We all know at this point that the Orioles are at least listening to offers when it comes to their star third baseman Manny Machado. Just yesterday we went over how they were taking calls from multiple teams, including the Phillies, to see what they could get for him before he leaves town next offseason.
But now, it turns out those calls are more than just exploratory ventures and Baltimore is shopping Machado more aggressively than was originally assumed.
It’s expected that he’ll be traded before they let him walk via free agency, but rather than hold their horses and trade him at the deadline, it could be happening much sooner than anybody assumed.
Interestingly, the latest reports also say that Machado wants to switch back to the position he was drafted at: shortstop.
As Ken Rosenthal reports at The Athletic, Machado would like to swap from third to short next season no matter who is he playing with — if it’s with the Orioles it would give him reps before signing a major deal, if it’s with a new team it would show other suitors out there what he can do at short in the major leagues before they commit hundreds of millions of dollars to him on a multi-year deal.
Possibly the most glaring evidence that the Orioles could be making moves ahead of schedule here is Dan Duquette, executive VP of Orioles’ Baseball Operations, saying,
“I don’t think it’s that far down the track. It’s prudent to find out which way the wind is blowing.”
When your EVP is publicly saying that the trade will happen soon, that’s legit.
Now, soon could also be a week from now or in January, it might not happen during Winter Meetings at all. But it’s definitely sooner than expected. If they trade him before the season, they get a bigger haul (well, duh) and since they are reportedly asking for multiple starting pitchers under team control, the sooner they trade him the better they can make the argument that one year of Machado is worth that return.
Other than the Phillies, Rosenthal also reports that the Cardinals could be a match for a Machado deal, although he doesn’t go so far as to say that they’ve made overtures just yet. One possible trade partner, or free agency match, that would be precluded now is the Yankees, who already have a talented man at short in Didi Gregorius. Rosenthal also reports that Orioles owner Peter Angelos won’t trade with New York, so either way they’re out.
Of course, as The Athletic report notes, any trade now might mean that Machado doesn’t hit free agency at all. If his agent Dan Lozano operates as he has in the past and opts for an extension rather than bidding for Machado on the open market, whichever team gives up major assets in a trade now might be the lucky winners when it comes to tying up his services long-term.
In that case, the Phillies might want to reconsider their strategy of waiting on the sidelines until free agency, and not assume they’ll get an open shot at offering him a contract.
Whoever lands him, the landscape of the Orioles and next year’s free agency will be altered in a variety of ways. And that point might come sooner than anyone thought.