It’s well-documented that I’ve been an Orioles fan since birth. I had an Orioles onesie, a framed Chris Hoiles baseball card, and cried when I attended Cal Ripken Jr.’s last game. But I was also there when they lost 30-3 to the Texas Rangers and have seen them finish in fourth place or worse for over half of my life (14 years, if you’re wondering). So, it’s fair to say I have a feeling this story will end in heartbreak for me. All that being said, I will be as objective as possible to explain what all these rumors of a trade of Manny Machado mean. Let’s dive in.
Manny Machado is the most exciting player on the Orioles since Miguel Tejada. He’s also the best homegrown player since Mike Mussina or Cal Ripken Jr., depending on your opinions of Mussina. So, I don’t say this lightly, but it’s time for the Orioles to trade Machado. I didn’t think they would actually go through with it, but lately it seems like there’s actual fire with all this smoke. If the Orioles thought they could re-sign Machado, there’s no way they would leak this much information. This is most likely happening. The teams most often mentioned are the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals. Here’s how they should all play out in order of how much sense they make:
So, you’re saying there’s a chance…
New York Yankees: I know Orioles fans. I know exactly what you’re thinking. It would be classic Orioles to trade Machado to the Yankees because that’s what would hurt the most. You know what would hurt the most? The fact that you kind of want the Yankees prospects. Gleyber Torres turning double plays with Jonathan Schoop behind Justus Sheffield sounds pretty nice. Or maybe Miguel Andujar as the future 3-hitter of the Orioles lineup floats your boat and you’re loathing yourself for even having these thoughts. Relax. Peter Angelos wouldn’t trade within the division (especially to the Yankees) and honestly the Yankees think they can sign him in free agency anyway, so they view it as unnecessary. This is unlikely.
Chicago Cubs: The cubs don’t need him and don’t have the controllable pitching assets the Orioles want. There’s been a lot of chatter in the Twittersphere that Addison Russell would make the Orioles budge. Let me save you some time, he won’t. Teams with similar needs rarely trade with each other. Both need controllable pitching and have too many position players. This is Cubs fans panicking that they need to do something big or they’re heading for another 100 years without winning the World Series. It’s not a real possibility.
Now you’re getting somewhere…
Chicago White Sox: The fightin’ southsiders have the controllable pitching the Orioles covet. Carson Fulmer even seems like an Orioles prospect already by being a power righty who has potential but has gotten lit up every now and then in the higher levels. They’re a big enough market that they think they can sell Machado on Chicago. All that being said, this still feels like a stretch. The Sox are more than one year away and are planning on Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Fulmer leading their rotation. They’re not exactly expendable. This still feels like a stretch, but maybe Rick Hahn is crazy enough to get it done.
New York Mets: The Orioles are scared to say the word “rebuilding” so which team has the best asset they can give the O’s to help win now? The New York Mets and O’s have already been discussing a Matt Harvey trade. Maybe Harvey and some prospects nets them Machado. The Orioles would of course ask for Steven Matz as well, and maybe the Mets are willing to throw him in as well if the Orioles add in a reliever. It’s long been feared by fans in Baltimore that Machado wants to be in New York so maybe they’ve been worried about the wrong franchise. Of all these deals, this one has the most blockbuster potential.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have not tried to hide their interest in Machado at all. The Phillies’ front office is full of the people who drafted Machado. Odubel Herrera is literally their only long-term commitment, so they have the money. Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery both make for enticing returns for the Orioles. Sure, the Phillies say they won’t trade either prospect, but maybe that’s a way of getting Baltimore to ask for less. Logistically this has all the parts to make a deal happen. With Machado next year the Phillies are (maybe) a legitimate wild card threat. If they can be competitive enough, Philadelphia could throw enough money at the 25-year-old superstar to make him re-sign. This deal makes a lot of sense if the Phillies really believe they can be somewhat competitive next season.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards are my favorite to get Machado. Farm system loaded with young pitchers? Check. Competitive enough to feel the need to make the deal happen now? Check. Outside of the division? Check. The Cards could even throw in Randal Grichuk to make the O’s feel like they’re not totally rebuilding. I think the biggest reason this deal makes the most sense is St. Louis thinks they need to sell Machado on their market. St. Louis isn’t as sexy as New York, Chicago, or even Philadelphia, but they are known for having some of the best fans in baseball. It sounds like their belief is if they win this year and show Manny how fun playing in St. Louis is, they can re-sign him. Some think the Cardinals might be gun-shy after Jason Heyward didn’t re-sign and went to the Cubs. But with Josh Donaldson apparently unlikely to get traded, maybe the Cardinals are willing to sign him for less if Machado decides to walk. It’s not ideal, but at least there’s a backup plan. Machado solves the Cardinals lineup problems (especially if they trade for Marcell Ozuna too). If St. Louis is willing to part with some of their prized young pitching, I think this deal gets done.
Now that I’ve gotten all of Baltimore’s hopes up that we finally score on a big trade for the first time since Erik Bedard, though I would argue Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara was a steal, let me dash those hopes. I’d say it’s 50/50 the Orioles trade Zach Britton instead and try to compete this year. Then when July hits and they’re six games back, the O’s will trade Machado for two pitching prospects and a low-level fielding prospect. That’s the real Oriole way.
Starting a rebuild is never easy, but the Orioles have a chance to do what they did 10 years ago today when they traded Miguel Tejada to the Astros. They can turn the expiring contract of a superstar into heaps of future potential.