Despite toiling away as an All-Star on the worst team in a far away division of another league, Manny Machado has always figured to potentially impact the Cubs chances of winning another World Series here in 2018.
At first, we thought that impact might come in the positive side of the ledger column, as the Cubs connections to Machado in trade rumors followed them from the cold months of the offseason right into early May and June rumors. But then, the wind started blowing in another direction, in no small part because the Cubs’ own shortstop, Addison Russell, has been playing so well. But also because other teams are obviously going to be in on Machado.
At first, it was the Dodgers, who are without their star shortstop Corey Seager, entering the conversation in a big way and teasing the potential of flexing Machado against Chicago in a third consecutive NLCS matchup. But lately, the threat has revealed itself as one much closer to home.
#Dodgers, #Brewers most serious for #Orioles’ Machado, sources tell The Athletic. #Indians also in mix, though taking on rest of Machado’s $16M might be obstacle. Question remains: Will O’s ownership view offers practically or slow down process by asking for other players?
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 8, 2018
Ken Rosenthal reports that the Brewers are one of two teams considered to be “most serious” for the Orioles shortstop and, as we’ve explored before, they make as much sense as anyone. The Brewers shortstop position has delivered just a 52 wRC+ this season (second worst in the Majors) and -0.2 WAR (third worst in the Majors). With Eric Sogard’s recent DFA, the Brewers have now ousted two starting shortstops this season (Orlando Arcia being the other) from the big league roster.
If any team had room for improvement at the position, the Brewers would be it.
And Machado would make a huge difference. Compared to the Brewers 52 wRC+, Machado’s 151 wRC+ is 100 percentage points better. And his 3.2 WAR through this point of the season is three full wins higher. Obviously, Machado, the shortstop, isn’t adored by the advanced defensive metrics, but he brings far more to the table overall than anything the Brewers can muster.
And of course, after losing their 5.5-game lead over the Cubs so quickly after the All-Star break last season (after deciding not to more seriously pursue Jose Quintana), you can bet the Brewers’ organization, fans, and ownership are feeling a little friskier than usual this season.
But it’s not just need and rumors. The Brewers are also a very good fit in trade. In following up with Rosenthal’s rumor, Jon Morosi (MLB.com) confirmed with multiple sources that the Brewers (and Dodgers) are the two most aggressive suitors. And, according to Morosi, the Brewers system makes them better position than the Dodgers to strike: “The Brewers’ collection of players – in the Majors and Minors – is custom fit for a trade with the Orioles.”
Morosi explains that the Orioles, with their MLB-worst ERA and dearth of impactful starters in the upper Minors – will be looking for pitching they can rely on in 2019. And that, apparently, the Brewers have in Corbin Burnes (a top-100 prospect type, who was just called up to the Majors) and/or Luis Ortiz (a 2014 first-round pick in Double-A).
In addition to a pitcher like Burnes or Ortiz, the Brewers big league depth could allow them to easily add an immediate impact player (Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia) with some youth and upside. That’s something, I’m expecting, Orioles ownership is keen on acquiring.
The Dodgers do have quality prospects to trade, too, mind you, but tippy-top guys like Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo are probably not going to be moved in a rental (he says without thinking about the Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman deal). And if they are, you can all but count the Cubs out, unless they’re willing to include some serious value from the big league roster.
In any case, the bottom line for today is clear: The Brewers are very in on Machado, have an obvious need at the position, the urgency to get a deal done, and the sort of pieces the Orioles covet. It could happen. And it could hurt.