While multiple reports have said the Orioles are newly motivated to move star shortstop Manny Machado sooner rather than later in hopes that a three-month rental will bring back a larger haul than one for two months, no deal appears imminent.
The Orioles’ decision-making hierarchy will not be pushed to make a hasty trade the club’s brass is not comfortable with, and many of the teams engaged with the Orioles are the same ones that exchanged dialogue throughout the offseason and a few that were talking at last year’s trade deadline when the Orioles were shopping closer Zach Britton. So they all know what the Orioles want.
The Orioles aren’t known for their swiftness in making any move. And while the Orioles are prepared to move the offseason free agent-to-be quickly for the right haul rather than waiting for the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, they have yet to receive an offer that would make them truly consider an expedited trade worthwhile, according to an industry source.
Although the Arizona Diamondbacks — who expressed interest in Machado during the offseason — currently appear to be the most aggressive club pursuing Machado, there is no clear front-runner. Arizona is just one of several clubs that have expressed varying degrees of interests, and that could change from day to day.
The Diamondbacks entered Friday trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by percentage points in a National League West that has four teams within 3½ games of first place.
The Orioles are banking on the current pennant races remaining tight in the coming weeks, especially the division races in the National League, so potential trade partners feel the need to outbid one another not only to get a talent such as Machado but also to keep him away from their competition for playoff spots and in the postseason.
A similar situation occurred in 2014, when the Orioles outbid the Detroit Tigers to get left-handed reliever Andrew Miller in a trade with the Red Sox, sending left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez to Boston. Miller was a factor down the stretch in the regular season, and a high-impact late-inning arm in the postseason, helping the Orioles eliminate the Tigers in the American League Division Series.
However, the Orioles’ gauge of what Machado should return might be considerably off in a changing climate throughout the game in which teams are clinging to their young, controllable talent more so than in the past.
When the Orioles openly shopped Machado during the offseason, they sought a similar haul to what the Atlanta Braves received for Justin Heyward in the offseason before his walk year in 2015. In that deal, Heyward was shipped along with top-80 prospect Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for two high-upside, controllable arms — right-hander Shelby Miller and first-round draft choice Tyrell Jenkins. Miller was later flipped to Arizona to land 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson.
The Orioles’ emphasis on acquiring controllable pitching has given way to focusing on getting the top young talent available. Young pitching is difficult to pry away, and the Orioles are open to receiving infielders — particularly ones on the left side — and outfield help, even though their farm system has better depth there than at any other position.
The blockbuster trade that the New York Yankees pulled off with the Cubs at the trade deadline in 2016 — in which rental closer Aroldis Chapman went to Chicago for a five-player package of minor leaguers that included top prospect Gleyber Torres — could be an anomaly rather than an example. Again, teams aren’t giving away young talent like that.
Still, Machado is no average rental upgrade. He is the best player available on the trade market this season — no matter whether he is acquired to play third base or shortstop — and as July 31 gets closer, the rumors will increase. The Orioles are banking that the interest does as well.