The MLB offseason is truly finding another gear as rumors continue to swirl about some of the biggest names in free agency and on the trade market.
Jerry Dipito is making good on his firesale in Seattle, the Cleveland Indians are listening to offers on their star-studded rotation and the two biggest free agent prizes on the board are still up for grabs as the calendar has flipped to December.
The month of December has historically delivered some blockbuster moves. The 2007 trade that sent the future Hall of Famer from Miami to Detroit comes to mind. Interestingly, that trade took place exactly 11 years ago to the day.
In other words, it would be prudent to buckle up for some action between now and Christmas. Odds are there is going to be some noteworthy action taking place over the next three weeks.
This could very well include a resolution to the Manny Machado sweepstakes. The shortstop is hitting the market at the age of 26 and coming off a run to the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the original Machado sweepstakes by landing the four-time All-Star at the trade deadline.
While there could be a surprise contender for his services, and that’s not out of the ordinary, the odds, and conventional wisdom, tell us that this is a two-team race between the Yankees and Phillies.
While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and look at the odds for those two clubs to land the top infielder on the market, as per MyBookie.
Clearly, there isn’t much separating the two teams in the minds of the oddsmakers over at MyBookie. Both clubs have deep pockets, the Phillies are going all in this offseason and the Yankees are craving upgrades that could help lead them to their first World Series title since 2009 in a market that considers anything else a failing season.
Let’s go ahead and break down the scenarios involving both clubs and their respective chances at landing Machado in free agency.
The Phillies have been considered favorites by both oddsmakers and MLB analysts alike after it was rumored Philadelphia could sign both Machado and fellow free agent superstar Bryce Harper this offseason.
However, a wrench was seemingly thrown into those plans this week when the Phillies acquired shortstop Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners. Machado has voiced his desire to remain at shortstop after converting to the position full-time in 2018 after spending the overwhelming majority of his career with the Orioles at third base.
So, it would seem that the Phillies’ chances of signing Machado hinge on their convincing him to move back to the hot corner considering Segura is a full-time shortstop and nothing else. It wouldn’t be a temporary move back to third either as Segura is under contract through the 2023 campaign.
The Phillies are interested, and they’re also the betting favorites to land the former Washington National at +300 as per MyBookie. Harper’s situation seems a little more wide open as the Dodgers (+400), Nationals (+500), Giants (+650) and Cubs (+700) are all hanging around in the sweepstakes. After the Phillies and Yankees, the next closest odds for Machado are the White Sox at +700, a rather large drop from the Yankees at +200.
Can the Phillies really lure both superstars to the city of brotherly love? Are they really willing to spend upwards of $600M on two players in a single offseason, even after acquiring Segura and his $14.25M salary for the next four seasons to play the same position Machado wants to play? Are both players willing to share the spotlight in Philly, or do they want to be “the guy” on a different club on their own?
There’s clearly moving parts all over the place when it comes to the Phillies and their ability to land Machado, but once again I think it comes down to his desire to play shortstop. Did he move to short in his walk year to increase his value on the open market? Maybe. But it’s also possible he wants to take on the challenge of playing the most difficult infield position on the field for a contending team.
Segura is a shortstop and it doesn’t make sense for a win-now team to acquire a player of his caliber and contract and force him to move to an unfamiliar position. Machado would need to play third base for the Phillies and there is no getting around that.
Given their desire to return to championship form, it’s certainly possible that GM Matt Klentak could convince Machado to move to third base, and perhaps the lure of possibly playing with Harper and winning a World Series aids that discussion. Time will tell, but I certainly tip my cap to the aggressive nature of this Phillies offseason.
There is no shortage of storylines in the Yankees’ pursuit of Machado, a player that has played against New York a lot over the first seven years of his career, the overwhelming majority of which were spent with the AL East rival Orioles.
The most glaring aspect to this possible marriage is the Didi Gregorius factor. Gregorius has been all the Yankees could have hoped for and more since they acquired him in a trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers prior to the 2015 season. And yes, that trade happened in December, four years to the day on December 5th.
Considered a light-hitting shortstop at the time of the deal, Gregorius’ time with the Yankees began just as Yankees legend Derek Jeter’s ended, so there were some gigantic shoes to fill. Gregorius has since turned into one of the top power hitting shortstops in the game while being worth at least four WAR in each of the last two seasons.
The unfortunate circumstance with Gregorius is that he underwent Tommy John surgery after the Yankees were eliminated by the rival Red Sox in the ALDS and is expected to be out until the All-Star break in mid-July. The Yankees traded fill-in shortstop Ronald Torreyes to the Cubs, and there isn’t really an in-house replacement at the moment. Second-year infielder Gleyber Torres would be the most likely candidate to move to shortstop while fellow youngster Tyler Wade could get a half-season crack at the keystone.
Or the Yankees could sign Manny Machado.
The Yankees just watched their rival Red Sox win the World Series, knocking them out along the way, for the second time since New York last won in 2009. Boston is World Series favorites again in 2019. Are the Yankees, the most notorious spending team in baseball history, willing to play the wait-and-see game with Torres/Wade in the middle infield while they wait for Gregorius, or are they going to get aggressive and make sure the position is locked down for the first three and a half months of the season, and several years thereafter?
I’m thinking more along the lines of the latter.
Keep in mind that Gregorius is a free agent after the 2019 season, so there is very little certainty about his future in New York, to begin with. It’s extremely unfortunate he is going to miss half of his walk year, especially for a player who has earned himself a big contract when he does hit the open market.
So, the questions now becomes: Pass on Machado and hope Gregorius can return to form for the second half of his contract year or sign Machado and deal with the Gregorius situation when that time comes, all the while increasing your chances at competing with the Red Sox and for a World Series championship.
Once again, the latter sounds better and more realistic to me.
Prediction: Yankees (+200)
I would still be taking the Yankees even if the odds were reversed and they were the favorites at +150. The situation just makes more sense in the Bronx than it does with the Phillies after the Segura trade.
To me, the Phillies’ trade with the Mariners looks like they wanted to lock down a position of need just in case they weren’t able to Machado. They got very little from the shortstop position last season and they needed to ensure this offseason need was handled. If they didn’t jump on the opportunity to acquire Segura, but also lost out on the Machado sweepstakes, they were no further ahead, especially considering the number of teams involved the Bryce Harper derby.
I just don’t think they will be able to convince Machado to return to third base for the prime years of his career because they traded for another guy to play short. Given the black hole at short just a week ago at this time, Machado to the Phillies seemed like a layup. That’s no longer the case.
He’s technically from the US, but Machado played for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic. Given his Dominican background, perhaps he would want to play alongside the likes of fellow Dominicans in Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Miguel Andujar. Torres also hails from Latin America.
Regardless, this also comes down to the Yankees locking in an elite shortstop to open up a championship window as far as the eye can see considering the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Sanchez, Torres, Andujar, James Paxton, Severino, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman also repping pinstripes.
That’s a really good group, and with Machado on board, there’s no reason why the Yankees couldn’t compete with the Red Sox in that division for years to come. It sure would open up the window for some epic battles between the two star-studded rivals.
At the end of the day, my prediction is that the Yankees get over their concerns of Machado and sign him to a massive contract in hopes of getting them over the hump and into a parade route for the first time since 2009.