As we approached yesterday’s All-Star Game, it became abundantly clear that the Baltimore Orioles were finally going to send Manny Machado somewhere in a trade. Before the night was over, we more or less gained confirmation that the favored Los Angeles Dodgers would be the destination and that top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz would be a part of the package.
What we didn’t know is who else would become a part of that package and what, if any, money the Orioles would be assuming in order to lessen the luxury tax burden on the Dodgers, who are pressed right up against it, and/or to return a better package.
To that end, we have some answers to share:
Sources believe the deal agreed upon between #Dodgers and #Orioles is Yusniel Diaz, Dustin May, and Errol Robinson heading to Baltimore for Manny Machado and cash and possibly bonus pool $$. Again, not official as teams have yet to announce. Still fluid.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) July 18, 2018
Duarte adds Dustin May (Dodgers #10 prospect) and Errol Robinson (a top-20 middle-infield type type) to Yusniel Diaz (Dodgers #4 prospect, #84 prospect overall, and on the rise), who’s the real prize of the package as we now know it right now.
Diaz, now 21, was signed out of Cuba by the Dodgers for $31M as an 18-year-old. He reached Double-A last season and has absolutely crushed the pitching there for a combined 90 games. He should be promoted to Triple-A at any moment and, with a walk rate higher than his strikeout rate and a .428 OBP as a 21-year-old in Double-A, you can expect him in the Major Leagues full-time as soon as next season.
But what about the cash and bonus pool money heading back to L.A.? Well, as Jon Heyman has heard it, the straight up cash is not happening:
Machado deal to dodgers is agreed upon, tho could be still some medical/approval to go. Press conference slated for Wednesday or Thursday. Many prospects going to orioles (believed to be 5). No $ in deal (LA will remain under threshold anyway)
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 18, 2018
An hour after Duarte’s tweets, Heyman suggests that the Dodgers are sending two other prospects in the deal (they’re almost certainly going to be of lesser consequence than the three already named), but won’t be getting any money back. If the Dodgers can remain under the threshold anyway, it’s no big deal, but this really must push them right to the line. If bonuses gets triggered down the line or a sudden, crucial need pops up, they could have some trouble navigating those waters. And, if they do accidentally go over that limit, their flexibility this winter will be severely limited at a time when they will most certainly need to go over the threshold to retain Clayton Kershaw, among other maneuvers.
I’m not rooting for an injury or anything, but I would just be thrilled if the Dodgers found themselves accidentally/necessarily up over the luxury tax threshold this year and thus, eh hem, screwed this offseason. It would be like Christmas in July.
Now, as a final thought, Heyman suggests that there’s no “$” in the deal and he seems to mean cash. What he doesn’t clarify is if there is any IFA bonus pool money involved, as Duarte seemed to believe, and that could indirectly affect the Cubs. This period, the Orioles have $5,504,500 dollars in their total bonus pool, as they haven’t yet used a dime of it (they generally don’t). The Dodgers, however, who started with $4,983,500 (just like the Cubs), have spent almost all of their pool, when they signed Diego Cartaya ($2.5M), Jerming Rosario ($600K), Alex Dejesus ($500K), and 13(!) others to free agent contracts this summer.
The reason this matters is because now the Dodgers, like the Cubs, won’t have the necessary bonus pool space (on their own) to sign the class’ top free agent, outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, when he gets cleared by MLB. But they’ll certainly want to go after him, maybe even especially now that they’re trading away a top outfield prospect in this deal. So if the Orioles spare some of that IFA money they don’t plan on using anyway, the Dodgers could get a leg up on the field. The Cubs could probably find some pool space in a deal of their own this July (then again, how many sellers are also not spending IFA money? not too many), but you don’t want to see obvious competitors improving for the stretch and setting themselves up to disrupt top prospect free agent chases, too.
We’ll let you know as soon as this deal becomes official, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume it’s happening with Diaz, May, and Robinson at the center and no cash going back, with the chance that 1-2 more prospects and some IFA bonus pool money could get thrown in at the end.