The Baltimore Orioles have not managed to play even .300 ball this season, so like most terrible teams of the past they are looking to unload talent. And their biggest name is Manny Machado. As many as 10 teams have been reported to be seeking him.
Among those supposedly hoping to land Machado are the Phillies, Dodgers, Brewers, Yankees, Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks. He may be traded by the end of the week.
With so many suitors, the O’s will be able to command a steep price in players and draft picks. But what would the winning team be getting?
Make no mistake, Machado is a bona fide star. He has four All-Star selections in his six full seasons and has put up consistent numbers with only one significant stretch on the sidelines (a knee injury in 2014).
He seems to be hitting a peak this season. Ordinarily a .270-.290 hitter, he is currently at .315. That is ninth in the majors and is even more impressive considering the continuing drop in batting average across baseball. His on-base percentage and slugging are also at career highs.
Machado has hit 30 homers in each of the previous three seasons and is already at 24 this year. He also has improved his walk rate, not always a strength in the past. The sum total is an on-base plus slugging of .963, eighth best in baseball and his first time higher than .900.
Once a regular third baseman, Machado increased his value even more by moving full time to shortstop this season. That position is generally hard to fill with a potent batter: The number of shortstops in the majors who frighten the opposition with the bat is low. That means most teams that would acquire him would be getting a major offensive upgrade.
An important caveat is that the team that lands Machado will be assured of his services only for less than half a season: He will be a free agent at the end of the year. The winning team will undoubtedly be eager to sign him to a long-term deal but could face formidable opposition.
Whoever gets him for the long haul will have a prize. His age is a key element to his desirability. He just turned 26, and if he follows normal aging patterns he should have several more years at this level before a decline begins. That makes him a much more valuable property than a similar player at 30 on the free agent market.
Machado is not a perfect player, and his temper sometimes gets the better of him. A bat-throwing incident led to a suspension in 2014; another suspension followed in 2015 when he punched Yordano Ventura in the face after being hit by a pitch.
Machado hits into a fair number of double plays. He is also not known as a gloveman, making more than his share of errors at third and short. But with the offensive power he brings, most teams would overlook that.
“It’s part of the game,” Machado said of a possible trade. “I’m excited wherever it is to try to go out there and help that team win. And hopefully wherever I go, try to bring that team a ring.”
After the All-Star Game, Machado may be trading in that Orioles uniform. And based on his performance, he could indeed be a key element toward his new team getting a ring.