette’s pitching wishes.
Replacing Story with Manny would get the team to 83-84 wins. That total may not be enough for Jeff Bridich to make a move, but it’s close enough that he should at least float some offers. It’s also close enough that irrationality may take over. Deal likelihood: 3
- St. Louis Cardinals (projection: 88 wins): Last year showed cracks in the Cubs’ armor that the Brewers and Cardinals almost took advantage of. Realizing the division was more in play than many thought, this offseason the Cards made a run at Giancarlo Stanton and, when that failed, acquired Marcell Ozuna. Both are win-now/win-soon moves.Jedd Gyorko and Paul DeJong are on the left side of the infield for now, but the team’s interest in Josh Donaldson shows they’re flexible about both. They also have decent starting pitching that would get a deal done. Carlos Martinez won’t be available but Luke Weaver and Miles Mikolas might be, not to mention pitching prospects like Sandy Alcantara.
Replacing Gyorko or DeJong with Machado gets the team over the 90-win threshold where a few good breaks puts them at 94-95 wins. That total could take the division; if not, it would put the Cardinals in a Wild Card spot for sure. Deal likelihood: 5
As an Orioles fan I’d be sad to see Manny Machado go. His talent has been a bright light on the team’s current run of success. If he does go, however, the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies represent the best fit for Manny. These teams have a win-now mentality, a clear need on the field, and the pitching prospects to complete the deal.
(Photo by Keith Allison)