Manny Machado is a generational talent. There's no denying that. He stands as the heir apparent to Alex Rodriguez, not only sharing a similar 6'3" build with a smooth glove and a strong arm that has served him well at both shortstop and third base, but a flawless right-handed swing that should be the envy of every ballplayer, and a point of imitation for every child swinging a miniature bat in their living rooms.
Where he'll end up by the end of July will be a reality TV show. Stay tuned nightly to follow every new development and piece of gossip. Will the Dodgers land him? Suddenly the Yankees are a dark horse in the competition. Will the Orioles keep him until he walks for free agency at the end of the year?
For the right team, Machado could be the final piece in this 162 game quest to playoff glory. But even then, nothing is for certain. For the teams involved, they must proceed with caution for the best shortstop in the game.
It'll cost a king's ransom
Speculating how much a team will have to give up for Machado has been just as entertaining as trying to determine who'll land him.
The Orioles will ask the world for Machado. Rarely do you get a player like this available on the market and a team willing to deal him. It's no secret the Orioles prefer to move him for a package of prospects; failing to make a deal and letting him walk for only a compensatory draft pick would be a negligence of duty by Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
The Dodgers would do well to make a serious attempt at the starting shortstop considering that their own stud, Corey Seager, has missed significant time with a torn UCL in his elbow. While their farm system isn't as good as it once was—thanks to back-to-back NL Rookie of the Year winners Seager and Cody Bellinger—it still sits as a top-10 system, according to MLB.com. Names like Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, and Keibert Ruiz, all top 100 prospects, are intriguing enough pieces the Orioles can focus on for a return package.
The Yankees, from a logistical standpoint, don't need Machado with the duo of Miguel Andujar at third and Didi Gregorius at shortstop, but they still feature a top farm system that will keep them linked to big-name players as we near the deadline. Yes, the biggest need for the Yankees is pitching but with a thin pitching market, the Yankees might seek an alternative route to improve their roster.
But for a team that will take on Machado's immense talent, they also have to take on the baggage that will come with him.
Manny Machado wants to be a shortstop. He's made this abundantly clear time after time.
He's a talented shortstop, there's no denying that. But he's also a talented third baseman, and certain teams may see him more valuable as their third baseman than as their starting shortstop.
Consider the Dodgers, again. Acquiring Machado will fill a short-term solution, but teams who will try to trade for him will part with big prospects only if they think he can A) get them over the hump that is the playoffs, and B) sign him long-term. If the Dodgers succeed in a long-term deal, that creates a logjam when Seager returns from injury. That leaves the Dodgers with two options: ask Machado to move back to third base, or convince Seager he should transition to the hot corner.
Likewise, for the Yankees, if they acquire Machado while simultaneously keeping Gregorius it will come down between the two. Both are talented shortstops in their own right, but both have their egos on the line. The Yankees are Gregorious' team and the Dodgers are Seager's; both are beloved by their fanbases, and both have carved out their own niches in the organization at perhaps the most recognizable position in the game.
A team that could take that baggage are the Brewers, who hold a precarious game and a half lead over the Chicago Cubs. Machado can take the reins from Tyler Saladino while also bolstering a lineup that features Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, Eric Thames, and Lorenzo Cain. The Cubs, also, could be in play for Machado, and there's no reason to believe they won't package Addison Russell in the deal. They could get an equally good if not better glove in Machado while also getting the far better bat.
But there is another shadow that looms over all of this, one that's too great to ignore.
Manny Machado is poised for a tremendous payday.
At 26 years old, Machado has just entered his prime, which is saying a lot considering he's already the owner of two Gold Gloves, one Platinum Glove, and 159 career home runs. He makes $16m for the 2018 season; according to Spotrac, his current market value would be worth $26m a year, on par with Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, and Yoenis Cespedes. There's no reason to think Machado will make at least that much, with a contract length somewhere between seven to ten years. And with Jose Altuve having signed a five-year, $151m contract at 27 years old for $30m a year, Machado and agent Dan Lozano might try to exceed that.
So for any team looking to pay the king's ransom for Machado's services, they need to combat the looming allurement of free agency. This, it seems, could be the biggest concern for most teams; few could provide the financial demands from Machado, so when crafting a deal they have to take that into account. They can't jeopardize the future for a two-month rental, only to see him walk at season's end. If the Orioles will ask the world, and a team will give it to them, they'd best hope it's for more than a two-month service.
Manny Machado is a generational talent; his acquisition to any team can alter a division race and set the tone for the entire playoffs.
But for how great the reward could be, teams can't proceed without weighing the risks. Perhaps the savvy baseball executive can recognize that the Orioles are operating from a place of weakness; if they don't move Machado by the deadline, they lose him for nothing. But the Orioles would do well the exploit the needs of teams that will buy at the end of the month. For all we know, it could be a frenzy as the deadline draws closer.
So as we head into the hot days of July, grab your popcorn and a comfortable seat with a view. The Manny Machado sweepstakes will be must-watch television.