Yesterday afternoon, a report surfaced that the Chicago Cubs were “still” involved in conversations about a Manny Machado trade with the Orioles.
Although the hypothetical trade fit (along with about 8-10 other teams) had previously been discussed, this latest report was a bit of confirmation that it wasn’t purely conjecture from the outside. The Cubs were doing what you’d expect them to do: check in and have a chat or two when a superstar is on the market.
But despite the updated confirmation, the potential return (i.e. the package sent by the Cubs for Machado) continued to be a sticking point for many.
A recent rash of speculation has connected the Cubs to Machado in a hypothetical sense, notably from Jesse Rogers (fairly tapped into the Cubs’ world, in general) and Ken Rosenthal (just very tapped in, in general). Neither was a rumor, per se, and the issue was that both of those accounts suggested that the Cubs include Addison Russell (plus more) in order to acquire one year of Machado … which, no thanks.
As we’ve discussed at length, Brett and I aren’t interested in swapping four cost-controlled seasons of someone like Addison Russell in exchange for just one $17 million year of Machado, but we recognize that others disagree with us. But we can all agree that exploring how the Cubs might add Machado – perhaps at a different, lesser price tag – is something we’re definitely interested in exploring.
And, as it turns out, I think the Cubs and other teams were probably interested in the exact same thing, because the latest report out of Baltimore is that the Orioles are unhappy with the trade offers they’ve received so far and, according to Jon Heyman, that means they might reel him back in soon.
Baltimore has been seeking young, controllable talent in return for Machado, generally considered to be one of the top five players in the game, but the Orioles will “move on to other things” if nobody steps up with what they see as a fair deal perhaps as soon as “today or tomorrow,” according to someone familiar with their thinking.
Okay, let’s unpack this a little bit.
First and foremost, if your instincts are anything like mine, you’re probably thinking that this is a bit of a false deadline and according to Heyman, that’s probably right. With that said, the difference of one Manny Machado on the roster can drastically change a team’s (like the Orioles) plans quite a bit and very quickly. So if they start making moves with him in mind for the Opening Day lineup, then he may soon be staying put until, at least, the July 31st trade deadline. So even if it’s not absolutely a done deal that he’s off the market tomorrow, it really could happen before the first of the year.
But what about that return? How much is enough?
Previously, the Orioles were looking to get a cost-controlled starting pitcher in return for Machado, and that seems to still be the case – though we have a bit more confirmation on that. Apparently, the Orioles are looking for a similar return to what the Braves got from the Cardinals (Shelby Miller) in the Jason Heyward trade several years ago.
Obviously, both Miller and Heyward’s value have changed a LOT since then, but Miller, 24, was coming off a 183.0 IP season in St. Louis (OK results, rough peripherals, folks were fairly down on him at that point) with five years of cheap team control, one of which was still pre-arbitration. Heyward, similarly, was 25 (just like Machado), and heading into his final cost-controlled season before hitting free agency as a 26-year-old star.
Given the similarities, it’s hard to argue with what the Orioles are asking, but it’s fair to question how well-liked Miller really was at the time. After having one good year with the Braves in 2015, Miller completely fell off the map for the D-Backs in 2016 (he was demoted to the Minors) and has undergone Tommy John surgery since. Perhaps, then, his actual trade value was a bit lower than fans guessed and the Braves were simply taking a bit of risk. After all, it worked out for them, because they spun him off to the D-Backs in one of the most lopsided (in Atlanta’s favor) trades in recent memory. Arizona’s front office was shortly thereafter cleaned out.
In any case, Heyman writes that the Orioles have fielded trade inquires from the Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox, Yankees, Giants, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and others, but not one has been to their liking. Interestingly, Heyman also adds that they are soon expected to more seriously check the trade interest in closer Zach Britton (also has one year of pricey ($12.2M projected arb salary) team control remaining), who’s drawn attention from the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies, and others.
With a little bit of guessing, it’s not hard to imagine the Orioles packaging Britton and Machado together in order to beef up their return, and, as you can see the Cubs and Cardinals are the only two teams that come up on both lists. [INSTANT UPDATE: Britton has reportedly torn his Achilles, so that changes everything. More on that soon.]
For what it’s worth, Heyman says that while all the teams involved have the pieces to get something done, the White Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees match up the best in terms of young prospects (pitchers, most likely). He also adds that the Cubs (and D-Backs) seem to think of Machado as a shortstop more than a third baseman, but it sounds like that’s just a bit of speculation based on the existence of Kris Bryant.
So, as of now, it sounds like this is where we’re at: The Orioles are looking for cost-controlled talent, probably a starting pitcher (a la Shelby Miller), in return for one $17M season of Manny Machado, based on the return Jason Heyward fetched a few years ago. They don’t like the offers they’ve received so far, and if nothing changes, they’ll pull him back within a couple of days. For those of you worried the Cubs are dangling Addison Russell, it would be surprising if the Orioles were totally uninterested in that. But it’s possible. It is also, of course, possible that the Cubs are making no such offer.
Stay tuned, because this might be resolves, one way or another, soon.