5:45pm: If the O’s are to strike an early deal involving Machado, it seems they may not be able to do so with the Phillies. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, via Twitter, the Philadelphia organization has “moved on from Machado for now, as [the] Orioles’ asking price is too high.” Of course, a change of heart on either side could take place at any moment, so there’s no reason to think the match is off the table at this early stage of the summer trade period.
12:38pm: Though Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently reported that trade talks surrounding Manny Machado have “accelerated” this week, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that teams still aren’t offering anything close to what the Orioles are hoping to obtain for Machado. That sounds like a similar situation to the one Baltimore encountered in the offseason, when its front office sought a pair of MLB-ready rotation pieces in exchange for the final year of Machado’s contract but could not find a taker at that exorbitant price tag.
Controllable pitching has reportedly been among the Orioles’ top priorities once again, and they’re also said to be interested in landing some type of replacement for Machado in the infield. But, with Machado set to hit free agency at season’s end, extracting multiple MLB-ready assets from a rival club is a difficult, if not borderline unrealistic goal for the Orioles.
As Crasnick notes, the rental market, in general, has proven less fruitful for sellers in recent seasons, and talented as Machado may be, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. While many fans have wishfully speculated about negotiating windows and extension scenarios that could prevent Machado from reaching the market, the reality is that he’s going to explore free agency in search of a record-setting contract this winter.
To that end, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi wrote yesterday that the Phillies would be reluctant to part with either top prospect Sixto Sanchez or big league right-hander Zach Eflin in order to acquire Machado. While Eflin’s success in the Majors is limited — he struggled greatly in 2017 — he’s looked legitimately impressive through 63 2/3 frames so far in 2018. In 11 starts, Eflin has a 2.97 ERA with 8.9 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.71 HR/9 and a 37.1 percent ground-ball rate. His 2.90 FIP helps to support that ERA, and he’s sporting career-bests in swinging-strike rate (10.8 percent) and average fastball velocity (94.2 mph). Eflin has moved away from his two-seamer/sinker in favor of a vast increase in four-seam fastballs and sliders, and the results, to this point, have been outstanding.
Morosi also discusses potential reluctance on Atlanta’s behalf, though it’s not clear what prompts the specific scenarios he explores; the Braves haven’t been rumored to have significant interest in Machado — to the contrary, they’re rumored to have limited funds available — and Morosi’s specification of Ian Anderson and Max Fried appears to be a purely speculative package which one source deemed too rich. (For that matter, it’s unclear why the column focuses solely on the NL East.) That shouldn’t come as any real surprise, given that the O’s weren’t able to acquire to arms of that caliber for a full season of Machado this past offseason and are now marketing just two to three months of his talents.
Meanwhile, Fancred’s Jon Heyman writes that the Brewers have “checked in” on Machado, largely echoing Rosenthal’s previous assessment that the Brew Crew has done “due diligence” on Machado but isn’t likely to meet the Orioles’ asking price. That meshes with today’s report from Heyman, who cites a person “with Brewers ties” in stating that the Brewers check in on virtually every player available (as one would expect from contending clubs).
Perhaps more interestingly, Eno Sarris of The Athletic recently endeavored to see just what exactly can be made of the metrics that suggest Machado’s defense at shortstop to be so unsightly (subscription link). In an excellent exploration of Machado’s glovework, Sarris notes that Machado’s season at shortstop rates among the worst ever recorded by measure of Ultimate Zone Rating. However, UZR doesn’t include plays on which a defender is shifted to the opposite side of second base. Beyond that, 80 percent of the balls hit to Machado this season have been routine plays that are made 90 to 100 percent of the time, and Machado, accordingly has converted about 97 percent of those plays.
Subtracting the given outs and the shift plays, Sarris concludes that data suggesting Machado has been a historically bad defender is based on a matter of roughly 56 plays — and that small of a sample may not be a fair means of judging a player who is re-acclimating himself to a position he hasn’t played this frequently in more than a half-decade. Of course, there’s little evidence to suggest that Machado has been an especially good (or even average) shortstop, either, but the extent of his deficiencies remains difficult to accurately evaluate.