Manny Machado’s playing days in Baltimore are numbered. He knows it, the fans know it, and the Orioles’ front office, spearheaded by longtime owner Peter Angelos who foolishly postponed the inevitable, now knows it.
Only three weeks separate Baltimore from the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, and baseball’s most coveted trade target happens to be their 26-year-old All-Star infielder, who most experts believe will garner a record-shattering contract worth north of $300 million as a marquee free agent this upcoming winter.
Machado has reached the upper echelon of major league superstars. In fact, he’s been an elite talent for several years. His exceptional slugging ability has been the lone silver lining to an abysmal season for the Orioles, which are currently 41 games under the .500 mark and a whopping 37.5 games back of first place in the American League East standings. It’s also worth noting that Baltimore is playing at a 118-loss pace and the All-Star break isn’t until next week.
The time has come for Baltimore to sell off its uncontrollable assets. Virtually nothing can be gained by holding onto Machado or anyone else with expiring contracts.
So, naturally, the Yankees are a curious party. Shocking? Not in the slightest.
The Machado-to-the-Bronx rumors date back to early December, at a time when Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman was covertly orchestrating a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.
Fast forward to March, and the conversation was centered around Aaron Judge’s accidental and harmless sales pitch to Machado (“You’d look good in pinstripes” was the tagline), which forced Major League Baseball to issue a warning to the Yankees about tampering.
Now, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has reported that the Yankees are showing renewed interest in pursuing Machado. Hardly a surprising development.
Of course the Yankees were never going to sit on their hands and not discover what Baltimore’s asking price is for a stud like Machado. It’s not in New York’s nature to balk at discussions for such a player. Cashman could write a book on the proper steps of due diligence.
But does trading for a midseason rental like Machado make any sense for the Yankees?
On the surface, it simply doesn’t.
The reason why the Yankees were attracted to Machado last winter was mainly because of a vacancy at third base. The team had just traded veteran Chase Headley to the Padres, and 2017 rental Todd Frazier — who the Yankees elected not to re-sign — was searching for a new home as a free agent. Replacing those two names with Machado made plenty of sense on paper. Talk about an upgrade.
But that gaping hole at the hot corner disappeared some time ago. Since spring training, the Yankees have acquired Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks and witnessed rookie Miguel Andujar flourish at the major league level. In the blink of an eye, one of the Yankees’ deficiencies was solved.
And as it turns out, the Yankees weren’t going to convince Machado to play at third base anyway. Since Opening Day, Machado has served as Baltimore’s primary shortstop — his natural position — and that’s where he wants to remain for the rest of his career. Machado’s been quite adamant about that.
“I’m a shortstop. I play shortstop,” he recently told reporters.
That’s one big wrench in the plan. If the Yankees do acquire Machado, would that mean Didi Gregorius has to move over to third base instead? Would he have to give up a position he’s rightfully earned? Or, would the Yankees make an attempt to trade him, since he’s not a free agent until 2020?
All of those questions would have to be answered before the team could even address the future of Andujar and middle infielder Gleyber Torres — two legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates who look more and more like long-term fixtures in the Yankees’ lineup. And shouldn’t the franchise wonder if acquiring Machado would impact clubhouse chemistry this summer?
The Yankees can’t afford to let Machado’s glow blind them from their trade deadline needs. In order to keep pace with the Red Sox in a unique AL East arms race and maintain their rank as a legitimate World Series contender, the Yankees have to bolster their starting rotation in the coming weeks. That’s where the need lies. Pitching, pitching, pitching.
Heck, if the Yankees are actually inclined to pay a stiff price for Machado (there aren’t any hints of that right now, however), maybe the idea of trading for Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom or Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner isn’t so far-fetched after all.
It’s almost unfathomable to believe Angelos and the Orioles would be comfortable moving Machado to New York, since their greatest fear is that 1.) The Yankees will win a championship, and 2.) The Yankees would then be in a great position to sign Machado to a long-term deal. If that fear becomes reality, it would haunt the Orioles for years. Gut says there’s no offer Cashman can make to Baltimore that’s too good for Angelos and his staff to refuse.
If the Yankees are high on Machado, it’s in their best interest to remain patient. There’s no need to pounce now on impulse. Rather than making a blockbuster trade that places the Yankees too close to the $197-million luxury tax threshold, wait until the offseason to make a move. Wait until the luxury tax resets. Wait until there’s a lot more cash in the bank. Wait in order to have ample time to determine the future of several foundational players.
There’s no need for Cashman to overindulge this July. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. His entire focus should be on a trade candidate who’s paid to throw the ball, rather than a trade candidate who’s paid to hit it.