The Orioles recently did something they should have done a year ago — they announced they’re taking offers for Manny Machado, their undisputed best and most valuable player.
Machado, 25, is coming off a down year by his standards — 2.8 WAR, 102 wRC+, and a .259/.310/.471 triple slash. He did hit 33 home runs, but that couldn’t fully make up for a diminished on-base percentage. Still, he’s a supremely talented player who would fit on any team.
Well, almost any team. Dodger fans came out in droves yesterday in my menchies to figure out Machado would fit into the team’s plans and … hooo boy.
Any interest by the Dodgers on Machado or nah? I realize it would take a lot of maneuvering to fit him into his preferred spot defensively but clearly he is probably better than Seager at SS who could move to 2nd.
— Theoneandonly (@heisenberg9090) December 12, 2017
Not that complicated, just trade Justin Turner
— thai pham (@thaipham711) December 12, 2017
Moving Turner to second would make more sense than trade him
— flipxpelon562dfs (@matthewjdorsey) December 12, 2017
Turner to 1B Bellinger to LF. Let’s get weird!!!
— Hunter Straw (@Hunter6622) December 12, 2017
Turner to first, Seager to third, Bellinger to LF, Machado to SS
— Will Rosenblatt (@wrosen18) December 12, 2017
And it goes on and on. Let’s address some of these.
Machado came up through the minors as a shortstop, but has played sparingly there in the majors (+2 DRS in 433 innings) and has instead excelled at third base (+81 DRS in 6331 innings). Now Machado wants to return to short in 2018 because he wants to maximize his value heading into free agency after the season.
So for the Dodgers to acquire Machado, it would require much reshuffling, beginning with Corey Seager moving off shortstop. That just doesn’t happen to a 23-year-old franchise player that’s coming off a quality defensive season (+10 DRS). Moving Seager off shortstop would mean moving him to third base. Seager will likely end up at third one day, but not while he’s still so young and capable. Yes, he had some elbow issues late last season, but just yesterday general manager Farhan Zaidi said Seager won’t need surgery and should be good for the start of the 2018 season. There wasn’t any structural damage, so I’m expecting his arm strength to be at the double-plus level it had been at for his entire professional career.
Then we have Justin Turner. Folks want Turner to move to second base in this scenario. There’s just one problem with that: Turner cannot play second base anymore. Turner has almost 1,000 innings at second base in his career, but he last played there in 2015 (27 1/3 innings) and he hasn’t played significant time there since 2011 (642 1/3 innings). Most importantly, he has a career -19 DRS at second base. That’s horrific. The worst second baseman by DRS in 2017 was Daniel Murphy, but even his -15 (in 1,196 innings) isn’t as bad as Turner’s career mark. So no, Turner cannot play second base.
“Looking down the road, if the Dodgers were to jump into the loaded free-agent class of 2018-19 and target, say, Manny Machado, the Dodgers could move Turner to first base (because Gonzalez’s contract will have expired) and play Cody Bellinger (if he isn’t traded) in left field until Turner’s deal is up. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, but those concerns have been brought up and it’s likely not worth worrying about.”
Now, however, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Bellinger is as close to an 80-grade defender as the Dodgers have or that there is at first base. Losing that to go with an unproven Turner (238 1/3 innings), who wouldn’t be as good, would hurt the infield defense more than it would help. Oh, and Turner has had 24 DRS at third in his time with the Dodgers, so moving him off third base doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, Bellinger is plenty capable of handling the outfield — either left or center field — but he’d have to be a plus-defender at either position for the Dodgers to have a net positive.
The alternative suggestion to making two or three of the team’s best players change positions is to just move Seager to second, which is laughable. In theory, yes, any capable shortstop should be able to handle second base, but Seager is a different animal. He has played shortstop or third base his entire professional career. So to expect him to move over to second and learn all the nuances of the position in an off-season, while he’s already entrenched as the Dodger shortstop, is short-sighted. So no, Seager is not moving to second base.
None of this even factors in the potential ramifications in the clubhouse, the risk that the team could be stuck if one of the players can’t handle their new position, and the heightened injury exposure that would exist due to positional unfamiliarity.
Worse yet, all of that above doesn’t even factor in the cost of trading for Machado. The Orioles aren’t going to let him go without getting a king’s ransom in return. Yes, he’s one year away from free agency, but he also has three 6-plus win seasons in his back pocket, and all signs point to 2017 being a recent outlier and that he’s still more of the 130 wRC+ guy from the previous two seasons.
I don’t think it’d take Walker Buehler, but anyone else on the farm would have to be made available to even get the Orioles to answer the phone.
Mainly though, it all comes down to the Dodgers being the rare team that doesn’t get a whole lot better with Machado.
Congrats to the Dodgers for being one of about three teams who would not be made significantly better by adding Manny Machado
— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) December 12, 2017
Bringing in Machado would be a minor offensive upgrade (perhaps slightly more), but the overall defense would likely suffer, thus making it almost a lateral move. Considering how much he’d cost, and the fact the Dodgers wouldn’t even get a draft pick if he signed elsewhere after the season, it means Machado simply isn’t worth the headache to get him on the team.
Plus, he’s a free agent in a year and will certainly be hitting the open market. If the Dodgers didn’t have some of the game’s best players at SS/3B, then maybe things would be different.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) December 12, 2017
If only the Dodgers didn’t have Seager and Turner, then maybe they could get Machado. It’s a damn shame.