Last month, Alex Rodriguez waxed poetic on the national stage about how he should have compromised his demands following the 2000 season and worked out a deal with the Mets.
18 years later, his protégé Manny Machado most likely does not share those sentiments. But could he find himself starting in Flushing in short time?
Like Rodriguez, the star shortstop from Florida is going to land an obscenely lucrative contract when he hits the market this coming winter. But for 2018, he is the property of a wretched Orioles team that has gotten off to an abysmal start. The Orioles have delayed the inevitable for an exceedingly long time, and their first 30 games only highlights further that it is time to say good-bye to their franchise cornerstone.
A transcendent position player that can single handedly reshape the hierarchy of a pennant race is a unique event. While Yoenis Cespedes put up a jaw-dropping performance to carry the Mets into the playoffs in 2015, no one would equate him with someone of Machado’s caliber.
Since Machado is almost assuredly a rental, it’s difficult to pinpoint his value at this juncture.
Until an article on ESPN popped up this week referencing the Mets as a potential destination for Machado, the prospect of him joining the team in 2018 was barely a discussion point. Now, Mets fans are at least fantasizing of the prospect of bringing him in and watching him carry the squad in a similar fashion as Cespedes did in 2015.
It’s well known at this point that the Mets’ farm system is thinned out. The main piece of this deal would almost certainly have to include Amed Rosario, who has mostly struggled but exhibited enough talent to not totally dull the shine off the former #2 prospect in the majors.
Rosario has flashed tremendous skill with the glove and elite speed. His bat, on the other hand, has been lagging behind. As the fifth youngest position player in the league, this is understandable, but his issues are compounded with the quick emergences of the likes of Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres, his New York counterpart that he has often been compared to.
The discussion of a deal for Machado headlined around Rosario is two-pronged: 1) Would the Mets give up Rosario for a rental? 2) Could Rosario be the prime target for the Orioles as they consider offers from around the league?
Arguments For Trading Rosario In A Deal For Machado (besides that MM is incredible at baseball)
1) Rosario Is Expendable
From all reports, it appears Sandy Alderson never considered trading Rosario as he ascended through the minor leagues. However, there are a confluence of factors that would make Rosario more expendable now, Machado’s prowess being chief among them.
Another dynamic is the emergence of Andres Gimenez, who is playing well in the high-level of Single-A, where his peers are generally 2-3 years older. MLBPipeline ranked him as the Mets’ top prospect in March, with Jonathan Mayo stating the following:
“Gimenez has an advanced approach at the plate that belies his age and experience. He works counts and draws walks while making consistent hard contact with a simple and quick swing from the left side of the plate. Gimenez needs to continue to add strength, and while over-the-fence power will likely never be a huge part of his game, he should mature into impacting the ball more with extra-base authority, eventually becoming a plus hitter. He has above-average speed at present, which helps him on the basepaths and in the field. He has the arm, hands and range to play shortstop long-term and his makeup should allow him to maximize his tools.”
While there are no sure prospects, all signs from Gimenez are very promising. Certainly, his presence could help soften the blow of dealing a player with Rosario’s skill set so early in his major league career.
2) Improve Dramatically While Hurting Competitors
Manny Machado is going to get traded. There’s no doubt about this. And it’s very realistic that teams such as the Phillies and Braves could be vying for his services. Both teams have the #2 and #5 farm systems in all of baseball, respectively, per MLBPipeline, and certainly have the resources to be in the running for Machado.
Depending on how the next month unfolds, both teams could have a serious decision to make. There are still holes on each of their rosters, and a deal for Machado could stunt the long-term plans that are close to coming to fruition for both teams. However, landing a player of Machado’s caliber could vault them ahead of other National League competitors in a surprisingly wide-open league. It’s quite realistic one of these teams talks themselves into making a serious bid for Machado.
If the Mets stand idly while this transpires, they are putting themselves in baseball purgatory. As it stands, the Mets are an all-around decent team whose window of opportunity could close rapidly. If they allow the Braves or Phillies to leap them this year, they might be looking up at them for the foreseeable future.
Upgrading Rosario to Machado would likely solidify their standing above these two teams and put them in position to make a run for the National League pennant and World Series crown.
Would Rosario Be Enough For The Orioles?
Short answer: No. The Orioles have a ton of leverage and will try to wring more than one player. I think there is a creative way for the Mets to make this deal more attractive for them, however.
Given the fact that the Yankees Death Star is fully operational, the Red Sox are stacked, and even the Blue Jays and Rays have some promising young players on their way, the Orioles are set for some very lean years.
In addition to possessing the most valuable asset on the market right now, the Orioles are also trotting out possibly the worst contract (sorry Albert Pujols). Given the developments of the free agent market this winter, the 7-year $161 million deal that Davis signed back in 2016 is looking more abominable by the day.
He is batting .171 with a slugging % of .243 so far in 2018. Noah Syndergaard’s career batting average is .181 and career slugging % is .315. Chris Davis is currently very bad at baseball.
Salary dumps have been all the rage in basketball and have started to emerge in other sports. The Browns took Brock Osweiler’s contract only because it was accompanied by a future second round pick. The Padres accepted Chase Headley’s contract only because Yankees prospect Bryan Mitchell was included.
Knowing that no set of prospects could appropriately replace what the team is losing with Machado, Orioles ownership may look to get creative and use this as an opportunity to rid themselves of Chris Davis.
Since we KNOW the Mets won’t take a contract like that, what if the Mets did some brokering and brought in a team that is tanking and looking to hoard assets?
What if the Mets then offered let’s say, Dominic Smith to, let’s say the, White Sox, so they would take on the majority of Davis’ remaining contract, which extends through 2022 (did I mention this is a terrible contract?). I’d imagine a tanking team would consider that kind of proposal.
From the Mets’ perspective, Smith is certainly expendable now. With the overabundance of outfielders potentially leading to Bruce manning first base for the duration of his contract, coupled with the bashing that Peter Alonso is doing in Double-AA, losing Smith in a deal for Manny Machado would not be painful.
The Orioles could look at this deal and see an opportunity to immediately fill Machado’s position with a major-league ready elite prospect that their fans can watch grow instead of read about in the minors for a couple of years. They also can save the bulk of the $68 million owed to Chris Davis while they are rebuilding.
It’s tough parting with homegrown talent, especially the likes of Smith and Rosario, who have highlighted Mets prospect lists for years. However, you can’t land a player of Machado’s caliber without feeling some pain. And this still might not be enough—the Orioles could request a pitching prospect the caliber of David Peterson and Justin Dunn as well. And you know what? The Mets should be willing to include one of them as well. The Mets have seen first hand the fickle nature of hard-throwing arms, and the two aforementioned pitchers are still at Single-A.
Teams are already getting on the phone with the Orioles—the Mets should be one of them and see if they can pull off the upset.
For more Mets and miscellaneous, follow David on Twitter: @DGeller10