The Chicago Cubs have been liked in trade discussions around Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado since this past December, but the rumors have grown louder given the offensive inconsistencies from Joe Maddon‘s ball club as well as a decline in power from current shortstop Addison Russell. Machado is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, hitting .343 with 14 home runs as compared to just one long ball from Russell.
There is absolutely no question that Machado is an elite talent in the major leagues, and given his defensive prowess to go along with his skills at the plate, he is setting himself up to be one of the best players in the bigs for years to come. But despite the immediate boost that Machado would unquestionably provide in the middle of the Chicago lineup, Cubs fans should be wary of the future ramifications that trading for Machado would entail.
The first detail to consider is what the Orioles’ asking price would be for Machado. The obvious starting point would seem–on its face–to be Adddison Russell. But Russell is coming off an injury-prone season in which he also regressed defensively, and he has struggled to find his power stroke and drive in runs for the Cubs so far this year. It may be the case that Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette decides that Russell would not provide enough value as a centerpiece given his mid-level value at the shortstop position in the past two seasons.
Obviously, the Orioles would still seek a younger, premium player that could be a potential franchise anchor. Given that Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are untouchables, the most likely candidate in this hypothetical trade would be catcher Willson Contreras. The Orioles are weak at the position, as both Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph have struggled to get a strong hold on the starting job. Although Contreras has gotten off to a somewhat slow start in 2018, he has the talent to be the best two-way catcher in baseball. At a position that is relatively short on quality around the league, the Orioles would do extremely well to acquire a 26-year-old catcher just entering his prime.
Then there are the other pieces of the deal, which would likely come in the form of pitching prospects given the Orioles’ weak staff. Baltimore would likely ask for Dillon Maples. Although Maples has struggled at Triple-A Iowa, he nearly broke camp with the big league club after a very strong Spring Training. Another intriguing right-hander would be 23-year-old Thomas Hatch, who has been sensational in nine starts at the Double-A affiliate. It may even be likely that the Orioles could ask For Contreras, Maples and Hatch all in exchange for Machado given his unbelievable start to the season. This would completely deplete the Cubs’ prospects of having a solid staff in the future, which is a scary prospect given the age of Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana.
The final piece is the uncertainty about Machado’s future as well as whether the Cubs could offer him what could end up being a record-breaking deal without handicapping their payroll. Are the Cubs willing to sacrifice their future potential for half a year of Machado? It could bring the North Siders another World Series, but it may also do too much to disrupt the nucleus of the young club moving forward. Machado is certainly a gifted player, but the future logistics of a potential deal are not favorable enough to warrant Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pulling the trigger on a deal.
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