- It’s not entirely clear what the Phillies were offering in their efforts to acquire Manny Machado prior to the trade that sent him from Baltimore to L.A., but Jayson Stark of The Athletic tweets that the Orioles did “extensive background work” on right-hander Adonis Medina, outfielder Adam Haseley and left-hander JoJo Romero. Ultimately, though, the Orioles believed that the Phillies couldn’t (or perhaps weren’t willing to) match the upside that existed in headliner Yusniel Diaz, which prompted the O’s to ship Machado to the Dodgers.
The trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers will be the first of many for the Orioles, as executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette told reporters in a conference call Wednesday night that the Orioles are set to embark on a rebuild of both their on-field product and their baseball operations and scouting staffs (links via Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and Rich Dubroff of Baltimore Baseball.com).
Duquette plainly used the word “rebuild” five times over a 20-minute conference call, Meoli notes — something which he’d previously been reluctant to do. The veteran GM called rebuilding a “grueling process” but also made clear that there’s a consensus among the front office on the need to do so, as well as support from owner Peter Angelos and his sons, John and Lou.
Critically, Duquette acknowledged that the team’s complete lack of a presence in Latin America has served as a roadblock to maintaining a competitive organization and declared that the Orioles will “become more active on the international market and invest in our facilities and strengthen our overall baseball operation.” As Meoli points out, the Orioles are still the only team in all of baseball who’ve yet to sign an international prospect on this year’s market (which opened on July 2), according to Baseball America’s signing tracker. Baltimore’s operational and philosophical changes, though will extend beyond an increased commitment to the international market.
“It’s a multi-dimensional plan,” said Duquette of the Orioles’ rebuild. “You have to do a number of things well to compete in professional sports, but we had identified the areas that we needed to improve in — technology, international scouting facilities, the draft, strengthening our analytics, investing in our international scouting, investing in more front office staff to be more in line with our competitors, expanding our nutrition and wellness resources at every level of the organization.”
Though that presents a clear long-term approach to upgrading that’ll require years to fully implement, there are also a number of pressing issues more immediately facing the Orioles. Namely, the front office has fewer than two weeks to determine who else from the roster they’ll trade prior to the non-waiver trade deadline in an early effort to continue to restock their farm system.
“We’re going to take a look at trading the veteran players…the ones that are nearing free agency,” said Duquette. Certainly, it seems that impending free agents Zach Britton and Brad Brach are virtual locks to be moved. Veteran outfielder Adam Jones is also a candidate, though his 10-and-5 rights grant him the power to veto any trade.
The question beyond that, however, is one of whether the Orioles will undergo a more significant roster overhaul. Starters like Kevin Gausman (controlled through 2020) and Dylan Bundy (through 2021) would almost certainly fetch significant returns on a trade market that currently has a dearth of controllable arms. Setup man Mychal Givens, too, is controlled through 2021, has already drawn some trade interest and would command a notable return in his own right. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, meanwhile, is only controlled through 2019, though his value is probably down after hitting .229/.263/.389 through the season’s first half.
To be clear, there has yet to be any indication that the Orioles will consider moving talent from that group. But with the O’s unlikely to catch up to teams like the Yankees and Red Sox over the next couple of seasons as they restructure the organization, there’s certainly a case to be made that the Orioles should be looking at moving more than just their impending wave of free agents as they look to return to contention in one of the game’s toughest divisions.
However the Orioles proceed, Duquette, whose contract expires at season’s end, made clear that he hopes to remain on atop the team’s baseball operations stucture:“Like I’ve said before, my heart’s in Baltimore and I’d like to make the Orioles into a top, contending organization again.”
8:07pm: Both the Dodgers and the Orioles have officially announced the deal. Valera has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, while the other four prospects involved will report to Double-A Bowie (h/t Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com).
6:17pm: After a small medical holdup involving one of the prospects coming back, the Dodgers have acquired All-Star shortstop Manny Machado from the Orioles. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz is the key piece headed back to Baltimore in the deal. They’ll also receive minor-league right-handers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop, along with infielders Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera. The Dodgers will take on the entirety of Machado’s remaining 2018 salary, which checks in at about $6.3MM.
Since starting out the year with an 8-20 record, it’s been all but certain that the Orioles would deal the impending free agent in exchange for more controllable talent ahead of the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. But the question of where he would go would prove to be one of baseball’s most intriguing storylines for months. At different points in time, the Yankees, Brewers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Indians were all strongly connected to the four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award-winner, with the Braves and Red Sox more loosely associated in trade rumors.
The trade will, of course, close the book on Machado’s tenure with the Orioles organization, who drafted him with the third overall pick back in 2010 and watched him blossom into one of the best players in franchise history. With his new team, Machado will step in as the club’s everyday shortstop — a void that was created earlier this year when Corey Seager incurred a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery.
Though Machado, 26, broke into the league as a third baseman, he was drafted and developed as a shortstop and only moved to the hot corner due to the presence of J.J. Hardy at shortstop early in his Baltimore career. Machado voiced a strong preference to move to shortstop this season, and the Orioles accommodated that desire this winter, although defensive metrics have painted him in a dismal light (-19 Defensive Runs Saved, -7.7 Ultimate Zone Rating). It’s also possible, of course, that Machado’s glovework at short will continue to sharpen as he continues to re-acclimate to his natural position after spending years as one of the game’s premier defenders at third base.
Regardless of his defensive skills, there’s little denying the type of offensive upgrade he’ll bring to an already potent Dodgers lineup. Machado posted a .280/.338/.502 slash and 105 homers from 2015-17, and he’s in the midst of his finest offensive campaign yet; through 413 trips to the plate, he’s raked at a .315/.387/.575 clip with 24 homers, putting him well on his way to a new career best.
As was made abundantly clear at the time of this offseason’s Matt Kemp swap with the Braves, the Dodgers have a strong desire to remain south of the $197MM luxury tax threshold this year. Doing so would reset their penalty level from 50 percent to 20 percent the next time they cross that line (not coincidentally in advance of a stacked free-agent class). The Dodgers were roughly $15MM south of that line prior to acquiring Machado and the roughly $6.45MM remaining on this year’s $16MM salary. Earlier on Tuesday there were reports that Los Angeles could attempt to send a veteran player such as Logan Forsythe back to the Orioles as a means of offsetting some of that salary, but Rosenthal since reported that the Dodgers were sending only minor leaguers to Baltimore in the deal.
The 21-year-old Diaz immediately becomes Baltimore’s top prospect. MLB Pipeline’s most recent ranking pegged him as baseball’s #84 overall prospect, praising the potential of all his tools outside of power. In fact, he earns 55 grades across the board with his hitting, speed, arm and defense. Though he’s played center field in the minors, MLB Pipeline suggests he’s more likely to play right field at the MLB level. Thus far in Double-A this season, Diaz has hit at an impressive .314/.428/.477 clip with more walks than strikeouts to go along with six homers and eight steals.
Bannon, 22, is largely regarded as the second-best player headed back to Baltimore in the deal. Checking in as the Dodgers’ 27th-best prospect prior to the trade, Bannon profiles as a third baseman and has earned praise for his great defensive capabilities. That’s not to say that his bat doesn’t hold some potential, however, as he’s managed an impressive .296/.402/.559 so far with the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate. Though he’s compiled a gaudy strikeout total, his 14.6% walk rate is nonetheless impressive. Bannon game to the Dodgers by way of the number 250 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Kremer checked in right behind Bannon at #28 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Dodgers prospects before being shipped to Baltimore. It’s said that his best pitch is his fastball, which sits around 91-94 MPH with some good horizontal movement. He also features an impressive curveball, and has recently found some success with a slider and changeup. Though he struggled as a swingman at the High-A level last year, the success he’s enjoyed thus far in 2018 (3.30 ERA, 12.99 K/9 at High-A Rancho Cucamonga) has convinced scouts that he has a good chance to stick as a starter.
Pop, however, does indeed profile more as a reliever. Despite a mediocre 7.67 K/9, he’s managed to post a 0.33 ERA through 27 innings in High-A this season. A 95% strand rate suggests he may have been a bit lucky so far, but a dirty 94-97 MPH sinker has impressed scouts and annihilated opposing hitters to such an extent that there’s optimism as to the right-hander’s upside.
Valera is the only player in the deal who’s spent any time in the majors. He spent seven years in the Cardinals’ minor-league system, eventually earning a promotion to St. Louis and making 11 plate appearances before ultimately being traded to the Dodgers in exchange for minor-league outfielder Johan Mieses. Valera’s made 34 plate appearances with the Dodgers this year, amassing just five hits but walking as many times as he struck out (four). That patience is a skill he’s shown in the minors this year, as evidenced by his 9.4% walk rate and 9.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A Oklahoma City. That’s in tandem with a .284/.350/.433 batting line at that level.
Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun first reported that the agreement was in place, moments after Roch Kubatko of MASNsports tweeted that it looked like a deal would go through pending some final points to review. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to report that the deal was finalized and that players were being notified. J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group had the first report on the inclusion of Diaz, Kremer, Pop and Bannon in the deal. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report that Valera was headed back to Baltimore, and was also first to mention that the Dodgers were taking on all of Machado’s remaining salary.
5:26pm: It “looks like the Machado trade to the Dodgers will go through,” tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Barring any last-minute hiccups (Kubatko notes that there are some “final points to review”), Orioles will indeed get five players back in the deal. He goes on to say that the medical concerns that appeared to be holding up the deal earlier have been “all but addressed”, noting that they were not a deal-breaker for the Orioles.
Likewise, Jim Bowden of ESPN tweets that the Machado deal should be officially completed this evening. A source close to the transaction tells Bowden that the medicals are “no longer an issue”, and confirms that Diaz is still the headliner in the package.
That said, it’s important to note that the trade is not yet official. As J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group points out on Twitter, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes’ lineup card for this evening shows Gavin Lux as the leadoff hitter, while fellow Machado-package prospect Dustin May is listed as the starting pitcher.
3:41pm: There’s a “possible snag” in the reported agreement between the Dodgers and Orioles that would send star infielder Manny Machado out west, according to Steve Phillips of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (via Twitter). Precise details aren’t known, but it seems that some concerns arose in the physicals of the prospects that would go to Baltimore in the swap.
That said, the new wrinkle doesn’t by any means preclude the deal from ultimately being tweaked and coming together. Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that the holdup doesn’t involve outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the centerpiece of the return going to Baltimore. Rather, it’s an issue with a more “complementary” piece, per Heyman, which creates more optimism that the trade will ultimately be agreed upon and pushed through as had been widely reported.
While all indications are that the two organizations came together for an All-Star Game deal involving Machado, there has, of course, yet to be any formal announcement. And many have cautioned not to assume anything until all the boxes are checked. The Orioles, after all, have blown up several deals — trades and free-agent agreements — over issues identified in physicals. Baltimore’s medical medical standards are notoriously stingy, and today’s reports only serve as the latest entry in a fairly lengthy history of such hiccups.
If the snag ultimately proves to be insurmountable, then it could be that the Machado situation will return to the forefront of the trade deadline market development. It has seemed for several days that Machado would head out of the All-Star break in a different uniform, leaving about two weeks for other movement to occur. That doesn’t appear quite as certain now, though, which means that clubs who’d believed themselves to be runners up will likely hold off on making other deals.
To that end, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted last night that the Brewers’ offer was considered by the Orioles to be the second-strongest proposal they received. The Phillies, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Indians are among the other teams that were prominently connected to Machado.
2:16pm: Wojciechowski has been released by the organization, according to the International League transactions page.
1:04pm: Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Orioles, Robert Murray of The Athletic reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear whether the organization still has an opportunity to add him to the MLB roster, though Murray suggests that the righty is set to return to the open market.
Wojciechowski joined the Baltimore organization on a minors deal over the winter after he elected free agency from the Reds. The 29-year-old, who was selected by the Blue Jays with the 41st overall pick of the 2010 draft and eventually debuted with the Astros, has compiled a 6.64 ERA in 78 2/3 MLB innings to this point in his career.
As Murray notes, Wojciechowski has turned in a pair of impressive starts of late. And he has generally succeeded at Triple-A, posting a 3.51 ERA in 84 2/3 innings (over a dozen starts and seven relief appearances) while carrying 9.5 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. He’s also allowing quite a few long balls, a problem that plagued him last year in Cincinnati.
If Wojciechowski is indeed already headed for the open market, he’ll be looking to find an organization that can offer him a path to the majors. If the O’s still have a chance to add him to their own roster — a frequent aspect of such contractual provisions — then the team will surely at least give it serious thought, particularly since Wojciechowski can still be controlled for the league-minimum salary for future seasons.
12:08am: Michael Duarte of NBC Sports L.A. tweets that right-handed pitching prospect Dustin May, long reported to be a target of the O’s, is expected to change hands in the deal. Double-A infielder/outfielder Errol Robinson is also believed to be included, per Duarte.
That said, Heyman casts doubt on the inclusion of May, tweeting that the Dodgers’ unwillingness to part with him was the driving factor for structuring a deal around Diaz.
11:22pm: Heyman tweets that the players in the deal are agreed upon, though there could yet be some medical reviews to be finalized. Notably, he suggests that there are “believed to be” five minor leaguers going to the Orioles, though obviously the quality of those five will vary. It’s still unclear who, outside of Diaz, is going to the Orioles in the deal, but Heyman adds that there’s no cash changing hands in the trade. That won’t yet put Los Angeles over the luxury tax line, however. Machado is owed about $6.45MM through season’s end, and the Dodgers were about $15MM south of the luxury tax line prior to this agreement.
9:15pm: Rosenthal tweets that Machado to the Dodgers is indeed happening. Diaz will go back to the Orioles as one of the pieces in the deal. It’s not yet clear which other players are involved or how much money (if any) the O’s are sending to the Dodgers along with Machado.
Meanwhile, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko cautions that he hears a deal isn’t “done,” though that seems to be largely a matter of semantics. Kubatko notes that the All-Star Game has been a significant impediment to the deal’s completion. He adds that upon inquiring as to whether the deal could be completed tomorrow, one source replied: “It could have been tomorrow for the last 2 weeks.”
While any deal can unexpectedly crumble before it’s formally announced — Baltimore axed a deal that would’ve sent Zach Britton to the Astros at the last minute last July, for instance — the overwhelming consensus at this point seems to be that Machado will be a Dodger by the time the regular season resumes on Friday.
6:17pm: The Orioles’ return from the Dodgers is expected to consist only of prospects, Rosenthal further tweets. L.A. won’t send anyone from its Major League roster to the O’s barring a last-minute change. As such, if the Dodgers are going to move a big league asset such as Forsythe for luxury tax purposes, that’ll come in a separate trade, it seems.
5:08pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that “several” other clubs who’ve been involved in the bidding are expecting the Dodgers to land Machado. The Dodgers are “increasingly likely” to acquire Machado, per Rosenthal. Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times, meanwhile, tweets that the Dodgers are believed to be close on a Machado deal.
4:16pm: Machado tells reporters that he has not heard anything today from either the Orioles or his agent regarding a trade (Twitter link via Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times).
12:48pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Dodgers are the club with the framework of a deal in place. But the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber tweets that the Phillies are still “aggressively motivated” and optimistic of landing Machado.
11:10am: The Dodgers have indeed offered to include Diaz, Heyman tweets.
10:17am: Heyman provides a few more hints regarding the possible connection (Twitter links). One chip to keep an eye on is Dodgers outfielder Yusniel Diaz, he suggests. Working out the money may also mean that an expensive veteran player could head back to Baltimore in a potential deal, Heyman adds. On paper, at least, Logan Forsythe would seem the obvious player to utilize in that regard. Sending salary back to Baltimore would obviously mean that Los Angeles would need to sweeten the return.
8:05am: The Dodgers “appear to be the leading contender” to acquire Orioles infielder Manny Machado, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter link). That said, there’s still no deal in place and Heyman adds that “the situation is fluid.”
As we’ve traced this key trade deadline story in recent weeks, multiple teams have emerged at one point or another as supposed “favorites” or “leaders” to add Machado. All along, we’ve also heard reporters caution that many clubs aren’t yet sure just when the O’s will make a decision. And with two weeks yet to go, it’s still plausible to imagine that they’ll continue to wait.
Thus, while Heyman says a “deal should be done this week,” he adds an important proviso (“barring turnabout”). And while this latest report indicates the Dodgers are homing in on Machado, it was reported late last night that the Phillies were surging into the lead by dangling one of their best pitching prospects.
Before that, the Brewers were reputedly part of a trio of leaders, and Heyman tweets that the Milwaukee organization remains a possibility. He adds that the Diamondbacks — another team once deemed the favorite by some — are also still on the periphery. And who could forget that, less than a week ago, we were learning of a surprise Yankees surge. Perhaps it should not surprise if other teams manage to vault back into the conversation, too.
There are plenty of ways to interpret all this, of course. It could be that the Dodgers are indeed lining up to get Machado. Or, maybe it’s the Phils that are doing so. Perhaps the Orioles really are preparing to strike a deal coming out of the All-Star break, a seemingly sensible approach that would avoid further injury risk. Or, it might be that the steady stream of horse racing metaphors is an indication that the Orioles are seeing how far they can push the bidding, comfortable in the knowledge that they can still move the finish line back a few more times.
From Machado’s perspective, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes, it’s hard to play through the “distractions.” The longtime O’s star says he wishes he knew more about where he might be headed, but adds that VP of baseball ops Dan Duquette “has been doing a really good job of trying to keep us informed as much as he can.” Machado also gave something of a preview of his anticipated approach to free agency this coming winter, saying he’ll be looking to figure out where he and his family will be “happy” rather than maximizing his earnings.
If and when the reported trade sending Manny Machado to the Dodgers is formally announced by the teams, the O’s could be quick to turn around and move longtime closer Zach Britton in a separate deal, reports MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli (via Twitter). Interest in Britton has “picked up steam” recently, according to Ghiroli.
Britton missed about half of the 2017 season due to a pair of forearm injuries and was out until June 2018 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon that required offseason surgery. And while his first few appearances since coming off the disabled list raised questions about his trade value, he’s looked more impressive lately.
Britton’s past seven appearances have been scoreless, but beyond the bottom-line results, he’s made some encouraging gains in terms of sinker velocity. His ground-ball rate has been a superlative 68.8 percent in that time as well — a noted increase from his earlier outings in which his sinker wasn’t at its most effective levels. That’s not quite to up to Britton’s (quite literally) historic standards, but it remains elite all the same.
Control has still been somewhat of an issue, as he’s surrendered three walks in those seven innings and thrown a first-pitch strike to just 40 percent of the hitters he’s faced along the way. But there’s no denying that Britton has begun to round into form at a most opportune time for an Orioles organization that, at the very least, looks to be a lock to trade the left-hander and fellow impending free agents Machado and Brad Brach.
Britton is earning $12MM in 2018, which will present a roadblock for a number of clubs interested in acquiring his services. As could be the case with the eventual Machado deal, the Orioles might have to include some cash to facilitate the deal and to improve the return they receive for their prized lefty. Britton is still owed about $4.8MM of that $12MM sum through season’s end.
To this point, the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox have all been connected to Britton in fairly prominent fashion. Surely, as is the case every summer, though, the top relievers on the market will draw at least some level of inquiry from the majority of contenders. Unlike the Machado saga, in which some contending clubs had little need for another infielder on the left side of the diamond, there’s no contending team in baseball that won’t have some interest in bolstering its relief corps. Certainly, some teams will consider it to be a more pressing need than others, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if as much as a third of the league is tied to Britton before he inevitably finds himself with a new team for the first time in his career.
The Orioles are “going through the medicals/paperwork” in an effort to finalize an agreement with an unknown team, per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). While the “structure of a deal [is] in place,” Olney also stresses that “this in [sic] not finished yet.”
Despite the cautionary language, it’s obviously quite notable that the Baltimore organization has reached this point with another club. While numerous past arrangements have blown up at this stage — the O’s, especially, are notorious for finding health concerns — the exchange of medical information represents a significant step that would not take place without a clear path to a completed transaction.
Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun had tweeted this morning that a deal was likely to be wrapped up by the end of the All-Star break. But it seems talks may be rather more advanced than that. It’d be quite a surprise, needless to say, if anything is finalized before Machado appears in his O’s uniform in today’s All-Star Game. But it now seems we’ll watch a fascinating trade situation unfold on a major stage for the game.
We heard last night that the Phillies were coming forward with a big offer. Then, it emerged this morning that the Dodgers appeared to be the favorite. Meanwhile, it seems the Yankees are largely bowing out of the process, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
That mix of reporting provides the most recent series of clues as to just where the Machado sweepstakes may be headed. It’s unclear which organization is best situated to land him, let alone for what package of players, but it now seems reasonable to expect that we’ll learn the answers to those questions in relatively short order.
10:03pm: The Phillies “would include” young righty Adonis Medina in a deal for Machado, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Medina, a top-100 prospect, is a player the Orioles have long been rumored to have interest in. If he’s in the package, it could make the Phils “well-positioned” to land Machado, writes Morosi, though surely there’s still time for other organizations to boost their offers as well.
3:55pm: The Orioles are getting “very close” to reaching an agreement on a Manny Machado trade, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). However, despite a report of a “handshake agreement” between the Orioles and Phillies by Barstool Sports, Kubatko adds that there’s no deal between the two teams in place. To the contrary, Kubatko notes that both the Brewers and the Dodgers remain involved in the Machado market. Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com agrees, tweeting that “numerous” sources tell her that rumors regarding an agreement with the Phillies are “untrue.”
To be sure, it’d be strange for any club, especially one in the Orioles’ position, to effectively close off bidding 36 hours in advance of completing a trade when a better offer could come floating in at any time. An arrangement of that nature would come with little in the form of precedent. The inevitable Machado trade will be a franchise-altering moment for the Orioles, and cutting off negotiations this far in advance would be a downright bizarre means of going about it. By agreeing to a delayed agreement, they’d leave no room for the Dodgers, Brewers or any other club — the Yankees, D-backs, Braves, Indians and others have been involved to varying extents — to top whatever is currently being offered by the Phillies.
That said, it’s true that the league generally frowns on news of this magnitude breaking during All-Star festivities. It’s certainly possible that both sides are optimistic about something coming together shortly after the All-Star Game, and none of this is to say that the Phils won’t ultimately come away as the “winners” of the Machado sweepstakes, so to speak. But for the time being, it’s only logical to assume that the bidding for Machado remains open as the the Orioles seek to extract the best possible package of young talent.
Regardless of where Machado ultimately lands, the timeline depicted this lengthy saga may indeed reach its end shortly after the All-Star Game. Reports over the past week have indicated that the O’s are loath to trade Machado prior to the Midsummer Classic, where he’ll represent them in Washington D.C. as the American League’s starting shortstop. Jim Bowden of The Athletic took matters a bit further this morning, tweeting that Machado is “expected to be traded” after Tuesday’s All-Star Game and before the regular season resumes play on Friday.
As one can imagine, the rumor cycle is beginning to wear on even Machado himself. Speaking to reporters during the media hour for today’s events, Machado said that if he is ultimately going to be traded, he “100 percent” hopes it is over with sooner rather than later (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jayson Stark). “To not answer these questions anymore, that would be good,” said Machado. The infielder also once again acknowledged that he has “no say” in where he plays following a trade (Twitter link via Fancred’s Jon Heyman), but his preference in free agency will be to pursue opportunities where he’s able to play shortstop (Twitter link via Ghiroli).
The Cubs have been in contact with the Orioles about closer Zach Britton, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports. Padres closer Brad Hand is also on the Cubs’ “wish list” for potential bullpen upgrades.
At first glance, the relief corps doesn’t stand out as a glaring need for Chicago, as the Cubs’ relievers have posted generally strong numbers overall (aside from ranking 29th amongst bullpens in BB/9). Brandon Morrow has quieted the critics by pitching very well as the Cubs’ closer, and he has also been generally healthy, spending only a 10-day minimum stint on the DL in June due to back spasms.
Still, even the most loaded of teams will still scan the market for an extra bullpen arm, and the Cubs have a particular need for ninth-inning depth given Morrow’s lengthy injury history. It’s worth noting that Chicago has yet to use Morrow on three consecutive days (though he has pitched three times in four days on multiple occasions), and only one of his 35 outings has been longer than an inning.
Morrow is signed through 2019 with a club option for the 2020 season, so adding Hand (signed through 2020 with a club option for 2021) would give the Cubs with a long-term back-of-the-bullpen tandem that would rival any in the game. Britton is only signed through the remainder of this season, and thus would come at a lower price tag in trade talks, though there is enough interest in his services that the Orioles can ask for a healthy prospect return.
Chicago is one of eight contending teams who have checked in on Britton, according to Levine. We already know the identity of some of these other teams, as past reports have linked the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Astros, and Phillies to Britton’s market. Hand has also drawn attention from other teams, with the Yankees also known to have interest in the left-hander.
Britton didn’t make his 2018 debut until June 12 due to offseason Achilles tendon surgery, though given his track record, he only had to show that he was both healthy and reasonably effective to earn himself a spot as one of the deadline’s most sought-after trade pieces. Through 14 2/3 innings, Britton has a 3.68 ERA, 7.98 K/9, and 62.2% grounder rate, with a hefty 25% homer rate and a 5.52 BB/9 standing out as red flags. He has thrown scoreless outings in 13 of his 15 appearances this season, with all of his six earned runs allowed coming over two rough outings (and 1 1/3 innings) against the Braves and Mariners.
It’s hard to really pass judgement based on such a small sample size, though Britton has at least looked solid, if obviously not at the level of his past dominance from 2014-16. His average fastball velocity of 94.3 mph is down from the last two years (when he cracked the 96mph threshold), though Britton has been increasingly throwing harder in recent outings, as one might expect as he shakes off the rust.
Hand, meanwhile, has been outstanding in his second year as the Padres’ closer. The lefty owns a 3.05 ERA, 13.2 K/9, and 4.33 K/BB rate over 44 1/3 innings, numbers that just earned him his second consecutive All-Star selection. Hand’s 13.8% swinging-strike rate and 93.8mph average fastball are both career highs.