Baltimore has had an up and down 2017 and will ultimately find themselves on the outside looking in. Next season could prove to be a big year for Baltimore if they choose to compete or rebuild. Bleacher Report currently ranks Baltimore’s farm system 23rd out of the 30 teams. In addition, they continue to not take advantage of the world market when it comes to signing players from other countries which means their farm system could get worse moving into next season. When Winter Meetings arrive, Baltimore may feel the pressure to start rebuilding. They will be forced to sell. The most notable of players would be Manny Machado. He will be 26 years old when he enters free agency in 2018. He is a prized possession and could be just what the O’s need to reboot their system.
Machado was off to a rough start this season. In the first half he batted .230/.296/.445 with a wRC+ of 91. His struggles could be attributed to his incredibly unlucky .239 BABIP. Since then he is hitting .307/.346/.533 with a wRC+ of 127 and a more reasonable .299 BABIP. Despite the struggles he ranks 10th in MLB in average exit velocity among players with at least 200 balls put in play. In addition to that, he ranks 5th in average exit velocity against fastballs. Even when he was not putting up big numbers at the beginning of the year, he was still hitting the ball incredibly hard. In addition to his bat, he has continued to rank in the top 5 in overall defense over the past 3 seasons. Overall he is a complete player and worth a load. We all have known that. So just how much is he worth?
Any trade for Machado is a huge risk. He will be a free agent in 2018 and likely receive a large contract averaging upwards of $35 million per year. Whatever team trades for him will want to have the financial capabilities to afford him long term. Thus those teams would include the Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Cubs, and of course the Yankees. Dodgers have made it clear by signing Justin Turner that he is going to be their 3rd baseman for the future, Rafael Devers has been impressive for the Red Sox, and the Cubs have KB. All those teams are likely not going to trade for Machado. Giants would have to include Beede, Tomlinson, and some other minor pieces in the trade, but could also afford him in free agency. The last thing they want to do is waste Buster Posey, so they could make a move. The Giants have a weak farm system themselves, and trading for Machado would only make it worse. If they fail to sign him to a long term deal, they will have a difficult time digging out of that hole.
The Yankees would make the most sense. They currently have old Todd Frazier and old Chase Headley manning the hot corner. They definitely have the prospects to trade. In the trade they would send Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, and Dillon Tate to Baltimore. They would be able to sign Machado to a long term contract and make him their 3rd baseman for years to come.
A team that could low key be in the mix is the Houston Astros. They currently have Bregman at 3rd and he could likely stay there. Either him or Machado could move to the outfield. The Astros have not spent a large sum of money since Carlos Lee’s contract in 2007. They have the money and could be a dark horse in the Machado sweepstakes. They also have a deep farm system. They would trade Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, and two other minor prospects for Machado.
According to Baseball Prospectus’s comparable players, he compares most with Ryan Zimmerman in 2009 with an index score of 92. Assuming similar long term projections, Machado is expected to progress along in his career the way Zimmerman was expected to. Here is a plot of how Zimmerman actually progressed to what Machado is projected to do:
Machado is the orange line and Zimmerman is the red. Zimmerman has had his struggles, and Machado will have his as well. Zimmerman is in the middle of a 6 year $100 million contract averaging about $17 million per year. Machado is better than Zimmerman in both offense and defense. Machado is worth the investment for many teams as he will help in a 2018 race and can be signed long term throughout the duration of his prime years.