Things are moving fast in the world of Manny Machado trade rumors, even for the MLB Winter Meetings.
Monday morning, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that the Philadelphia Phillies were "believed to have checked in on" Machado. Later in the day, MASN's Roch Kubatko reported that the Orioles "have been doing their homework on the Phillies farm system." Kubatko pointed out that this doesn't mean that a deal is imminent or even likely to happen soon, but that the Orioles have to be prepared in the event that talks do heat up.
As it turns out, the Orioles are indeed shopping their superstar infielder, but he wants to play a different position and the team wants quite the return for him, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
The Baltimore Orioles are shopping Manny Machado, and there’s a twist — Machado wants to move from third base to shortstop as he enters his final season before free agency, according to major league sources.
The Orioles’ goal in a Machado trade is to acquire two young, controllable starting pitchers, sources say. The O’s might not meet that target with Machado under control for only one more season, but their willingness to trade their best player is a marked departure for an organization that historically has resisted rebuilding and tried to field the best team possible under owner Peter Angelos.
While Machado has developed a reputation as the best fielding third baseman in the sport, if he wants to play shortstop, that's likely something any acquiring team would have to accommodate in a trade. Part of Machado's great value is that he is extremely sure-handed at third, so it would be interesting to see what would happen if Machado isn't as good of a fielder at shortstop but is being paid to be one of the five best players in the sport.
In quite the turn of events, Rosenthal says that the St. Louis Cardinals, not the Phillies, are probably the best match if the Orioles do indeed trade their 25-year-old star. He notes that the Cardinals match up better with the aforementioned asking price, and that the Phillies view themselves as a better fit to sign Machado in free-agency:
The St. Louis Cardinals, who are seeking an impact hitter and could use Machado at either short or third, are perhaps the most obvious match for the Orioles; they have the positional need and are deep in young starting pitchers.
The Philadelphia Phillies — whose president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail; and general manager, Matt Klentak, were Orioles executives when the team drafted Machado — are reluctant to give up prospects for Machado when they could sign him as a free agent next offseason without giving up players in their system, sources say.
Yesterday evening, I examined a potential Machado trade, saying that for any trade talks to seriously heat up, teams would have go get a sense that the Orioles were seriously considering parting with Machado. Through yesterday evening, it's hard to imagine any teams had that impression. General manager Dan Duquette sounded uninterested in rebuilding in a recent radio interview. Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com recently cast doubt about whether owner Peter Angelos would sign off on a trade of Machado even if the team fell out of contention during the 2018 season.
This report, however, may make it clear that the Orioles are willing to trade Machado, which could force the hand of a team like the Phillies.
Kubatko reported Monday evening that the Orioles "covet" Sixto Sanchez, the 19-year-old RHP that is viewed around the sport as a future ace. Sanchez certainly would fall under the category of prospects that the Phillies are likely reluctant to move. It's hard to envision him being dealt in any trade, given the need for starting pitching that the Phillies have.
Second baseman Scott Kingery, who is likely to make his major league debut in 2018, was another name that Kubatko pointed to as a name in the Phillies organization that the Orioles like. If the Phillies feel that Machado is still likely to reach free-agency, it's hard to imagine them parting with Kingery, who one scout compared to Dustin Pedroia. However, if they get the sense that the Orioles are serious about trading him, and a team like the Cardinals is pushing them, it's possible they cave on Kingery. Cesar Hernandez, the team's incumbent second baseman, is an above-average starter that's under team control through 2020; if Kingery was dealt in a package for Machado, Hernandez would be more than capable of setting the table for the next great Phillies team.
Rosenthal did note that the Orioles want starting pitching back in a trade for Machado. Even if the Phillies weren't willing to move Sanchez, Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez are among the starters in the team's minor league system that could be of interest to the Orioles. The Phillies also possess great outfield depth throughout their organization, which could entice the Orioles.
The Cardinals have a slew of arms at the major league level that could be of interest to the Orioles. Carlos Martinez, one would think, wouldn't be on the table for a trade. But former first round pick Luke Weaver and 23-year-old Alex Reyes would be two names that the Orioles would certainly inquire on. They also fit the description of "young, controllable starters" that Rosenthal says that the Orioles would want in return. The Phillies pitchers mentioned are all still prospects, many of whom are still a ways away from the majors, so the Cardinals could have an advantage in that sense.
Any Machado trade would have to be contingent on Machado signing a long-term extension with the team that acquires him. Rosenthal suggested in his piece that it could take over $300 million to sign Machado long-term. Frankly, that feels like an underestimate - at 25, it may take over $400 million, a no-trade clause and a guarantee of him playing shortstop to get him to sign a long-term deal.
Even with Machado, the Phillies wouldn't be ready to contend in 2018, which is part of the reason they are viewed as a better fit for him if he hits the free-agent market a year from now. But if it becomes clear that Machado is going to be dealt and won't hit free-agency, the Phillies may be forced to make a push for Machado now, even if it is under different circumstances than they had hoped for.
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