Dodgers: Machado Trade May be the Toughest Decision for Front Office Yet

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23: Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on against the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 23, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23: Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on against the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 23, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Dodgers suffered a monumental setback with the loss of Corey Seager. The easy option would be to replace one All-Star with another in Manny Machado. But it isn’t that simple, at least not with Andrew Friedman & Co.

The Dodgers 2018 season may almost feel like a wasted one now, with their struggles compounded with the loss of their shortstop and best position player, Corey Seager. He flew under-the-radar a bit last year because Cody Bellinger took the shine away from him.

But there is no doubt that he is the franchise cornerstone of the future, and one of the elite players in the entire sport. His fifth highest WAR, per FanGraphs, from 2016-2017 shows that.

But now they must move on, and it is time for a franchise that is always touted for its depth, to show it. But it is near impossible to replace an elite talent. The Dodgers have shown that with Justin Turner, so there is no reason to believe they can get the same production from a collection of others.

The obvious replacements are Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández because they are the internal ones. Taylor should assume shortstop duties for now, meaning center field has an open spot where Alex Verdugo should have an opportunity to win the bulk of playing time. 

But with Yasiel Puig both hurt and underperforming, Taylor will also be needed in the outfield, so Verdugo can cover right field, leaving Kike to get a bulk of time at short. But there are a few problems with both of them being the primary replacements:

  1. Kike has not shown to be able to handle a full-time starting role. Even if he does, it will be a significant step-down.
  2. Taylor has not been able to replicate 2017, yet. Even if he were to, moving him to short would still be an aggregate loss because production will be leaving center.

So either way, there will be a big missing bat, unless Alex Verdugo replicates Seager and Bellinger’s rookie season impacts and Yasiel Puig breaks out of his slump in big-time fashion. But the likelihood of both those happening is low.

Enter Manny Machado, shortstop-turned-third-baseman-turned-shortstop. He is among the game’s elite both with the bat and glove. He is a two-time top-5 MVP finisher along with two Gold Gloves while accumulating a 29.8 WAR in 792 games (an elite 6.2 WAR per every 162 games). And he will only be turning 26 years old in July.

He slugged 105 home runs and 103 doubles from 2015-2017 and is off to blazing start this season. Through 28 games in 2018, he is hitting .361/.448/.676 with nine home runs and seven doubles. Probably the most impressive thing is that he is finally taking walks as a player of his caliber should be.

So he would be the perfect replacement for Corey Seager. And the Baltimore Orioles are the ideal trading partner because they are a rebuilding team and Machado is about to be a free agent in 2018, with only a slight chance of return. So why the holdup?

Well, it is not that simple, especially with this front office. First, and foremost, Machado will still require a haul, even if he is in his walk-year. A player of his caliber will always need quality prospects in return, regardless of the contract situation.

And because the Dodgers are in ‘win-now’ mode, they are desperate and do not have much leverage in talks. There is interest for him around the league which will lead to a bidding war which will no doubt drive up his cost.

So the Dodgers may be looking at a smaller package built around at least one of Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, or old friend Julio Urías. Or they can offer a haul of quality but non-top-tier prospects to help restock a barren Oriole farm system.

It may come down to quantity vs. quality. Do they want to keep their elite prospects but lose the depth they have built up or keep the depth but lose the elite ones?

There is also the obvious problem that makes Machado and Los Angeles perfect matches in the first place. Seager is a dynamic offensive shortstop, as is Machado. The difference is, Seager is under club control through 2021, whereas Machado will be a free agent at year’s end.

More from LA Dodgers News

Would the front office want to splurge their hoard of prospects on a possible rental, who happens to be an elite bat that can help, not guarantee, the Dodgers win a World Series? Especially for a team that has gotten worse since last year and is showing some serious flaws.

With Seager at short and Justin Turner at third for the foreseeable future, Machado does not fit in.

If the team could not win with Seager, what makes you think they can win with Machado (Machado’s .816 career OPS vs. Seager’s .866 career OPS)? Machado is having a far superior 2018, but will he be enough to push the team over the top that is struggling mightily also due to their bullpen?

This is a front office that loves its prospects. It would require them to give up on their most prized possessions and sacrifice what they have built up for the future for an indeterminate next five-to-six months.

And if they do have the intention of re-signing him instead of bringing aboard Bryce Harper (either would most likely cost $300 million+), that would most likely mean he sticks at shortstop. What happens with Seager? Does he move to second until Turner’s contract is up and then shift to third? Will that hurt his long-term relationship with the club?

Even if all this is settled, there is another critical ingredient missing: money. Trading for Machado would mean eating up the majority of his $16 million, pushing the club over the luxury tax (unless they can do a salary dump).

How can the front office justify splurging prospects on either a rental or, supremely expensive long-term investment, when money was the principal reason they did not bring back Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, and Tony Watson, or trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Darvish, Morrow, Watson, and Stanton would not have cost much in prospects. Machado will cost both money and prospects.

Next: How Long Will LA Wait to Make a Move?

This a tough a decision because on paper, it would be a great move in the short-term, but long-term ramifications may hurt. And it’s a great move on ‘paper.’  But there are no guarantees for having great talent in baseball, so you should not go out recklessly trading for rentals. Luckily, we aren’t the ones making the decision.