Where Would Manny Machado Best Fit? by Travis Sawchik December 12, 2017 Manny Machado is all alone atop the offseason trade market. (Photo: Keith Allison) LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There is a Branch Rickey axiom that goes something like this: when trading an asset, it’s typically better to do so a year too early than a year too late. That is largely pragmatic and true. One could argue that Baltimore is a year too late in considering a rebuild. But late is also preferable to never. As Dave wrote, the Orioles appear to be coming to their senses in exploring a trade of Manny Machado. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Orioles are engaged in more than listening; they are asking for offers to be submitted for Machado. The franchise-cornerstone talent is interested in returning to shortstop. From Rosenthal’s piece: Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports previously reported that the Orioles are listening on Machado, but the team actually is operating with a more aggressive stance, telling potentially interested teams to make them offers, sources say. Rosenthal goes on to suggest that moving Machado would “trigger a series of moves intended to redefine the future of an organization that currently has only two reliable members of its starting rotation and an improving but still underwhelming farm system.” That would free the team to move other useful players like Brad Brach, Zach Britton, and Adam Jones in their final years of club control. Said Dan Duquette to Rosenthal: “It’s prudent to find out which way the wind is blowing.” There is currently a strong headwind blowing against the Orioles: the Yankees have strengthened themselves in the AL East, and the Angels have added Shohei Ohtani to bolster their Wild Card chances. FanGraphs projects the Orioles to win 76 games. While the club has routinely beat its projections, the 2018 campaign does not appear to be a favorable one at the moment. The long-range forecast looks even worse. It makes a lot of sense for the club to move Machado… and then everyone else. And it made sense months ago. So who might be interested in Machado? Who could use a six-win shortstop? [Everyone except the Angels, Astros, Dodgers, Indians, and Nationals slowly raise their hands.] Who could use the best player available (6.3 WAR) for 2018? Machado is not going to come cheaply. The Orioles reportedly want two controllable arms, which seems like a price few teams would be willing to meet unless they are of the lower-ceiling variety. MLB Trade Rumors projects Machado to earn $17.3 million in arbitration. That’s close to $60 million in overall performance value and $40 million in surplus value. As I note in the Yankees’ NBA-style trade post, that’s worth a significant prospect: a position player with an FV grade of 55, a 60 FV pitcher, or two pitching prospects with 55 and 50 future values, according to our value estimates. Amongst clubs that might count themselves as legitimate contenders in 2018, only the Brewers (1.1 WAR), Rockies (1.7), and Diamondbacks (1.9) rank in the lower half of projected shortstop production. While the Rockies and Diamondbacks could upgrade, the Brewers are committed to Orlando Arcia and seem unlikely to trade top young talent with low division odds. As far as third base need, Machado would upgrade the position in New York, but the Orioles are unlikely to trade Machado within the division. The Giants represent an interesting possibility, having ranked last in third-base production last season and, at the moment, featuring mostly just Pablo Sandoval at the position. The Giants could go a number of directions this offseason. The Twins could perhaps be an interesting fit, as well. And if Josh Donaldson makes sense in St. Louis — a claim made by Dave last month — so, too, would Machado somewhere on the left side of their infield, where Machado would provide about a four-win boost at third or short over average players Jedd Gyorko (2.2 WAR) and Paul DeJong (2.4 WAR). The Cardinals have depth and a number of attractive pitching prospects, including Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Ryan Helsley, and Alex Reyes. Alcantara was reportedly the top prospect whom the Cardinals were willing to package for Stanton. Could he headline a trade for Machado? The Cardinals have the pitchers for which the Orioles are seeking and have the clear motivation to add an impact position player. An extra four wins would close the seven-game gap between the Cards and Cubs in the projected standings. The Cardinals also need to consider distancing themselves from Wild Card contenders like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Rosenthal reports that, amongst non-contenders, the Phillies have shown interest in Machado as a free agent next offseason but probably not as a trade target: The Philadelphia Phillies — whose president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail; and general manager, Matt Klentak, were Orioles executives when the team drafted Machado — are reluctant to give up prospects for Machado when they could sign him as a free agent next offseason without giving up players in their system, sources say. Would it be worth it for the Phillies to trade for Machado to earn the right to try and sign him to an extension (highly unlikely), or hope familiarity with the club increases their chances of signing him? That modest increase in probability isn’t sufficient for a team like the Phillies to give up any pitcher of value. But if more teams are interested in NBA-style salary dumps, maybe the Phillies could explore an NBA-style sign-and-trade. That might be preferable to trying to out bid for Machado next offseason. Of course, that’s a very unlikely scenario. With Ohtani choosing the Angels and the Yankees trading for Stanton, Machado is the biggest star available. No player on the market projects for more WAR in 2018. The Orioles are asking for offers and the Cardinals should probably be preparing one.