Among the most high-profile names on the trade market, as we head toward the non-waiver deadline at the end of the month, is the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado. The third-baseman/shortstop is in his contract year, and with the Orioles being dead in the water this year, they are looking to trade him. He’s a potential impact player: since the start of 2015, Machado ranks 12th for position player bWAR, having produced 19.3 wins. We saw last season, with J.D. Martinez, how the right deadline acquisition can make a significant difference to a team in the second-half of the season. But would Machado be that player for the Diamondbacks?
Third-base has been one of the Diamondbacks’ weakest positions to this point, currently worth 0.5 bWAR below MLB average. Machado, being a right-handed bat, could be used to platoon there with Jake Lamb, and also can play shortstop, another area where the team needs help. But there would be a cost, both in salary and prospects. Machado is currently due $16 million for the season, so right now, we’d need to find $7.7 million, the amount declining about $100,000 per Baltimore game. This would be a pure rental. Machado appears to have “no interest in signing an extension” with any team to which he is traded, intending to enter the free-agent market this winter.
As such, the cost should likely be relatively minor, though the Orioles appear to have a different opinion on the matter. The D-backs got the similarly-rented Martinez for three low-level prospects (Sergio Alcantara, Jose King and Dawel Lugo), though the price will depend on how many teams are interested in Machado; it appears to be more than for J.D. The Dodgers (who could particularly use a shortstop, following the loss of Corey Seager for the year), Phillies and Indians are reported to have most interest. Though Jim Bowden says “8 different teams have confirmed they have had dialogue” with Baltimore regarding a potential trade in just the last ten days, so a dark-horse candidate is possible.
The first tricky question is deciding how much of an upgrade Machado would be for Arizona. While his bat would clearly play (an OPS+ of 160 this year), his defense this season has come in as sub-par. There’s a significant difference in how his overall production is seen, likely dependent on that balance. bWAR has Machado at only 1.8 wins: that’s not much more than Nick Ahmed (1.4) and a comparable rate to Lamb, who is at 0.9 after missing half our games. fWAR, though, rates Machado at 3.0 wins, significantly better than Ahmed (0.7) or Lamb (0.6). Your opinion of Machado’s potential value to the D-backs is thus going to depend on which system you believe.
To this end, ESPN crunched the numbers yesterday, trading Machado to all the teams in baseball, to see what impact he would have for them. The Diamondbacks ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of the “Manny bump”, the extra 3.3 wins he would win putting them 13th. The article says, “The Diamondbacks seem to have a whopping need in the middle of the infield, one that Machado would more than fill. He does boost Arizona’s forecast, though frankly I expected more. However, it seems that even the considerable upgrade he provides wouldn’t be enough to close the gap in baseline talent between Arizona and the other top postseason clubs.”
Nick Piecoro made the case for the trade last week, pointing out in particular that our window may be closing, with the potential departure as free agents this winter of both A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin. He wrote, “It’s likely the Diamondbacks will never have a better roster – at least when it comes to this core of players – than they do now. And that’s not only in terms of pure talent, but in prime-age talent, as well.” With some lean years potentially ahead until Arizona’s best players, mostly at the lower levels, come through our farm system, there’s a case to be made for pushing all our chips in this season. Because who knows for sure when we might next lead the division on Independence Day?
Another question would be, what might the D-backs be willing to give up? Could one of the current shortstops, Ahmed or Marte, be expendable? The latter was signed to a contract extension this year, when the Machado situation was already well-known, which tends to suggest he is seen as part of the team’s long-term plans. In terms of prospects, if the team is inclined to feel their next window is a few years away, then players in the upper tiers could become more expendable as bargaining chips. But how high should Mike Hazen be prepared to bid, for a player who will appear less than 80 times for Arizona in the regular season?
There’s a counter-argument, that the team has other needs, more important to fill. The struggles of Shelby Miller in particular, have left the rotation looking perilously thin, and a cheap bullpen arm could also pay dividends. The team are in possession of the division lead after June 1 for the first time in five seasons, so have done perfectly well with the current roster (though obviously, Machado being #NotADodger would be helpful in sustaining their current position). Clubhouse chemistry is fragile; Martinez fitted perfectly well in to the clubhouse. Would the same be true for Machado, especially if required to play 3B when he wants to maximize his free-agent value, by playing SS?
This is one of the occasions where I’m glad I’m not a GM, and can sit on the fence because I’m not paid the big bucks to pull the trigger on these kinds of trades - or, equally important, not pull the trigger. I’ve a fatalistic outlook, to be honest, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just that whatever happens, will happen: we have little or no influence about the outcome, and we’ll deal with it, good or bad. So don’t worry about it, and just enjoy the Fourth of July celebrations. Because it’s just nice to be approaching the trade deadline in a position where we’re even contemplating this, rather than being sellers. However, there’s still a comment, and a poll, because... Well, because. :)
Should the D-backs trade for Manny Machadao
This poll is closed
Yes, at (almost) any cost
Only for a J.D.-like package
No, we’ve other, more pressing needs.