Manny Machado is bound to be a trade target in the next month or two, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are in a prime position to acquire him right now. Starting shortstop Corey Seager is out for the season with Tommy John surgery and though Los Angeles has depth up the wazoo, Machado is too good a player to ignore. Even Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY tweeted that the Dodgers should reach out to the Baltimore Orioles about a trade, so the question presents itself.
Should the Dodgers make such a deal?
The situation now
The good news for the defending NL Champs is that despite the team being 12-16 on the year and fourth in the NL West, there isn't a huge void at shortstop. Chris Taylor moved from center field to short last night. He made an error and holds a career UZR of 0.2 at the position, but the truth of the matter is the Dodgers have more outfield depth than they do infield and guys like Kike Hernandez and Joc Pederson can take over in center, and the Dodgers are strong enough despite their slow start that taking a mulligan on defense at shortstop can happen, at least for now.
Speaking of Kike Hernandez, he too can take over at the position if manager Dave Roberts feels so inclined. He has a career UZR of 3.7 in 322.1 innings logged at shortstop, and he proved his worth enough with the bat in last year's postseason that he should warrant serious consideration. Granted, Hernandez does not have the power that will be missing from the lineup in Seager's absence, but he would save President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman a lot of time, money, and prospects compared to if Los Angeles pursued Machado.
The cost of Machado
Speaking of Friedman, giving up top prospects for a rental player like Machado is the exact opposite of his usual MO. This is a man who became GM of the Tampa Bay Rays at just 28 years old in 2005 and built rosters that made four trips to the playoffs during his tenure, including a World Series trip in 2008, all while spending minimal cash on players. The farm system was utilized beautifully and saw players like David Price, Evan Longoria, and many others debut en route to successful MLB careers.
This is exactly why the Dodgers might not wind up pursuing Machado. Los Angeles' payroll is currently just north of $188m, well below the league threshold of $197m, but the Dodgers are still paying nearly $18m in retained salary to a small handful of players, namely New York Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Machado, meanwhile, is earning $16m in his final season before free agency. Unless the Dodgers moved someone like Yasmani Grandal ($7.9m) or Hyun-Jin Ryu ($7.8m), trading for Machado would put them over the luxury tax and leave them subject to penalties.
Which brings the conversation to the Orioles and their owner, Peter Angelos. He and GM Dan Duquette tried hard to move Machado ahead of Opening Day and received offers from the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and others, but no deal was made. Angelos' asking price proved to be just too much. That said, if he and Duquette stand pat in their trade demands, Machado would cost the Dodgers a minimum of young righty Walker Buehler, and maybe another pitching prospect like Mitchell White. Outfielders Alex Verdugo and Yusniel Diaz could also be involved in any potential trade.
That all being said, should the Los Angeles Dodgers start trade talks for Manny Machado? The answer is a loud and resounding: not yet! A lot of the team's struggles this year can be viewed as a simple stumble out of the starting gate and seeing as how it's only May 1 and third baseman Justin Turner should be back from his broken wrist soon, there is no need to overpay for Machado.
Friedman should instead take the same approach to Machado that Brian Cashman did in negotiating with the Oakland A's for Sonny Gray last year. He should wait until July when Baltimore is definitely out of the playoff race, at which point he can let the Orioles know they have two choices: that they can find a common ground on a deal for Machado since he isn't re-signing with them anyway, or they can keep him and risk losing him for nothing more than a draft pick come the offseason. It's all about making Angelos and Duquette realize they aren't in a position to make demands.
Even if Machado does wind up in a Dodgers uniform at some point this year, it will be as a rental and Los Angeles' front office should acquire him accordingly.