I wonder how many players wore their home team jersey for the last time in an All-Star game. As I am sure you have heard, Manny Machado will be wearing Dodger blue on Friday. We all saw the trade coming a mile away. It was just a question of who was going to acquire the season’s biggest prize.
The Orioles are not getting any future stars in this deal, which is their fault for not pulling the trigger on this trade sooner. There is no excuse for it to have taken this long. There was certainly no predicting that the Orioles were going to be this bad in 2018, but even the most optimistic evaluations and projections gave them virtually no shot at making the playoffs. Honestly, this trade should have happened by the trade deadline last year.
Outfielder Yusniel Díaz is the headliner of the trade. Also included are right-hander Dean Kremer, infielder Rylan Bannon, right-hander Zach Pop and infielder Breyvic Valera. The Dodgers will be getting Machado only through the rest of the season as he will be hitting free agency. Besides moving from a terrible team to a competitive one in Los Angeles, Machado also benefits from not having to worry about having a qualifying offer attached to him, because traded players are not eligible to receive them. He is such an elite player that I doubt it would have affected him much anyway.
Coincidentally, I saw Díaz in person at the
Home Run Derby Futures Game. He became only the second player in the history of the event to hit two home runs in one game. I was not too familiar with the Cuban outfielder before this past Sunday, but he got on the radars of a lot of people during that game. However, that power display belies his actual power tool. Scouts actually like his hit tool more than what they believe to be average power. At the end of the day, that is more important anyway. That being said, power can play up if your hit tool is strong enough, just like Díaz showed.
Díaz raked in Double-A last year, and he is doing even better this season. He is hitting .314/.428/.477 and is walking at an excellent 15.5 percent rate. That is even higher than his strikeout rate!
The two biggest knocks on Díaz are his health and his baserunning. The health is obviously the bigger problem. He has missed a fair amount of time the past few years. As for the baserunning, it is inexplicably bad. He has a 44 percent success rate stealing bases for his career. I do not know how his Double-A manager has not straight-up banned him from even trying anymore.
Díaz barely cracked Keith Law’s midseason top-50 prospect rankings. To be clear, that is a compliment. He was not on his preseason top 100 at all, so it shows how far along he has come. Still, it is not a good thing when the headlining prospect does not project to be more than an everyday regular. Hopefully he will tap into more of the power he displayed at the Futures Game.
Kremer does show some intrigue as a potential back-end starter. That is his likely ceiling, though, and he could end up in the bullpen. The problem is that the Orioles have a terrible track record when it comes to developing pitchers. With the Orioles clearly rebuilding, one would think that than an overhaul of their pitching development system is coming soon, but they have needed to do this for years now and they have done nothing yet.
Pop’s ceiling is as a mid-reliever, but again, unless the Orioles make major changes with respect to their pitcher development, then Pop might not end up as more than an org guy.
Bannon does not project more to be more than a utility player coming off the bench. From what I have read about him at Baseball Prospectus, he is pretty athletic, and even though he has a noisy, busy swing, he can make it work. Personally, I really like what I have read about him. I would not be surprised if he surpassed his projected ceiling.
Breyvic Valera does have major league experience, albeit barely. He has displayed some good OBP skills in the minors, but he does not hit for any power. If he has any chance to be so much as an end of the bench guy, he is likely going to get his chance to prove it. He is a good candidate to take over for Machado at shortstop.
Losing Corey Seager for the season make the Dodgers a great destination for Machado, even though they do not need help at shortstop, thanks to Chris Taylor. He has regressed a bit since his breakout 2017 season, but he is still hitting well with a line of .253/.332/.454.
The funny thing is that Taylor might be a better fielding shortstop than Machado right now. Machado’s defensive metrics are terrible, which is not something I thought I would ever write about him. By the eye test he looks awkward at the position. He is having the best offensive year of his career, so it is not a big deal.
Machado is hitting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs. His 156 wRC+ ranks eighth in baseball. Even if he is the everyday shortstop and provides nothing better than 40-grade defense, he could make all the difference in the world for a Dodgers team in a tight NL West race. He could conservatively be a two-win upgrade. My guess is that he would be more in the 3-4 win range.
I would play Machado at third base and move Justin Turner to second base. He might not be elite there anymore, but I’d bet he is still at least a 70 defender there. Turner has had health struggles this year, so when he is not available, I would put Machado at shortstop and Taylor at second base, with Max Muncy at third base. Whatever defensive alignment Dave Roberts chooses, he just needs to keep Logan Forsythe out of the lineup. He has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this year.
Even though he is a rental, this is a solid move for the Dodgers. They might miss Díaz, but likely no one else with whom they parted. Again, Díaz is not likely to be a star, and if Machado helps clinch the NL West — or more — he will be worth parting with.
As for the Orioles, it is a sad day for their fans. They parted with their best player since Mike Mussina. He is the best position player they had since Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. If you take a look at this list of the all-time top 24 Orioles players by WAR, Machado has the talent to surpass all of them except Cal Ripken. The fact that he ranks 19th on that list despite having only played the equivalent of six seasons to this point is amazing.
Parting with Machado could also help the Orioles clinch the number one overall pick in next year’s draft. The race is between them and the Royals right now.
I was sincerely expecting the Orioles to receive less than what they got for Machado. It is tough that they got no superstars, but they had no chance to do any better than this because of how long they waited to trade him. Given the circumstances, it is a fair return. Had they they done this a year ago like they should have, they could have done a lot better. If I were an Orioles fan, that is what would be frustrating me the most.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.