LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manny Machado's name is in play all of a sudden in the hotel suites and lobby chatter, and just like that, these Winter Meetings have gotten a lot more interesting.Nothing like tossing out the name of a 25-year-old franchise player to get people's attention. That's
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manny Machado's name is in play all of a sudden in the hotel suites and lobby chatter, and just like that, these Winter Meetings have gotten a lot more interesting.
Nothing like tossing out the name of a 25-year-old franchise player to get people's attention. That's exactly what the Baltimore Orioles have done. To be clear, this does not mean they are going to trade Machado.
• Source: O's looking into Machado suitors
Plenty of baseball people are skeptical about that. All they know for sure is that Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is listening in a way he hasn't before.
Maybe Duquette is attempting to check out the market for Machado. This is where it gets tricky. Machado will be a free agent after next season, and he seems committed to seeing what he can get on the open market. In other words, he's probably not going to sign a contract extension with a team that trades for him -- at least not until he has had a chance to test free agency.
So even though Machado has averaged 34 doubles and 35 home runs the past three seasons, his status as a one-year rental will lower what some teams offer.
On the other hand, this is a chance to add a special player -- a three-time American League All-Star and two-time AL Gold Glove Award winner. Machado came up as a heralded shortstop prospect and looked completely comfortable at third from the moment he arrived in the Majors.
Until the past couple of days, the Orioles seemed unlikely to trade Machado or either of their two other prominent players headed for free agency after the 2018 season: Adam Jones and Zach Britton.
Instead, Duquette was going to acquire a couple of starting pitchers and try for another playoff run. But with the free-agent market quiet and teams getting anxious to put their clubs together, teams have begun inquiring about Machado. And Duquette is listening.
This is the kind of trade perfect for a team with a deep farm system and in a win-now mode. If Machado can help deliver a trip to the World Series, the trade will be worthwhile.
As a public service -- and to help the process along -- let's look at three tiers of potential fits:
Don't call us, we'll call you
Yankees: Machado may be wearing a Yankees uniform on Opening Day in 2019.
As for 2018, not a chance. OK, virtually no chance. The Yankees have enough Minor League depth to at least tempt the Orioles, but in the end, Machado is not going to be traded to the O's No. 1 division rival.
Red Sox: This one is unlikely to happy for the same reason. On the other hand, the Red Sox are less hated in Baltimore than the Yankees. And Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may be anxious enough to respond to the Yanks' acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton to overpay for Machado.
You're getting the hang of this thing
Giants: Here's an absolutely perfect fit except for one little thing. First, the positives. The Giants are looking for a third baseman, and sending Machado to the National League (and 2,000 miles away) is the way to go. Now about that one little thing: San Francisco probably does not have enough elite prospects to do this deal. Keep an eye on this one: Here's betting the Orioles are going over the Giants' prospect lists and checking them twice.
Phillies: Here's a team with a really deep farm system and a team looking to add proven veteran impact players. The problem is, while the Phillies could be competitive in 2018, they would want a shot at signing Machado to a long-term contract before a deal is completed. That's not out of the question, but it's not likely either.
Mets: They may have the prospects to do this deal. The Mets have a need for offense as well, and Machado would be wildly popular in New York. But the Mets have been ultra-cautious about trading young talent, and making Matt Harvey the centerpiece of this deal isn't what the O's are looking for.
The slipper fits
Angels: The Halos are shopping for a second baseman, but they would not pass on a chance to add a player this good to a lineup that already has Michael Trout. With the re-signing of Justin Upton and the addition of Shohei Ohtani, the Angels have the look of a 2018 postseason team. But they lack depth in terms of elite prospects, so that could be a barrier here.
Braves: Prospects? The Braves have a ton of them. This offseason is about adding pitching, but Machado is a player no club would walk away from if they can sign him. Considering that Machado has the power to drive ticket sales, television ratings and sponsorship, even the huge cost of a long-term deal might be considered an investment in the future. If Machado is firm on testing the free-agent waters, Atlanta is a non-starter.
Padres: General manager A.J. Preller has plenty of prospects as well as a willingness to add this kind of player. He appears to be looking hard at free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, but Machado, who plays the left side of the infield, makes more sense.
Cardinals: Here's the perfect fit. The Cardinals need power, have prospects and are in a win-now mode. While acquiring a player about to enter his walk year is a risk, the trade-off would be the kind of player that would energize a lineup and a city.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.