The unquestioned headline at this year’s MLB Trade Deadline is Baltimore Orioles superstar Manny Machado. After three years of escalated arbitration resolutions, the third overall pick of the 2010 draft is set to hit the unrestricted, open market.
It’s not a matter of “if” at this point for a blockbuster Machado trade, but “when”. Not only is he not going to consider Baltimore over the winter in free agency, but the Orioles are also a league-worst 26-66.
40 games under .500 before the All-Star Game (but only .5 games “ahead” of the Kansas City Royals for next year’s first pick) is a tough pill to swallow.
Even tougher are their lack of options on the trade front. And by lack of options, I don’t mean suitors. Teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are already lined up at the door with trade offers.
Where their lack of options lie is in their return. They have zero leverage with Machado, or all-star closer Zach Britton for that matter and could be one of the most valuable “throw-ins” in recent memory.
I’d love if Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette’s inbox got the SONY hack treatment and we could see the exciting lowball offers he’s received for Machado over the past several months.
“Danny boy, why have Justus Sheffield when you can have Domingo German AND Tyler Wade AND Clint Frazier?! Remember how much people used to like Clint Frazier?!”
“Come on Dan, you know nobody can beat Jay Groome. So what if he’s hurt. He’s gonna be amazazing. Tommy John is the new Jenny Craig.”
“Dan. Take Keibert Ruiz and Keibert Ruiz alone. Manny’s gone regardless. He hates seafood.”
In reality, and obviously in my opinion, Duquette and the Orioles best offer is one that doesn’t contain a single prospect.
The Rangers were on the up at that point with some optimism in store. The Orioles are in a tough spot from top to bottom. Prior to the season, John rated them 23rd in his farm system rankings.
They’re holding onto hope with MiLB graduate Chance Sisco and praying that Ryan Mountcastle is the real deal. Austin Hays also lingers about and Hunter Harvey has never given up a run in the bigs.
Unfortunately, getting an appropriate minor league package for Machado is off the table. However, they should be able to do far better than the Detroit Tigers did a year ago for J.D. Martinez, netting Dawel Lugo and two others from Arizona.
Of all the teams interested —and I wrote about this recently— the Yankees control the playing field. They have more to offer in top prospects as well as minor league depth than any other team.
However, Miguel Andujar is shiny and new and no longer in discussions.
Double however, Addison Russell could be.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have played things fast and loose since taking over the Cubs in 2011. After ending the millennium-plus World Series drought, they’ve earned that good will.
Russell, acquired in 2014 from the Oakland A’s in the incomprehensible Jeff Samardzija (I can spell that without Google now and am very proud) trade, is having a career year in 2018 and is still just 24.
A Russell for Machado swap straight-up could be beat by other teams if the Orioles can net three to four prospects of their liking.
Packages with big leaguers rarely happen in a deal like this. In fact, they almost never happen. But the Orioles could buck (and fire the actual Buck while they’re at it) the trend without forfeiting the opportunity to receive young, controllable talent.
Russell has three more years of team control through 2021. Albert Almora Jr. has four.
The Cubs sixth overall pick from 2012 is also putting together the best season of his very young career. He’s also 24.
The obsession with prospects —and the years of development and control that come with them— has never been at the fever pitch it is now. However, is there any offer that the Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Red Sox or any other team can make that beats Russell/Almora from the Cubs?
Jason Heyward obviously isn’t currently beloved in Wrigleyville, but Almora is nevertheless stuck in a platoon amongst a crowded Cubs depth chart. Machado would slide into short for Russell and the Orioles would get two established, young and controllable potential big league stars to build around.
It’s not your conventional trade, but it makes a ton of sense.