After weeks of rumors and a last minute medical snag, the Orioles have reportedly agreed to send Manny Machado to the Dodgers. There was no question Machado would be traded, but his final destination has long been in question. There is no doubt anymore: Machado is on his way to Los Angeles.
Outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz is the centerpiece of the package headed back to Baltimore, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:
Can report with more certainty: Machado to #Dodgers happening. Among remaining questions, in addition to specifics of return beyond OF Yusniel Diaz: How much money, if any, #Orioles will send #Dodgers to secure a better package and help ease LAD’s luxury-tax concerns.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 18, 2018
The deal caps off a period of negotiations that seemed to stretch on indefinitely. With the Orioles falling out of contention almost immediately, the most pressing question regarding Baltimore’s season quickly became if/when they would deal their best player since Cal Ripken Jr. The Yankees at times were heavily involved, and even seemed to possibly be favorites at one point.
They faded, however, and this deal extinguishes any hope that Machado will be a part of a pennant push in the Bronx. The Yankees are an excellent team with a litany of great position players, and Machado would have been slightly redundant. Yet he was the best player likely to be moved this trade season. Even given the Yankees’ loaded offense, seeing an elite player go to a fellow contender stings.
Machado coming off the board has major implications for the Yankees. They are currently in a tough position in the AL East, 4.5 games back of the Red Sox. They are certainly good enough to erase that margin, but adding impact talent would’ve helped moved the needle in their favor. Machado was the only player of his ilk that was readily available. If the Yankees want to add a near MVP-caliber player to boost their chances, they are probably out of luck.
Their focus will likely turn to pitching now. It’s unlikely they will be able to pry loose an ace-level pitcher, as the Mets have shown extreme reticence to deal Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard. Instead, solid but less spectacular starters like J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, and Tyson Ross may be on the table. The Yankees could even look to double down on a strength and add a reliever, such as Zach Britton or Brad Hand.
Still, trading for Machado could stand as a major “What-if” in this Yankees’ season. There is no clear-cut answer as to what they should have done. Machado wasn’t a clean fit, and the Yankees need pitching far more than they need a hitter. Diaz, the Dodgers #4 prospect before the trade per MLB Pipeline, is a good-but-not-great prospect. Whether the Yankees should have beaten that price is an open question.
There is no question they could have beaten that price, however. The Yankees have a deep farm system. They were reluctant to include Justus Sheffield in any deal, though after seeing what the Dodgers gave up, Sheffield might have been enough. He’s a strong prospect, but the Yankees thrive on churning out young power arms like him.
The ripple effects stretch further into the future as well. The Dodgers now have three months to take Machado on a playoff ride and show him the delights of Southern California. There’s no way to value the period of time the Dodgers get to sell Machado on their team and culture prior to his free agency, but it’s certainly important. If the Yankees want to sign Machado in the offseason, their task just got more difficult. Instead of getting a glimpse of life in pinstripes down the stretch, Machado will see the allure of wearing Dodger Blue.
The Dodgers improved today, and the Yankees didn’t. That doesn’t mean the Yankees definitively made the wrong choice; they certainly had contingency plans in place if they didn’t land the best player on the market, and they have two weeks before the deadline to put those plans into action. At the end of the day, though, Machado was an obvious way for the Yankees to get better. Regardless of his clunky fit with the team, he was the best player available, and for now, he will not be a Yankee.