The Fit: Atlanta Braves

Manny Machado could be one of the most valuable rental options to date, with his current .323/.393/.621 slash line putting any concerns about his 2017 performance to rest. The Orioles have placed a heavy price-tag on their 25-year-old shortstop, as they will look to bolster a weak farm system while heading into a full-blown rebuild. While the Cardinals and Dodgers could make a strong push for Machado, the Atlanta Braves have the organizational depth to top just about any deal from other suitors.

In what was predicted to be another shoe-in NL East victory for the Nationals, the Braves have found themselves in first place after finishing under .500 for four consecutive seasons.  Breakout campaigns from Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb have solidified the rotation, while the lineup has been bolstered with a resurging Nick Markakis and the ascendance of elite prospects Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies.

The one position the team has struggled to get production from is third base, where Machado has spent the majority of his career. After experimenting with Jose Bautista, the team has returned to 24-year-old Johan Camargo, who while showing an increase in power is only batting .214 after finishing 2017 at .299. Third base prospect Austin Riley has burst onto the scene as a premier hitter, yet it is unlikely that the 21-year-old will be be a factor this season having just reached Triple-A last month.

The Braves have a plethora of starting pitching prospects they could build a trade package around, with starting pitching being the most depleted area of Baltimore’s organization. Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara and Max Fried would offer the most immediate help having already reached the majors, while Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard and Ian Anderson are a year or two away from contributing. Any package for Machado would likely include at least two of these six pitchers, in addition to a few other young position players.

Trading for Machado may also put the Braves in a position to sign him come free agency, putting them in the position to be an National League super-power for years to come. According to Spotrac, the Braves payroll is sitting at around $120 million, which ranks 21st in baseball. The impending free agency of Markakis and Brandon McCarthy alone will free up over $22 million, which would put them in a good financial position to meet Machado’s potential $40 million annual demand.

The Trade

Braves get SS Manny Machado

Orioles get LHP Luiz Gohara, RHP Ian Anderson, 3B Johan Camargo, IF/OF Travis Demeritte

Analysis

While this is a heavy price to pay for a rental player, the Braves avoid giving up their top two pitching prospects in Wright and Soroka. The Orioles could plug the 21-year-old Gohara right into their rotation, while Camargo gives them a young option to hold down third base until prospect Ryan Mountcastle is major league ready. While it would be tough for Atlanta to deal their former third overall pick in Anderson, the 20-year-old right hander is at least two years from contributing at the major league level which makes him more expendable than Wright and Soroka. The rebuilding Orioles would be in no rush to move Anderson through the system, who would instantly become the top pitching prospect in their organization. Former first round pick Travis Demeritte is the “throw-in” prospect of the deal, who has continued to struggle with his batting average in his second year of Double-A but could develop into an above-average utility player.

In return, the Braves get an MVP-caliber player to round out an already dangerous top of the lineup, putting them in a prime position to hold their slim NL East lead into October. Here’s what their lineup could look like with Machado:

  1. 2B Ozzie Albies
  2. LF Ronald Acuna Jr.
  3. 1B Freddie Freeman
  4. 3B Manny Machado
  5. RF Nick Markakis
  6. C Tyler Flowers
  7. CF Ender Inciarte
  8. SS Dansby Swanson

That lineup speaks for itself, as it forms perhaps the most difficult one through five in all of baseball. While dealing for Machado will make a dent in what many consider to be the top farm system in baseball, it is certainly a risk worth taking if their success continues into July.

 

 

-Featured Image from NY Post