The saga that has lasted a few weeks has finally come to a close as the Dodgers have acquired shortstop Manny Machado from the Orioles for a 5-player prospect package led by outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The Dodgers are also sending infielders Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera, as well as right-handed pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop. If that seems like a lot of players for a rental (even one of Machado’s stature), it is. But there’s a reason for it, and I’ll get into that later. Let’s focus on who the Dodgers are getting first.
This is the biggest trade since … last year, when the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. But it wasn’t completed quickly nor without consternation.
Possible snag in Machado deal to Dodgers. Sources indicate that one or more of prospects coming to #Orioles have some issues in their physicals. Surprise surprise. May open door for other clubs. Stay tuned.
— Steve Phillips (@StevePhillipsGM) July 18, 2018
If you believe former Mets GM Steve Phillips, then OK. This isn’t the first Baltimore would have had issues with medicals when it came to free agents and/or trades. From what I heard, it was really much to do about nothing. If it were, it’d bring back memories of winter 2014 with the Matt Kemp/Padres saga. It’s also not the best way to make friends in the baseball executive community.
Regardless, Machado is a bonafide superstar who fits on any team, including (somehow) the Dodgers. I wrote a lot over the past few weeks about Machado and the Dodgers’ interest in him.
From me at True Blue LA on June 29.
“But let’s look at Machado for a moment. He’s clearly a better hitter than the shortstops the Dodgers have at present in Taylor and Hernandez. He’s hitting .303/.371/.549 with a 145 wRC+, and he isn’t benefiting from an inflated BABIP (.302). He’s coming off three consecutive seasons of 33 or more home runs and is at 19 already this season. If that weren’t enough, he’s running a career-best walk rate (10.2 percent) and a career-low strikeout rate (13.5 percent). He’s great! Problem is, he’s a free agent after the season and, even now, there’s no clear spot for him to play.”
From me here on July 10.
“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 finally, from me here on July 12.
“The eye test would tell you Turner doesn’t have that same presence at the plate as he did last season. Perhaps he’s just working through some things, but maybe the Dodgers are in on Machado as much as they to not only guard against the coming regression of Matt Kemp and Max Muncy, but maybe as insurance in case Turner doesn’t get back to his typical level of offensive production. Either way, Turner returning to form could also guard against that regression, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get there this season. Maybe Machado isn’t as wild an idea as it appears at first glance. It may also allow Turner to rest a bit more in preparation of another (hopefully) deep postseason run.”
Since this time, Turner has been out with an adductor injury, but his wrist still isn’t at full strength either.
With Machado, the Dodgers have insurance against Turner not returning to form and, as mentioned in the previous articles, his presence could make up for any incoming regression from Kemp and/or Max Muncy. Conversely, Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor heating up could also help that, but for now, the Dodgers have acquired one of the game’s best players.
Machado is hitting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs and a 156 wRC+. He also has a 10.9 percent walk rate against just a 12.3 percent strikeout rate. The BB-K% gap has been closing in recent years for Machado, showing that he’s maturing as a hitter and that the version we see now is likely to be the version he is for the next half-decade (at least). He’s also posting these elite-level numbers without the help of an insane BABIP (.311 this season, .302 for his career).
While Machado’s only guaranteed to be a Dodger through the end of the season, this gives the Dodgers 3-plus months to evaluate Machado at shortstop and see if they want to try to sign him to a mega-contract in the offseason. If his defense improves in LA because of positioning, the front office might very well pull the trigger on keeping him. That scenario playing out would mean that not only would players move around the field, but there could be some unlikely trade candidates come the offseason. Machado returning could also signify the Dodgers aren’t sure Corey Seager‘s arm strength will be at the level it was pre-Tommy John surgery, but we’ll wait until the winter to really delve into that stuff. For now, there’s going to have to be some juggling/shuffling going on, but if any organization is equipped to handle a situation like this, it’s the Dodgers.
Machado’s infusion into the lineup will have a ripple effect. He should slot in as the No. 3/4 hitter in the lineup and will play shortstop. That means Taylor likely moves to second base, Muncy to first base and Bellinger to center field. If Turner gets the day off and/or is hurt, then Muncy would play third and Bellinger would go back to first with a bevy of outfielder options in Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson and/or Andrew Toles to play center field.
I wrote back in June that the Dodgers might have a little more money to spend at the trade deadline because of the injuries to Clayton Kershaw, Tom Koehler, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. While it isn’t an official number, the Dodgers have somewhere in the $10-15 million range before they hit the $197 million luxury tax threshold. Machado’s roughly $6.3 million eats a large portion of that money (and let’s just assume it’s closer to $10MM than $15MM). Since no payroll money is changing hands in this deal, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Dodgers move a guy like Joc Pederson or even Yasiel Puig (complicated because he’s hurt) in a package for a relief pitcher closer to the deadline. While they’re not really at risk of going over that $197 million mark, they also probably don’t want to get to $196.999 million and even chance it.
Before we get to the players shipping out, here’s the most important part of this deal.
The husky is named Kobe.
Despite being a rental, the Dodgers still had to give up significant prospects to land Machado’s services. The Orioles got about as much as they could expect.
The guy I’m most bummed about losing is Diaz. He’s been my guy the entire season, and I ranked him No. 2 in my midseason Top 30 update. That disappointment is magnified just a little more after he hit two home runs in the Futures Game on Sunday. I’ve always gotten a Lorenzo Cain-feel with Diaz. Not defensively because Cain is a top-notch center fielder, while Diaz — who can play center — will likely end up in right field, but as a hitter. He’s not going to be a 25-home run/year guy, but he has sneaky pop, hits liners all over the field and has good plate discipline. He’s not that dissimilar to Alex Verdugo as a prospect, and the front office clearly values Verdugo more than Diaz, which is fine. They’re dealing from a position of depth, and that’s a good thing, but I just wish they didn’t have to move Diaz. Oh well, I’ll get over it.
The second-best prospect the Orioles are getting is Kremer. The 22-year-old is in the midst of a breakout season. The 2016 14th-round pick was just promoted from Rancho Cucamonga to Tulsa, and all he did in his Double-A debut was strikeout 11 hitters in seven scoreless innings. There’s no guarantee he sticks in a rotation, but his stuff has taken a step forward, which has led to him striking everyone out. He was No. 20 in my midseason Top 30.
Bannon, 22, is also in the midst of a breakout season. He has hit 20 home runs so far this season after being a 2017 8th-round draft pick out of Xavier University. He was known more as a glove-first guy and can pick it at third base, but the offensive step forward has been remarkable. He’ll be tested at Double-A, probably very soon. He was No. 21 in my midseason Top 30.
Pop was … popped one round before Bannon in last year’s draft. He’s strictly a reliever and has a big fastball. He didn’t crack my midseason Top 30, but he would have been in the Top 50 if I ranked that many. He began the season at No. 81 for me.
Valera was acquired on April 1 from the Cardinals for outfielder Johan Mieses. The 26-year-old was in my “Next 5” in the midseason Top 30 and is true utility player. He can play all over the field and has good plate discipline and speed. He was also on the 40-man roster, but that’s Machado’s spot now.
Still, there’s no other way to put this: The Dodgers committed highway robbery today. Some of the names I had heard behind the scenes — guys you would have been OK giving up for Machado — stay put. It was a great piece of work by the front office. Now maybe the bullshit narrative about how the Dodgers “never go for it” or “are scared to trade prospects” will subside (spoiler alert: it won’t).
Listen to our thoughts on it here:
The Dugout Blues review of the Manny Machado trade is live! Listen here: https://t.co/s85I0KhaC4
— Jared Massey (@JaredJMassey) July 19, 2018
I believe it was Eric Stephen on the TBLA podcast who said this move is strengthening a strength as opposed to fixing a weakness. He’s right. The Dodgers still need some help in the bullpen, but this move doesn’t prevent them from adding an arm or two. They might not get a Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias or Felipe Vazquez, but expect a guy from the next tier down — or maybe someone out of nowhere like Dylan Floro.
Or maybe Jacob deGrom. :o