Repeat after me.
“The Chicago Cubs can win without Manny Machado.”
Now that you’re sad, let’s talk about why it’s necessary to be ready for that.
The Baltimore Orioles are in a really good spot. The team’s superstar shortstop has crushed the baseball over the first two months of the season and is the hottest commodity in the sport. Rumors of the Cubs possibly being a landing spot for Machado began at the winter meetings when Machado became available and those rumors have heated up once again.
Who wouldn’t want to add another top-10 player on a team of budding stars and superstars? Unfortunately, the idea of adding Machado on the North Side really doesn’t make much sense.
Blame it on whatever you choose—weather, bad luck adjusting to the new hitting coach, or just not being very good—the Cubs have been inconsistent in all facets of the game, offense being no exception. Despite that, they still sit third in the National League with 209 runs scored, even with Kris Bryant missing a week after getting hit in the face and Anthony Rizzo hitting under .200 through 40 games.
Offense has never been the Cubs’ shortcoming, as they’ve ranked top-five in runs scored every year since 2016 and when Rizzo and Contreras start regressing to the back of their baseball cards, the Cubs’ offense is going to take a huge jump.
Since Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and co. have taken over the Cubs front office, the team has been aggressive in their player acquisitions and have made a habit of jumping the market to get the guy they want. The team did it when trading Jeff Samardzija in the Addison Russell deal in 2014, and when acquiring Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and José Quintana in 2017. That strategy would behoove the Cubs this season if their pursuit of Machado is real.
Even if Machado is on the top of the Cubs’ mid-season wishlist, getting a deal done to get him is not going to be as easy as many have made it out to be.
Trading for Machado is one thing, but being able to keep him long-term is also a key caveat of any deal. Yes, the Cubs’ are printing tons of money at Clark and Addison and have more than enough to go around right now, but with 2021 looming as the year they will have to pay their young superstars, a little caution has to be in the back of the minds of the Cubs front office. With a farm system that has also been depleted with the number of trades they’ve made, the Cubs have to be being cautious in that aspect as well.
“Look, we’ve only paid a real premium for a rental one time, and that was when we traded Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman (in 2016),” Epstein said in a recent interview on WSCR-AM 670. “And that was a sort of special circumstance in our mind. We felt we had a team that was an extraordinarily strong contender for the World Series, but there were some things going on in our bullpen that led us to conclude there was going to be a real need down the stretch and especially in October, and if we didn’t do something, we weren’t going to win the World Series.”
Machado is going to test the market, that’s almost a certainty and the team that trades for him would be dumb not to be in on him this offseason. There are only a handful of teams that have the pieces to acquire Machado and could afford to sign him long-term: the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves are the most interesting team in MLB right now. They have played well and are led by perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman and a young duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. They currently lead the NL East, but even if they are in contention at the trade deadline, it’s hard seeing them messing with their young core for two months of Machado.
The Yankees and the Phillies are a different story. The Yankees have built a juggernaut. Adding Machado to that would be a page right out of the team’s old playbook and would solidify them as being the best team in baseball. While they currently have an excellent shortstop in Didi Gregorious, it’s hard to believe Machado would be upset moving back to third base to be in a lineup with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Gregorious. They have the money to sign Machado long-term and a loaded farm system to make it worth the Orioles’ while.
The Phillies have made their comeback to relevance this season. They’re fifth in the National League in runs scored and could be even better by adding Machado with Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana, and Odubel Hererra. The Phillies have the money to grab Machado this winter, but if they are still in contention when July comes around, who’s to say they wouldn’t go for it now.
|Yankee’s possible package for Machado:||Miguel Andujar and Justus Sheffield/Chance Adams|
|Phillies possible package for Machado:||JP Crawford and Sixto Sanchez|
|Cubs rumored package for Machado:||Addison Russell, Mike Montgomery, and Adbert Alzolay|
The packages above are just a loose prediction of possible deals, but they do serve a purpose.
Several clubs were linked to Machado talk this winter and if those teams decide to continue discussions, the Cubs may find themselves in a bidding war, which the team is not positioned to be a part of like in years past. Even a team like the Dodgers who are on the verge of being down for the count could still put together a competitive package for Machado.
While the Cubs’ rumored package of Russell, Montgomery, and Alzolay for Machado deal isn’t a bad one, as more teams get desperate, the Orioles’ offers will continue to get better. However, the Cubs’ offer may not.
The Cubs’ front office has a reputation around baseball of getting what they want, when they want, but it won’t be enough this time. They’ll just have to wait and get the guy they really want this winter.
Lead photo courtesy Winslow Townson—USA Today Sports