Manny Machado trade rumors have been swirling since last year as the Baltimore Orioles continue to lose at an alarming rate. Teams like the Chicago Cubs have been interested since the winter, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, his contract could be a big snag that many teams have to face before making a deal.
The two-time Gold Glove third baseman is on the last year on his contract and has stated multiple times that he wishes to test free agency. Who can blame him? He’ll most likely strike a deal averaging around $30 million a year over the next eight to 12 seasons.
This is the type of contract you can expect for a 25-year-old who’s an elite defender that can flat out rake. In 42 games this season, he’s hitting .342 with 13 homers, 38 RBI and an OBP of .422. Any team would take a 162-game average of .282, 30 home runs and 89 RBI from an infielder who plays Gold Glove defense. Adding more value is the fact he’s been in the league for over six years, making him not only an established player but also one still young enough to be in the prime of his career.
Jon Heyman reported Thursday that the Cubs are eyeing Machado as their top trade deadline target. The real question is does a team like the Cubs want to trade for a possible rental player?
Less than a year of Machado is nice if it results in a World Series victory, but the cost of getting a player like him will be pretty steep. In the Cubs eyes, it would seem like a resounding “no.” Cubs President Theo Epstein told the Bernstein and McKnight Show Thursday morning that the team “will not be paying premiums for rentals.”
This makes sense. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have already drained the minor league system of its best prospects after acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees in 2016 and Jose Quintana from the White Sox in 2017. It wouldn’t be beneficial for them to make a deal unless Machado agrees to a long-term contract upon being traded. We know that Machado and Albert Almora are best buds, and maybe Theo and co. also can talk him into bypassing free agency to stay on the North Side beyond this season.
While the Cubs’ farm system might be barren with elite prospects, there are plenty of Major League players on the roster that could be trade bait for the Orioles. If Machado agrees to sign a long-term deal with the Cubs, here are five possible trade scenarios that could get a trade done.
1. Addison Russell, Ian Happ & Victor Caratini for Machado
Just because the Cubs don’t have prospects in their farm system doesn’t mean they don’t have young talent. A majority of them play in the majors, and the three pieces in this trade scenario are younger than Machado. Russell and Caratini are 24, and Happ is just 23.
A common theme with trade scenarios involving the Cubs is that Russell is expected to be a key part of any deal. Russell already plays great defense, arguably better than Machado at shortstop, and has the potential to improve offensively. Happ is a power hitter from both sides of the plate who can play multiple positions, and Caratini is a former top-10 catching prospect that is good defensively but has always been able to swing the bat (career .289 hitter in the minors).
This trade would benefit both clubs. The Orioles get three major-league ready young prospects that can contribute right away but also develop. For the Cubs, Machado could play back at his natural shortstop position. They also have the depth to make up the loss of each player. Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist all can cover Happ’s void in the outfield, and Chris Gimenez can be called up to be the backup catcher.
2. Russell, Happ & Adbert Alzolay for Machado
If the Orioles decide they want Russell and Happ but also want a pitching prospect, then Adbert Alzolay is probably the guy that’s added to the deal. Alzolay is considered the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs’ system and seems to be destined to get called up this year. This could make the front office hesitate since the Cubs have struggled to develop pitching talent, and he has the potential to finally be a difference maker for the major league club. But with the Orioles starting pitching being mediocre at best, getting a young arm like Alzolay could be the piece that makes them pull the trigger on a deal.
3. Javier Baez, Alzolay & Caratini for Machado
Wait, what? Trade Baez but not Russell?
It has to be considered. Javier Baez is celebrating a sort-of breakout year at the plate, hovering near the top of the league in RBI. However, Baez is extremely inconsistent, and he’s reverted back to his “swinging-at-everything” mentality in the last week or so. That’s what makes him so frustrating to watch. The talent and the desire are there, but the ups and downs are extreme. He’s either red hot or ice cold at the plate. What’s really worrisome is his defense to start the year. While Baez’s glove has been stellar during his career, he’s committed 9 errors this year and seems to make the difficult plays smoothly but struggles on the easy ones.
Baez’s stock is higher than Russell’s at the moment, and this would probably be the best deal for the Cubs. While he is a natural shortstop, Machado would most likely take that spot. Fortunately, Russell has spent time playing second base. We know his range is fantastic and many shortstops have transitioned seamlessly to second base (i.e. Starlin Castro and Paul Molitor). The knock on Russell has been his arm strength, so putting him at shorter the distance between him and first could be beneficial.
Ultimately, this trade would allow the Cubs to keep most of their depth while still adding a star.
4. Russell, Alzolay & Kyle Schwarber for Machado
Any trade to an American League team has to have Schwarber as a possibility. Schwarber is only 25 years old, but his defensive struggles in Cubs’ uniform are noteworthy despite his absolute cannon of an arm. A trade to the Orioles definitely means a permanent designated-hitter role for him (unless they want Pedro Alvarez to continue hitting .193 there). Aside from a nice DH/outfielder bat in Schwarber, the package also allows the Orioles to drop Russell in at shortstop and have Alzolay waiting in the wings as a pitching prospect.
5. Russell, Schwarber & Caratini for Machado
As explained earlier, these three would all be major-league ready and fill current voids for the Orioles. However, this combination bodes well for the Cubs. The biggest benefit is that they still would have utility outfield depth with Happ and keep their young pitching prospect in the pipeline. Also, with Oriole catchers hitting .182 and .227 respectively, adding a solid bat at catcher like Caratini would be welcomed. Throwing in a DH/outfielder in Schwarber could be the selling point for Baltimore, and it wouldn’t damage the Cubs depth or core.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Would trading for Machado signal that the Cubs think Bryce Harper isn’t a realistic option this offseason? Or is Tom Ricketts about to make it rain and give no fucks to get both of them?