If you read The Athletic or follow just about any MLB insider on Twitter, you probably saw Ken Rosenthal talking about a rumor that the Cleveland Indians are one of the teams “most motivated” to acquire third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles. It sounds good, it makes a little bit of sense, and hey, it’s Ken Rosenthal. It’s probably true.
But the annoying thing about this rumor is that it’s just one guy shooting the moon with ideas about the trade deadline. From Rosenthal’s piece in The Athletic:
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians might be the teams most motivated to trade for Machado — the D-Backs because their competitive window is starting to close, the Indians because their title drought will reach 70 years if they fail to win the World Series this season.
There you have it. The Indians “might be [one of] the teams most motivated to trade for Machado,” which is essentially just Rosenthal spit-balling. It’s very possible he has inside sources and just doesn’t want to come out and say a source told him something, even anonymously, but for now all we know is that one writer thinks the Indians might really want Machado. No real confirmation they’re clamoring for his services just yet.
That’s probably a good thing.
Manny Machado picked the right year to absolutely go off on the league. It’s good for himself, and it’s good for his team. No matter what happens at the deadline, the 25-year-old superstar is poised to bring in a massive payday now that he proved his sub-par 2017 was just a fluke. He has put up career highs across the board to this point with his .311/.378/.565 slash line, and151 wRC+. He already has 21 home runs, well on his way to topping his previous high of 37 set in 2016. All of this with a reasonable .310 BABIP, which is only .001 higher than he had in 2016 and lower than the .317 BABIP he had in 2014.
He’s really good, and reliably so. That’s what I’m getting at here. More important than having one half of a really good season, he’s had a string of good-to-great seasons for the Orioles; enough to prove that he’s a legit hitter who can hit 30-40 home runs and not strikeout in a third of his at-bats. That’s a rare combination today, and it’s going to be expensive for anyone to pry him away from the historically stubborn Orioles.
The one thing that Rosenthal does source in his speculative rumor piece is that the Orioles are interested in trading sooner rather than later, with the goal of squeezing three months of value out of him instead of two.
The Baltimore Orioles want to act sooner rather than later, knowing they almost certainly will receive a greater return if they trade Machado with approximately three months of control remaining instead of two, major league sources say.
For the Orioles, this is their chance to start a rebuild they’ve put off for several years on the right foot. Mess this up, and they could set their decade back for the better part of a decade. They’re going to have to live with the awful contract they gave Chris Davis, but most of their stars are gone this year or the next. Even if they didn’t want to give in an start over, they don’t have much of a choice.
Baltimore is going to be out for blood (prospect blood, to be specific), and there’s going to be a bidding war. I don’t know if I want the Indians involved in it.
Sure, Indians, poke around if you want, it’s your job to put feelers out there and see what you could get for your top prospects. It’s not hard to tell that the package would have to include Francisco Mejia and then a whole lot more, either. Would the Orioles also make a hard demand for Triston McKenzie? Bobby Bradley? Willi Castro? There are a few enticing names at the top of the Indians’ top prospect list, but they are all relatively close to being in the majors — close enough that they could be, in theory, the next core of the team. Trading them away to fix a position that is the least of their issues doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Yes, getting Machado and putting him at third to bump Jose Ramirez to second always sounds good. You can trade away Kipnis or try him out in center field again if you want, but the base effect of the trade is that you now have the best infield in all of baseball. That’s hardly their biggest need, though. Unless you truly believe Jason Kipnis is a center fielder that stick there through the World Series, they’ll still have issues in center field with a flood of injuries and under-performing prospects. And after torching the farm to get Machado, they just won’t have the firepower to make another impactful trade.
I’m not against trading Mejia — based on how the Indians have refused to use him in the majors, I think that writing is already on the wall, anyway. I just don’t want to ship him away to fix a hole that the team doesn’t really have. Find a great center fielder. Find a pair of relievers that a team is willing to part with to instantly get your bullpen back to competitive. Better yet, find one of those deals that doesn’t hinge on giving away what could turn out to be a superstar bat. Because there’s no way in hell you’re getting Manny Machado without losing Mejia and then some.
Machado is the type of trade that would be great if the Indians were a tight division race and needed to win an extra handful of regular season games spread out over three months. But they’re not. The regular season is locked up already unless something disastrous happens. Every trade the Indians make right now needs to help them win in the playoffs — 11 games over the course of a month. Is it worth it to dump the farm system and hope he doesn’t go into a sudden slump in October, the only time he’s really needed?
Like Ken Rosenthal, I’m just spit-balling here, but Machado isn’t what the Indians need right now. Even if you think I’m an idiot for not wanting Machado (fair), we can all agree that the speculation of the Indians being so highly motivated is just that. Speculation. Don’t get your hopes up, if that’s where your hopes lie.