Manny Machado‘s future with the Baltimore Orioles is a situation that will be monitored until a verdict presents itself. Thursday afternoon, FRS Sports Network‘s Jon Heyman reported that the Chicago Cubs are going to make the third baseman-turned-shortstop their “main target” as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches. And a potential Machado trade between the Cubs and Orioles makes perfect sense.
Machado is one of the ten best players in MLB and one of the best infielders the game has to offer. He has a cannon for an arm, a slick glove, and is a vacuum at shortstop and third (before he was moved to shortstop this season). At the plate, the 25-year-old is just as, if not more dangerous than he is in the field. Before the 2018 season, the right-handed hitting Machado hit 33-plus home runs and played in 156-plus games from 2015-17.
A career .282 hitter, he’s been able to hit for average and provide a power presence in the middle of the Orioles’ order. This season, Machado has continued the heroics and is en route to potentially winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Currently hitting .339 to go along with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs, Machado has been a force to be reckoned with in the batter’s box. He’s arguably playing the best baseball of his career in the field and at the plate and is positioning himself for a record-breaking contract. And he’d put the Cubs over the top.
This season, the Cubs have shown glimpses of being a National League pennant contender, but they are still fourth in the National League Central at 22-18; they’re seventh in runs (209) and own the fifth best ERA (3.46) in baseball. At the same time, despite their lineup’s high level of production, it does have its holes. For example, All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo is hitting just .195, while the power-hitting Kyle Schwarber is hitting .241. Plug Machado’s bat into manager Joe Maddon‘s order, and the Cubs could begin to take off.
Even though Machado will be a free agent after the 2018 season, acquiring his services won’t come cheap. According to Heyman, shortstop Addison Russell could be a focal part of a potential Machado trade with the Orioles — which makes sense. While he’s off to a rough start this season, hitting .250 with nine RBIs, Russell is still just 24 and has showcased the ability to provide a power presence. Back in 2016, the Cubs’ shortstop hit 21 home runs and drove in 95 runs. Russell also fields his position well and is under team-control through 2021; there’s a lot to like with Russell. However, Baltimore will likely want to squeeze more out of the Cubs if they’re going to move their franchise player.The @Orioles and @Cubs will reportedly discuss a Manny Machado trade as the summer trade deadline approaches. As @RPStratakos writes, it could be a win-win deal.Click To Tweet
Considering that they will already be surrendering Russell (their starting shortstop) and are only ensured to have Machado through this season, the Cubs shouldn’t have to deplete their farm system in a trade. But they will have to give up a valued prospect. When you look at the Orioles’ continued struggles on the mound (Baltimore owns a team ERA of 5.09 which is 28th in MLB), management would love to add some promising arms — which the Cubs have plenty of. Perhaps righty Adbert Alzolay peaks their interest? The 23-year-old can hit 97 MPH with his fastball and owns a career 2.99 ERA in the minor leagues. Plus, the Cubs can afford to surrender one of their prized young arms with Oscar De La Cruz, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, among others, also in their farm system.
Russell would give the Orioles an immediate answer and a proven MLB product at shortstop for the short-term and potentially the long run depending on management’s patience. And adding Alzolay gives them a young, well-thought of arm. And for the Cubs, they take the Machado deal because it makes them an even bigger NL and World Series threat. Imagine having to face a lineup that features the likes of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Rizzo, Schwarber, and Machado: It could be a nightmare for even the most potent of postseason pitchers.
The Orioles are 13-30; their season is realistically over and change is inevitable. Machado, longtime center fielder Adam Jones, closer Zach Britton, and reliever Brad Brach will be hitting the open market after this season. Manager Buck Showalter‘s contract also expires after the 2018 season. Barring a historic comeback, the Orioles are poised to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season and aren’t likely to retain the majority of their upcoming free agents, Machado in particular. No matter how good or bad a potential return for Machado is, the Orioles are better off trading him and getting some pieces back while they still can instead of losing the shortstop for nothing in free agency.
The Orioles are about to become a rebuilding team, and those type of ballclubs love to get their hands on all of the young talent they can; Machado could get them some intriguing, young players. The shortstop would make the Cubs’ lineup formidable, and they would have the inside track on him when he hits free agency. It’s a win-win for both organizations.