As it becomes more and more clear that the Baltimore Orioles will be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, the trade rumors involving All-Star infielder Manny Machado continue to gain traction.
Through 36 games, the Orioles are 9-27 and already out of contention in the AL East. With the franchise going nowhere, it's unlikely that Machado will re-sign with the club once his contract expires at the end of this season. It would have been difficult enough even if Baltimore was contenders given their small-market status. But the fact that they are suddenly facing a rebuild, it's all but a given that Machado will leave.
That means the franchise has to trade the 25-year-old in order to get something in return to help move that rebuild along. Letting him walk could be disastrous for the organization as he is worth multiple blue-chip prospects.
The problem is that teams interested in Machado won't be too keen on giving up a lot for the prospect of a rental. A contending team could see Machado as the missing piece to a championship puzzle in 2018, but he could call for a contract between $200 million and $300 million this winter.
It's easy to see why. Machado has been red-hot during the opening six weeks of the 2018 season, slashing .343/.428/.606 with nine home runs and 27 RBI.
Naturally, there are potential suitors out on the market right now that could make an inquiry for Machado.
The defending National League-champion Los Angeles Dodgers are in desperate need of a shortstop after starter Corey Seager underwent Tommy John surgery. Chris Taylor has been a solid stopgap, but the Dodgers are already eight games back of the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks and in need of some kind of spark if they want to get back to the postseason.
In the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs have made it known that they are interested in Machado.
Per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:
"But after checking in on his availability during the winter, the Cubs expect to talk to the Orioles about Machado again when the worst team in the American League inevitably makes the pending free agent available in the coming weeks, insiders say."
It would mean the Cubs would probably have to part ways with Addison Russell. The 24-year-old has struggled to find his All-Star form from 2016, but he would still provide Baltimore with a solid return if he were to be included.
Then there's the New York Mets, who went from one of the hottest teams in baseball to one of its most embarrassing in the span of a month. They've already been active on the trade market, dealing Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco, but a lot more has to be done to right the ship.
Young Amed Rosario, the organization's top prospect before being called up in August of 2017, is proving that he's not ready to succeed at the MLB level yet as he's slashing .248/.278/.330 with 28 strikeouts in 33 games. His plate discipline is poor and his swing has plenty of holes that need to be addressed. If the Mets want to contend now in an NL East that is suddenly up for grabs, Machado could be the piece that helps them become serious contenders.