If the Orioles decide to trade Manny Machado, they hope to do so by the end of the week, according to industry sources. They can’t wait much longer to put the rest of their offseason on hold, especially because their need for starting pitching is sizable. If they do move Machado, they also need to figure out how to replace him in the infield.
While the interest in Machado is well-known, the specific pieces being discussed in trade offers for the All-Star third baseman are not. That plays to the Orioles’ favor. Executive vice president Dan Duquette plays all things close to the vest, and the potential haul for the franchise’s best player should be no different because uncertainty could help tactically in negotiating such a move.
The Orioles are known for their methodical approach to making all decisions, no matter how big. A final deal could sit with team doctors and ultimately in managing partner Peter Angelos’ office for an extended time as every detail is resolved.
The club is still commanding at least two starting pitchers who can remain under club control for at least the next four or five years, which is no small demand for a player who will become a free agent in one year and has every intention of testing the free-agent market.
If they don’t receive the haul they desire, the Orioles say, they remain content with keeping Machado and considering a trade in midsummer, but some in the industry believe the situation has gone too far for Machado to remain in an Orioles uniform on Opening Day.
Consummating a deal will still have its challenges, and it’s a trade the Orioles must be all-in on to complete. And even though the Orioles have received plenty of interest from potential trade partners, one source said there are probably only three teams that could truly give the Orioles what they need for Machado.
Here’s what some potential trade partners might have to offer:
New York Yankees: The roadblocks to making a deal with the Orioles’ most-hated division rival have been well-documented.
Even though Duquette has said he will not rule out negotiating with the Yankees or Boston Red Sox, the idea of dealing a player of Machado’s profile to the Yankees would be a hard sell to Angelos, though it seems more likely now that he could be convinced if the Orioles receive the right return, according to a source.
There are few teams that possess the depth of young starting pitching that the Yankees do, and raiding their farm system of some major league-ready arms would be a benefit of dealing with the Yankees.
Three of their top starting pitching prospects — — right-hander Chance Adams, left-hander Justus Sheffield and hard-throwing right-hander Domingo Acevedo — have had success at the Triple-A or Double-A levels, and any of the three would compete for a rotation spot in spring training.
The Yankees also have lefty Jordan Montgomery, whom the Orioles have seen plenty of and could fill a rotation spot for the next five years. While Montgomery can’t spearhead a trade package, his 2.9 WAR last year was better than those of Orioles starters Dylan Bundy (2.7) and Kevin Gausman (1.8).
Keep in mind, the Yankees built one of the best farm systems by dealing away one-year rentals, netting top prospect Gleyber Torres and three others in a deadline trade with the Chicago Cubs for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and getting Sheffield and outfield prospect Clint Frazier from the Cleveland Indians for late-inning relief specialist Andrew Miller at the same time.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies often fall in the second tier of possible trade suitors for Machado, but they have exactly what the Orioles need for Machado.
Colorado has three young starters who already have valuable major league experience – right-handers German Márquez and left-handers Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson. Both Márquez and Freeland have five years of team control, and Anderson four. All have been groomed in the high altitude of Colorado, so pitching at Camden Yards and in some other hitter-friendly ballparks in the division isn’t intimidating, a factor that has to be considered when acquiring pitchers from another organization.
And the prospect of teaming Machado with third baseman Nolan Arenado would give the Rockies one of the best defensive left sides of the infield ever.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona emerged as a late entrant into the Machado mix, its interest first reported late last week by ESPN.
It now appears that the Diamondbacks are willing to move left-hander Patrick Corbin, who would give the Orioles the tested left-hander they need, but he’s controllable for only one more season.
Lefty Robbie Ray would be a better fit for the long-term future because he still has three years left of team control, but he’s coming off a 15-win season in which he posted a 2.89 ERA, so he’ll be a difficult pitcher to attain.
Arizona’s farm system does have arms in the wings — three of its top four prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com, are pitchers – and righty Taylor Clarke and lefty Anthony Banda are the most ready to contribute to a rotation today.
The Athletic reported that Arizona offered Brandon Drury, who played second, third and both corner spots in 2016 before settling in at second last year, in its initial package. While the Orioles are looking for a player who can play multiple positions, Drury wouldn’t anchor a Machado deal.
Chicago White Sox: Like the Yankees, the White Sox also replenished their farm system with savvy trades to get pitching prospects. They received right-hander Lucas Giolito as part of a deal with the Washington Nationals for outfielder Adam Eaton last offseason and netted right-hander Michael Kopech from the Red Sox as part of the trade for left-handed ace Chris Sale.
The Orioles would love to have both or either to front-line a trade, but reports are neither was included in the White Sox’s initial offer, though that offer was described to the Chicago Tribune as “impressive.”
Despite a rich minor league system that should eventually lead to a South Side resurgence, the White Sox don’t have many other majors-ready starting pitchers other than 2015 first-round right-hander Carson Fulmer.
The White Sox have maintained that their efforts remain focused on creating a contender for the long haul and not just to compete for a postseason spot for one season, so unloading multiple young arms for Machado for one year would be unlikely unless they feel they can sell Machado on the franchise’s future and get him to entertain staying long term in that one year.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are easily among the most active teams in a slow-developing offseason. They traded with the Miami Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Right-hander Miles Mikolas, coming off three strong years in Japan, shunned the Orioles’ offer to sign with St. Louis, and the Cardinals also acquired Luke Gregerson to shore up their bullpen.
The Cardinals could still use another bat, and rumors regarding Machado seem to continue to point to St. Louis because they have a bevy of young arms, even though they dealt one — Sandy Alcántara — in the Ozuna trade. The Cardinals seem hesitant to entertain the idea of trading away their young starters — grooming their own starters has long been the foundation of the club’s success — so top arms such as right-handers Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty — both of whom are among the game’s top 50 prospects — will be a reach for a one-year rental.
However, the Cardinals have done it before, acquiring Jason Heyward from the Braves for one year in a deal that sent a young starting pitcher (Shelby Miller) to Atlanta. Heyward signed a big deal with the Chicago Cubs one year later, and if the Cubs become a realistic contender for Machado, that might play into the Cardinals’ desire as well.
Chicago Cubs: This is purely speculative, but if there’s one team other than the Yankees that Machado could become enamored of, it’s probably the Cubs.
The Athletic on Monday proposes sending shortstop Addison Russell and left-hander Mike Montgomery, both of whom are controllable for the next four years, to the Orioles for Machado.
That would mean Machado would take over at shortstop and team with 2016 National League Most Valuable Player Kris Bryant on the left side for a team that’s already become a consensus contender after its 2016 world championship.
Machado does want to be a part of something special, and the young core the Cubs possess could make him consider staying for the long haul, especially if the team makes a deep run into the 2018 postseason. Remember, as much as the Orioles have had success with Machado, there’s a level they never reached — the World Series.