When Corey Seager went down with his season-ending elbow injury two months ago, a lot of folks penciled in Manny Machado as his replacement. We’re three weeks from the non-waiver trade deadline and the rumors are getting more prevalent.
This is just from the last two days.
#Dodgers, #Brewers most serious for #Orioles’ Machado, sources tell The Athletic. #Indians also in mix, though taking on rest of Machado’s $16M might be obstacle. Question remains: Will O’s ownership view offers practically or slow down process by asking for other players?
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 8, 2018
Source: #Orioles have mentioned Keibert Ruiz and Dustin May in talks with #Dodgers on a Manny Machado trade. (@BNightengale was first to link May and Baltimore.) L.A. is not likely to trade Ruiz for a rental. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 9, 2018
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 9, 2018
Sources: Dodgers have stepped up pursuit of a position player and are looking beyond Manny Machado. Have had conversations with Reds about Scooter Gennett, Twins about Brian Dozier and Mets about Asdrubal Cabrera. Dodgers’ versatility allows them to pursue a number of positions.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 10, 2018
Brett Phillips could be one piece in a #Brewers trade package for Manny Machado, sources said. His path is blocked in Milwaukee, and Adam Jones will be moving off CF regardless of whether he stays with #Orioles or goes. Phillips brings lots of energy, and he's still just 24.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 9, 2018
I included the Crasnick tweet for a point I’ll make later.
Anyway, that’s a lot of reporters reporting about one guy and the Dodger connection. I’ve heard behind the scenes that the Dodgers are indeed in on Machado in more than a due diligence kind of way. And if that weren’t enough, now the Yankees are, reportedly, in the mix.
I don’t get it. I mean, I do. It’s literally Manny Machado, one of the 10-15 best players in the game. But I don’t get the fit with the Dodgers.
The two positions he plays — third base and shortstop — are currently occupied by Justin Turner and the combination of Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez. This isn’t to say Taylor and Hernandez are anywhere near Machado with the bat (they aren’t), but they grade out better defensively at the position.
And about Machado’s defnese, here’s what Eno Sarris of The Athletic had to say about it last week.
“Maybe it’s not surprising, then, that Machado isn’t impressing scouts with his play at short right now. He shares some of the same flaws as Peralta. He’s the slowest regular shortstop, for one. And he easily has the worst range at the position this year, at least by the metrics we’ve currently got. Those metrics are flawed, of course. They don’t account for starting position, for one. So maybe the fact that Machado plays deeper versus righties than every shortstop save Carlos Correa is meaningful. That could be a decision made by the organization that hasn’t helped the player to good defensive numbers. Also, against lefties, Machado’s positioning stands out. Only one shortstop plays closer to third base against lefties. Maybe that’s costing him chances up the middle?”
Machado is listed as 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. Just looking at him, he’s considerably bigger than 185. That’s not to say he’s overweight, but he’s certainly not 185 pounds. Shortstop is a position that is best played by someone with the range and quickness to get to balls. That’s usually why one of the most athletic players on the team plays the position — from Little League to high school to college to the pros. But not in the Dodgers’ case, as Seager is larger than Machado (6-foot-4, 220 pounds … and he’s probably a little heavier than that), but has been a much better than expected defender at shortstop because of positioning. This is from a Los Angeles Times article from July 2016.
“‘I think it’s a little bit of a lazy analysis to say he’s going to move,’ said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. ‘Because you look at the high-waisted body and the height, and you think he’s going to have to move. But you spend time around him, you think about how hard he works at it, and you watch his ability to complete plays from all different angles. That should change your opinion.'”
“Even the metrics that take a less charitable view of Seager’s performance, like defensive runs saved or revised zone rating, place him in the middle of the big-league pack. Rival scouts consider him an average defender, capable of overcoming his limitations with his powerful arm and his adherence to the Dodgers’ defensive positioning.”
Perhaps this is something Machado could benefit from if he were a Dodger, but the fact he’s the worst shortstop in baseball by defensive runs saved cannot be ignored.
Additionally, Machado’s bat would be a luxury at this point. The Dodgers have the 6th-best offense in baseball by wRC+ (106), just behind the Cubs (107). If you take out pitchers, they’re at 114. Still behind the Cubs (116), but closer to the Astros (117) and Yankees (116) than they were when you factor in pitchers hitting. The point being: The offense is fine. They just finished an historic month of June and are leading baseball in wRC+ so far in the month of July (143). If runs per game is more your thing, they’re averaging 6.4 runs per game so far this month and 4.8 runs per game on the season.
The Passan tweet above seems more like what the Dodgers would do if they’re looking for a bat. Scooter Gennett is a legitimately good hitter, while Brian Dozier might be turning things around after a bit of a slow start to the season and Asdrubal Cabrera is in the midst of a career-year. Gennett is under team control through next season, while the other two are free agents this winter (like Machado). Those guys are all second basemen, a spot currently occupied by the platoon of Max Muncy and either Logan Forsythe or Hernandez. Forsythe has been so poor in his time with the Dodgers (postseason notwithstanding) that they might very well be looking for upgrades. That would push Muncy to first base (instead of playing out of position at second) and Cody Bellinger to the outfield — much like they had been doing earlier this season.
It’d be a similar situation if Machado were acquired. Taylor would either slide over to second base or back out to center field. Either way, there would be a lot of shuffling going on, and some guys who have been playing well — Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson to name a couple — would probably see their playing time decrease on some level.
That said, acquiring Machado or another bat would help guard against the coming regression of guys like Kemp and Muncy (seriously, they probably won’t keep hitting this well). The other reason I could see a Machado acquisition is if it gave the Dodgers any kind of advantage come free agency. If they were to prioritize Machado over any other free agent (including Bryce Harper), building that relationship for a couple months (plus hopefully a substantial October run) would be a plus in the Dodgers’ column. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still probably going to the team that offers him the most money on the open market, but stranger things have happened.
As far as cost goes, I’ve heard as many as 6-8 names mentioned in rumors for Machado. And now these rumor are getting more specific — i.e., other players are being mentioned publicly by reporters. This is the same thing that happened back in the winter of 2014 when the Dodgers were discussing Kemp with the Padres.
Once trade rumors start getting more specific, the likelihood of a deal being consummated increases. See the Kemp-Grandal rumors 2 yrs ago.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) December 16, 2016
I’m not saying the Dodgers are going to trade Dustin May and Keibert Ruiz for Machado (they won’t … at least, not Ruiz), but there are names being bandied about, which gives this rumor more validity than most. Even the Brewers have seen one of their young players mentioned (the Crasnick tweet), so while Machado might not end up costing Alex Verdugo or Ruiz for the Dodgers, anyone from that next tier is probably in play.
The Dodgers’ farm system isn’t as strong as it was just a few years ago. That’s usually how these things work, though. Guys like Bellinger, Buehler, Pederson, Seager and Julio Urias have all graduated in recent years, while others like Willie Calhoun, Jharel Cotton, Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas have all been traded. That’s a lot of capital to lose. They’ve tried to make up for it in the draft and on the international market, but they just failed to sign their 1st-round pick J.T. Ginn and just got off the $300,000 restriction on the international market. The next wave of prospects look good, but they aren’t as good as the guys who have graduated and, not coincidentally, stayed with the team. At least, not yet.
With the bullpen being a more pressing need, the prospect capital needed to acquire Machado could be used to acquire a controllable, premium reliever. Or if you want to get really bold, maybe that capital (plus a lot more) could get the Dodgers into the Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard sweepstakes, should that actually happen.
The point here is, the Dodgers’ don’t really have enough quality prospects in Double-A and higher to get Machado, strengthen the weakest part of the team with premium arms and continue to have a strong pipeline from the minors. Yes, relievers are volatile, but the Dodgers don’t have the internal options to handle it on their own. Now, if they’re content with adding a guy like Kyle Barraclough in addition to Machado, then perhaps they can make it work while keeping enough quality prospects to use in the future with the big league club or in trade. But the premium, controllable guys I’m thinking about are the likes of Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias and (probably not now since the A’s are playing well) Blake Treinen, and that’s when you start getting into Verdugo plus others territory.
Maybe the Dodgers plan is just going to be trying to out-hit everyone. If that’s the case, then go get Machado. If not, perhaps the right call is deGrom. If not him, then maybe Hand. Or if you’re hellbent on getting a bat, maybe Gennett/Iglesias. There are a lot of options going forward, but the Machado one is something that’s going to take a lot of shuffling, creativity and willingness of the players on the current squad.
The Dodgers aren’t afraid to make trades, and they aren’t afraid to make trades for rentals (Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Yu Darvish, Tony Watson), but in the Andrew Friedman era they’ve never tried to acquire a rental as good as Machado.
We’ll see what happens.