When it became apparent during the offseason that the Orioles weren’t going to get what they desired in exchange for free agency-bound shortstop Manny Machado, there was really only one possible scenario that might increase his trade value once the season began.
It was not the kind of scenario anyone openly roots for, because it involves a well-heeled club experiencing the loss of a cornerstone player to a season-ending injury or some other type of misfortune.
In other words, exactly what just happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have lost star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with a severe elbow injury at the same time they have fallen well behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
So, why did Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette just quash any serious suggestion of pursuing a deal right now to take advantage of that situation?
Duquette said Tuesday that he does not plan on considering any major deals involving Machado or the other Orioles heading toward free agency until after Memorial Day because he feels that’s a traditional “benchmark” for figuring out which direction a team is headed.
Sorry, but it’s hard to see any logic in that approach when the Orioles openly shopped Machado during baseball’s winter meetings in December.
If there was not a team that felt Machado was worth the basket of prospects the Orioles were seeking when he was available for all of 2018, what makes anyone think that the price will shoot up after he has played nearly half of what is starting to look like an MVP-caliber season.
Of course, this could all be smoke and mirrors. The speculation that bubbled up involving the Orioles was predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Dodgers have been burning up Duquette’s cellphone over the past couple of days. They might be willing to gut out the loss of a key offensive producer and hope they have enough pitching and position depth to battle back to the top of the division standings.
Trading top young pitching talent for less than one year of a great player would be a tough sell for any organization, but it’s certainly not unheard of. The Orioles traded Eduardo Rodríguez for a half-season of reliever Andrew Miller to make sure they locked down the 2014 American League East title. It happens.
The Dodgers would have to be a very willing partner, and there is no real evidence of that at the moment.
Maybe Duquette is just being coy, trying not to look as if the Orioles are so desperate to make a deal that they’ll settle for less … or trying not to look as though he has given up hope that the team can pull out of the early-season tailspin that has dropped it to a double-digit divisional deficit.
Here, again, you have to put the whole situation into context. Duquette was willing to make a Machado deal in December, when the Orioles had not lost a game in 2018 and appeared to be two free-agent pitchers short of remaining a wild-card contender. How can he possibly view the current situation so differently that he’s going to cling to the hope that the Orioles stage a dramatic May turnaround while they’ll be without top closer Zach Britton and third baseman Tim Beckham?
There is talk going around that Machado could be more valuable at the midseason deadline for making trades without waivers, because there might be several teams who view him as the key to the postseason.
That’s possible, but it isn’t probable. The best chance to get the most for Machado can only come from a situation like the one at hand. If the Dodgers want to get right back to the World Series after last year’s seven-game loss to the Houston Astros, logic and simple math would dictate they make a dynamic move to replace Seager right now.
Machado presents a perfect match, because they will not have to commit to him for next year, when Seager presumably will be back from Tommy John surgery.
Duquette and Orioles ownership are in a tight spot here. Duquette’s contract is about to run out and the Orioles are tailspinning in the midst of a three-year decline in attendance. It’s going to be painful to deal the one player who puts people in the seats, but it will be much worse if the Orioles limp to the end of a bad season and end up getting only a draft choice in return for him.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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