From thing one, the Manny Machado situation has been strange. You’ve got the Orioles’ seeming reluctance to trade an impending free agent with REAL trade value before a season in which they are flat out not going to be competitive in their division. You’ve got a cadre of interested teams, but a slow free agent market making the impetus to pull the trigger on a deal less urgent than it might otherwise be. Then you’ve got a team being mentioned as the most aggressive – the Cubs – that doesn’t actually have an obvious spot for Machado, unless they do something like include four years of Addison Russell in a trade for one, $17 million year of Machado (or figure out some other way to trade Russell).
Like I said: it’s strange. All of it.
Today, it gets a little stranger. Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs, together with the Cardinals, have been “two of the more aggressive teams that came closer than others to making an offer to tempt the Orioles.” It’s not entirely clear whether talks are totally over or still continue, but until moves foreclose the possibility, it’s fair to presume the Orioles are still interested in moving Machado – they just want to get the right return.
The Cardinals, Heyman later adds, seem to have pulled back a bit after acquiring Marcell Ozuna, and are also still trying to land Josh Donaldson from the Blue Jays.
As for the Cubs, Heyman cannot confirm the Russell, Albert Almora, Mike Montgomery rumor that was making the rounds, but he does say – without equivocation – that Montgomery was in the Cubs’ offer.
That’s an extremely interesting tidbit given that – as we sit here today – Montgomery is the Cubs’ fifth starter. To be sure, the expectation remains that the Cubs will add another starting pitcher before the offseason is up, but including Montgomery in a trade for Machado would sure seem to suggest the Cubs are *VERY* confident that they’ll be able to land another starting pitcher of their liking.
Heyman adds that it’s possible Russell would also be in the Cubs’ offer, given that Machado could then play shortstop on the Cubs, but he says a Russell-Almora-Montgomery package would be “pretty generous.” Yes, I very much agree, Jon.
But if the Cubs were definitely including Montgomery in the offer (the Orioles want controllable pitching as much as the Cubs), even if Russell wasn’t in the deal, you have to wonder if that means the Cubs are entertaining a middle infielder trade for a pitcher. I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Cubs would add Machado to the mix while hanging onto all the other position players – they’d be forced to move Kris Bryant to the outfield in that scenario. He can certainly do it well, but it feels far less than ideal.
Montgomery being offered up is additionally interesting because of his stated preference to be a starting pitcher at this point in his career. Surely the Cubs wouldn’t shop him just to accommodate his preference, but if they felt confident they could replace his production in another way (a big-time starting pitching addition, plus some added quality depth in the bullpen? … still isn’t quite the same as having a good starting pitcher who can hang out and be a good reliever when you don’t have a rotation spot available).
I know that the Machado rumors have ground a lot of folks down, in part because they’ve been consistently bizarre. But the picture that has trickled out of the last few weeks is one of the Cubs actually, genuinely, being seriously interested in acquiring Machado, one of the best young players in the game. To that end, we’ve gotta follow it closely.
The Orioles indicated previously that they weren’t going to keep pushing for a Machado trade after Christmas, but it felt like a weak negotiating tactic at the time, and then yesterday Jon Morosi reported that, yes, the O’s are still hearing from teams, and do not necessarily have a firm deadline on dealing/keeping Machado. Heyman speaks in the past tense with respect to the Cubs’ pursuit of Machado, but if he’s still being discussed, the Cubs would presumably be involved (again, until other moves foreclose that possibility).
You throw in the Cardinals wrinkle, and this remains a compelling storyline to follow. The Orioles would be crazy not to trade Machado this offseason (which is not to say they’ll do it … but man alive should they). As of right now, it seems legitimately possible that it could be to the Cubs or Cardinals.