If the Orioles are going to get top-market value in a potential trade for shortstop Manny Machado, they’ll need the Phillies to stay close in the National League East.
Then they’ll need the Cubs and Cardinals lineups to continue to sputter, and hope that the first-place Brewers, after their best 50-game start in team history, attempt to block a trade to either of their rivals in the NL Central.
It wouldn’t hurt if the Yankees lost confidence in prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, but that’s not likely. The Dodgers? They probably won’t trade prospects for a shortstop, which would fix only one of the problems they have.
This season is the first time since Alex Rodriguez almost two decades ago that a Hall of Fame-type player has been eligible for free agency in his mid-20s. A-Rod started his career in Seattle, but left the Mariners after the 2000 season, mortifying the baseball world by signing a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers when he was 25.
So how robust will the market be for Machado? Speculation runs wild.
This we know: Orioles executive Dan Duquette heard offers from teams at the Winter Meetings, but didn’t like any of them, so Machado started the season in Baltimore.
Now that Memorial Day is near, and the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaches, the Orioles will see if the market for their 25-year-old shortstop has changed.
Machado is eligible for free agency after the season, so that’s a wrinkle in the market. If the Phillies were out of contention, why would they trade prospects for Machado and risk losing him in the free agent market?
Another question: Would the demand for Machado increase if he were willing to move to third base?
Rental players usually don’t fall in love enough with their new city to decide they are going to stay. In 2004, Carlos Beltran was traded to the Astros. He helped them down the stretch and left for the Mets’ $119 million the next season.
Pitcher CC Sabathia went from Cleveland to Milwaukee at mid-season in 2008, but signed with the Yankees in 2009. Aroldis Chapman went from the Yankees to Cubs in mid-season 2016, helped the North Side celebrate a World Series title and went back to the Bronx.
Yu Darvish didn’t stay with the Dodgers last year. In 2015, David Price went from Detroit to Toronto, pitched 11 games for the Blue Jays and signed with Boston in 2016.
Word in St. Louis is that the Cardinals, with shortstop Paul DeJong injured, are interested in Machado, but don’t want to pay the Orioles’ price of two pitching prospects.
The Braves have the biggest supply of pitching prospects and are being mentioned everywhere as a possible trading partner, but that doesn’t make sense.
Atlanta has a future All-Star at short, Dansby Swanson, and leads the NL in runs scored. And their top prospect at third base, power-hitting Austin Riley, is about ready for the majors.
The Braves might be interested in signing Machado as a free agent if Swanson didn’t work out, but giving up premier prospects for a few months of Machado? Probably not.
If anything, the Braves need an experienced pitcher for their young rotation if their faster-than-expected contention is going to stick into September.
The Cubs are reportedly in the mix for Machado, but do the Orioles want Cubs shortstop, Addison Russell as part of the return? The Orioles would control Russell through 2021.
Milwaukee has shortstop Orlando Arcia, a strong defensive player struggling to hit .200. The Brewers rotation is a question for the long haul, but getting Jimmy Nelson back from the disabled list will help. So maybe the Brewers will make a run at Machado.
The Diamondbacks had interest in Machado last offseason. They had pitching depth at the start of the season, but injuries have changed that.
The American League market is slim. The Angels, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees are each set on the left side of the infield. Cleveland is a team struggling to score runs, but it is difficult to imagine the Indians making this kind of trade. It’s the same story with the Twins, who also happen to have blue-chip middle infield prospects on the way.
That’s why the Phillies seems to be the logical team. Their rotation is led by Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola and the emerging Nick Pivetta, so that would keep them legitimate. They are itching for a bat to go with Carlos Santana that could put them into the postseason for the first time since 2011.
But will the Phillies trade one of their top shortstop prospects - Scott Kingery or J.P. Crawford - along with a blue-chip pitcher to get Machado for a few months?
No one knows, but the possibilities get more real the longer the Phillies contend.