Trying to pick apart Manny Machado’s trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers is, as an Orioles fan, not an easy thing to do. It’s a bit like trying to analyse a raw break-up mere days after the fact; no matter how dispassionate you try to be, it’s never going to be possible – at least entirely – to remove emotion from the equation.
Machado has dominated Baltimore since arriving on the scene aged 19 in 2012. In his time in the Majors, he owns an OPS+ of 121, an OPS of .822, and a defensive ability that has seen him compared to Brooks Robinson, arguably the greatest third baseman to ever play the game. Not only that, but Manny’s larger-than-life personality, his fiery passion and his bromance with fellow infielder Jonathan Schoop have combined to make the Florida-native arguably the most beloved Bird since Cal Ripken Jr.
Machado is a strange one in that, as much as it hurts to see him go, it’s also hard not to wish it hadn’t happened sooner. Much has been made of the Orioles’ generally rudderless approach to the last two seasons, making middle-of-the-road trades that failed to keep the team in contention while steadfastly refusing to commit to a rebuild. All the while, the clock on Machado’s looming free-agency ticked down, and the potential return he could bring in diminished.
Machado’s slow start to the 2017 season may have scuppered some of the Orioles’ plans – the famously stubborn ownership would likely have argued any return they received after a down couple of months was not enough – but that may be giving the organisation a bit too much credit. Trading Machado in the last off-season would almost certainly have yielded a bigger haul of prospects. Perhaps the O’s believed that by waiting, they could drive a hard bargain with a team locked in a desperate division battle with a dire need at shortstop, Machado’s new position this year. More likely, however, is they ignored the warning signs and believed, despite all indications, that by the trade deadline, they might need to hang on to Manny to help with a postseason push of their own. Instead, the Orioles currently hold an almost historically bad record. An infield of Machados couldn’t help them at this stage.
The return from the Dodgers, a haul of five prospects, has largely been described as a fair one; neither team looks to have committed grand larceny. Some have drawn parallels with the Cubs’ trade for Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees two years ago, and pointed out that in exchange for a couple of months of the flamethrowing reliever, the Yankees got Gleyber Torres, a ready-made superstar.
While the Dodgers-O’s trade lacks the future star aspect – Yusniel Diaz is the biggest piece headed to Camden Yards – it’s arguably the sort of exchange they need to be looking to make with others such as Zach Britton. The sorry state of the O’s farm system means that as well as premium pieces, players who can simply add depth are vital to the future of the team. With the Orioles’ record (or lack thereof) of developing starting pitchers, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they chose to make Diaz the centrepiece of the trade.
Despite having known the end was inevitable for many months, Machado’s absence will be keenly felt in Baltimore for years to come. Whether the prospects sent by the Dodgers ultimately form a part of the next great Orioles team remains to be seen. For now, all there is to say is goodbye Manny, and good luck.