Much has been made of the rumors swirling around that the Chicago Cubs are seriously going after Manny Machado, the shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. It would be a giant help to the Cubs lineup, as most of the team isn’t really hitting. Currently, Machado is batting .335 with 15 home runs and 44 RBI, doing so on an Orioles team that is in the race for the worst record in baseball.
Adding Machado would certainly help the Cubs status in the National League Central. As of writing this piece, the Milwaukee Brewers currently have a three game lead over the Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Adding Machado would almost certainly catapult Chicago over Milwaukee, or at the very least make for an entertaining race to the postseason.
While that would be phenomenal to watch, there are two giant questions regarding this. The first is if the Orioles are willing to let go of Machado and the second would be if the Cubs have the assets to swing a deal. There were rumors over the winter that the Orioles were receiving trade offers, but ultimately Dan Duquette, the general manager, didn’t pull the trigger. Perhaps that was because the owner, Peter Angelos, didn’t want to trade Machado.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer, insiders in baseball believe that the Orioles will eventually make Machado available prior to the trade deadline. That’s fantastic, but it just makes Theo Epstein’s job that much more difficult. With Machado expecting to become a free agent at the end of the year, and possibly demanding a contract worth $300 million, the Orioles are going to need to be blown away.
Herein lies the problem. The Cubs farm system is depleted, and that’s an understatement. Previous trades for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana, as well as deserved promotions to the Major League level have left the farm system a little bare. Major League Baseball has an annual list of the top-100 prospects, and unlike previous years, the Cubs didn’t have a single player listed.
Adbert Alzolay is currently the team’s number one prospect. He’s a right-handed pitcher currently throwing for the Triple-A team. But he most likely won’t be the center piece of the deal. If there is any trade that will occur, the Cubs are going to have to sacrifice some of their big-league talent. Several reports have shortstop Addison Russell as the centerpiece of any deal.
But there is no way this would be a straight trade. With all due respect to Russell, he hasn’t come close to the offensive prowess that Machado has shown. Over the past three seasons, the three-time All Star has averaged 35 home runs and driven in 92 runs. The Cubs would have to add some other pieces to even think of swinging a deal.
Would the team be willing to trade Ian Happ or Kyle Schwarber? And if they did, would they be willing to do so at the risk that Machado walks away at the end of the year? Javier Baez has been another name mentioned in these rumors, but the Cubs would most likely try and shy away from anything involving him.
At the very least, the Cubs would have to forfeit two or three of their big league players, all to grab a player who is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents this coming winter. It’s a big risk, especially considering that Machado won’t be a guaranteed resign. However, if Epstein believes that the Cubs have a legitimate shot of winning a second World Series championship in three years, he will make the move He hasn’t made very many bad decisions, so whatever choice is made will most likely be the right one.