I knew these rumors weren’t going to go away. Whatever you think of them, and whatever the front office says about not paying premium for rentals, the rumors will persist. Manny Machado is a star, the Chicago Cubs are a huge name, and there will be reasons to connect the two – legit or not – for weeks to come. The best we can do is keep tabs, and deconstruct when new information surfaces.
In the offseason, the Chicago Cubs were one of the most frequently connected teams to the Manny Machado trade rumors, with variations of deals centered on Addison Russell (plus, plus) being speculated. No deal came together, which is not altogether surprising given the value proposition of giving up so many years of cheap control on young players in exchange for one relatively expensive season of Machado.
The rumors came back up recently in the form of a possible in-season trade, and although it’s going to be an option for the Cubs, I still see multiple issues with a deal actually coming together – I’m not sure Addison Russell is the right fit for the Orioles, I’m not sure a rental of Machado is the right value for the Cubs, etc.
But the rumors are not dying down, and Jon Heyman today takes them as far as they’ve gone, writing: “Machado was speculated by FRS Sports a few weeks back as a likely candidate for the Cubs, with Addison Russell seen as part of a possible package for the Orioles, and word now is that he is the Cubs’ main target at the deadline.”
Although the Cubs are not keen on trading long-term, young pieces for rentals, obviously we know they’ve made exceptions, and Heyman writes that they are “believed” to be willing to do it for Machado, too. Whether that’s something he’s heard, or whether it’s his speculation, is unclear.
As I’ve said before, I’m not fundamentally opposed to the Cubs being among the teams that explore a trade for Machado this Trade Deadline, but I am not someone who is already “there”. I’m content to let Russell continue to hold down the fort at shortstop, develop, and we’ll see where things stand come late July. In fact, absent a relative crumbling of the trade market for Machado (and/or a serious injury or complete tanking of performance), I’d just as soon give Russell the full year, and then evaluate things again in free agency.
Then again, Machado is freaking awesome – he’s hitting .342/.422/.652 right now as a 25-year-old shortstop … WANT – and he’s definitely going to be traded. I can’t in good conscience ignore these rumors, and I can’t realistically stop myself from dreaming about him being in this lineup. My word.
If the Cubs have decided – for whatever reason – that they’re willing to move on from Russell in any case, then sure, the opportunity to add an MVP-caliber player for the second half and the playoffs when you’re in a competitive window, is enticing, even if it’s only a short-term move. The Cubs would then also have a little extra time to show Machado what life is like in Chicago with the Cubs, and start their sales pitch for his impending free agency. Though, let’s be clear: there are ABSOLUTELY no guarantees that trading for Machado would ensure he could be signed long-term, and he’s said as much. So thoughts of trading for Machado must mostly remain in the “rental” space, and the question there is how much value the upgrade is worth for a few months and – hopefully – one set of playoffs. Everyone wants to see the Cubs get better in 2018, but they can’t completely ignore 2019-2021 in the process.
I don’t see a version of a trade working – for a variety of reasons – without Addison Russell included, which raises questions on both sides of the prospective deal. Are the Cubs actually willing to give up on Addison Russell at this point (he’s 24!) for a Machado rental, and a little extra time to show him what it would be like to be a Cub in the hopes they can then land him on a $300 million deal? And are the Orioles actually interested in a shortstop already in his arbitration years in exchange for Machado? How much more would the Cubs have to add? Is Adbert Alzolay a must? Is Mike Montgomery? More?
One thing that could help the Cubs if they do go after Machado as aggressively as Heyman’s reporting suggests? The most obvious Machado suitor would be the Dodgers, since they lost Corey Seager for the year, but they’ve slumped so badly and had so many other injuries that they might not be buyers at all come midseason.
We’ll keep tabs on all of this.