8:49pm: Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Sox did indeed check in on Machado, but there’s “nothing substantial” to those talks at this time. Boston, however, “seems to have definite interest” in Britton.
8:39pm: The field of teams reported to be showing interest in Orioles shortstop Manny Machado is growing, as both Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun and Rich Dubroff of PressboxOnline.com (Twiter link) report that the Red Sox have recently reached out to the Orioles regarding Machado. Schmuck notes that Boston’s interest is seemingly a response to recent reports that the Yankees have again displayed some renewed interest.
The Red Sox don’t represent a perfect fit for Machado by any means, with Xander Bogaerts thriving at shortstop (.277/.351/.512) and Rafael Devers slotted in at third base. Devers, though, has struggled to the tune of a .290 OBP, and while the Sox certainly wouldn’t part with him for a Machado rental, Boston could in theory add Machado and send Devers to Triple-A Pawtucket for further development. Devers, after all, is still just 21 years of age and only played nine games in Triple-A before ascending to the Majors last year.
To this point, it’s not clear whether Boston’s interest constitutes anything more than due diligence, and there’s not yet anything to suggest that they’re embarking upon an aggressive pursuit of Machado. The Dodgers, Brewers and, to a lesser extent, the Diamondbacks were said to be the most most aggressive parties on the Machado front as recently as this afternoon, with the Cubs and Cardinals both now said to be largely out of the mix.
As ever, it’s worth bearing in mind that most contending clubs will at least gauge the price tag on most of the top trade pieces available. Fancred’s Jon Heyman recently reported that the Red Sox have been scouting Baltimore’s Zach Britton in recent weeks anyhow, and it’s fairly logical to expect that if they were inquiring with the Orioles on Britton, they’d at the very least check in on the Machado price tag. Players of Machado’s caliber are rarely available on the summer trade market, after all, and acquiring him represents something of a rare opportunity for any contender — particularly one in a tightly contested division race such as the current AL East.
Boston is a particularly difficult fit for the Machado, though, given the money he’s owed through season’s end and the luxury tax penalization the Sox would incur if payroll hiked much further north. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported at the time of the Steve Pearce trade that the money the Blue Jays sent to the Red Sox in that deal helped keep Boston’s luxury tax ledger just south of $237MM.
That’s an important figure, because despite the fact that much of the focus with regard to the luxury tax is placed on the initial $197MM barrier, there are increasingly steep penalties for exceeding that threshold by more than $40MM. Namely, the Sox would be taxed at a hefty 42.5 percent clip for any amount over that $237MM mark and, more significantly, would have their top pick in next June’s amateur draft knocked back by 10 spots. Machado is currently owed about $7.05MM through season’s end, and the Red Sox’ luxury tax payroll (per Cot’s Contracts) sat at $235.325MM before even accounting for the $1.5MM they took on in the Pearce trade. That figure is an estimate, of course, it nonetheless demonstrates that the Sox are only narrowly south of that threshold.
It’s certainly possible that the Sox have genuine interest in adding Machado to the mix, recognizing that they’re in a close battle for the division and that every win will prove crucial to avoiding a one-game Wild Card playoff. However, given Boston’s luxury tax situation, an already-crowded left side of the infield and a thin farm system, it’s difficult to see them emerging as a top suitor for Machado.