The Los Angeles Dodgers sent five prospects to the Baltimore Orioles this week. In return, they received the biggest available name in Major League Baseball this summer, free agent-to-be, Manny Machado.
Machado is one of the highest midseason trades by WAR ever. The majority of contending teams were linked with the former Oriole shortstop, but it was – just as with Yu Darvish in 2017 – the Dodgers’ front office who were victorious. Yusniel Diaz, a 21-year-old outfield prospect, was the centrepiece of the deal.
Diaz has hit consistently throughout the minors, demonstrating a good eye in the process. He has been struck out fewer times than he’s walked this season, and boasts a .288 career minor league batting average. Los Angeles’ ability to evolve players like Max Muncy (as discussed here) and Chris Taylor makes it easier to trade away highly rated prospects. Baltimore got a decent haul for their All-Star infielder, it’s a deal that works for both parties.
Filling in for Seager
With Corey Seager out for the season, Machado will slot in at short for the Dodgers. Dave Roberts is loaded with options; Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Muncy are locks, with Taylor, Kike Hernandez, Logan Forsythe and others rotating. Seager left a hole in the middle of the line-up, and Machado is the perfect man to step in.
Defensively, the metrics have Machado as an underwhelming shortstop, despite being a Gold Glove level third baseman. The infield metrics are flaky, and Machado is hardly a liability, so Roberts isn’t exactly going to be biting his nails about a hard grounder to the left side of the infield.
Machado’s glove is just part of his game. Teams don’t trade five players and a top 100 guy like Diaz for a glove-first ball player. It’s all about his production at the plate.
Already an NL star
Only two other NL West hitters have a wOBA above .370. Machado is a game changer for the Dodgers in a fiercely competitive division. The Giants, Rockies and Diamondbacks do not have the same lineup depth as Los Angeles, that has just been exaggerated by the arrival of Manny. Goldschmidt is again the only NL West hitter to come close to Machado in xwOBA, with Muncy and another shock Dodgers star, Matt Kemp, also in the top 32 hitters. The Dodgers’ lineup has been transformed from good to fearsome with this trade.
The Dodgers lead the division once again. They are set up to win the West for a sixth-straight season. San Francisco, Colorado and Arizona’s front offices will be pondering moves themselves, but it is near-impossible for any of the three to bring in a star as influential as Machado.
Whether Machado contributes in the playoffs or not, this is shrewd from LA. Superb player development of players like Muncy and Taylor has made trading prospects away easier, and might yet make the difference as the Dodgers look to win their first World Series since 1988.
Machado cannot carry LA to the division alone, of course. However, if Roberts gets similar performances from the rest of his roster as he did before the break, this should tip the balance. It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the division react.