The entire 2017 MLB postseason seemed to be in limbo while Giancarlo Stanton made his decision. He was dealt, but now baseball may be waiting on a few more stars to be traded.
We'll break down the latest rumors involving two of them below.
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
It's rare that a superstar talent becomes a free agent at the age of 26. Such will be the case for Manny Machado in the winter of 2018, a major factor in what will likely be an astronomical contract he pens next offseason.
The Baltimore Orioles obviously aren't comfortable signing him to such a contract, which is why the team is reportedly shopping him this offseason, per Buster Olney of ESPN.com:
"As of Saturday morning, the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks had demonstrated the most interest in Manny Machado, according to AL sources. Some execs involved in the talks still wonder if Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos will give a final approval to a Machado deal in the face of some negative fan reaction. But a lot of Baltimore fans are sophisticated and understand that Machado won’t re-sign with the Orioles after 2018, and that swapping him gives the franchise its best chance to acquire young pitching talent."
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe added the New York Yankees "always seem to be lurking" and need a third baseman, though the Orioles would be unlikely to deal Machado to New York. He noted the St. Louis Cardinals have the young arms the Orioles would likely covet in a deal and the San Francisco Giants also would have interest.
Finally, he reported "the offer the White Sox made, according to one team source, didn't include Yoan Moncada or Michael Kopech. The White Sox were trying to sell the Orioles on some of their major league talent."
Like Stanton before him, much of baseball now revolves around Machado. Where he ends up will have a serious impact on free agency and any other potential trades in the works.
It's not just his age that is appealing. Machado has at least 33 homers and 86 RBI in three straight seasons. He technically had a "down season" in 2017, hitting .259 with 33 dingers, 95 RBI, 81 runs and a .781 OPS. His batting average, home runs, runs and OPS were all his lowest marks in the past three years.
The three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover is also a slick fielder who is talented enough to play shortstop if needed. It isn't surprising there is interest in Machado.
It's a little surprising, perhaps, that some of the interest is coming from the White Sox.
On one hand, adding a young superstar makes sense for any team; on the other hand, the White Sox don't seem particularly close to contending and would have to give up some top prospects to get Machado. And because there's no guarantee Machado re-signs in Chicago, the White Sox essentially would risk damaging their rebuild for a one-year rental.
That's a huge gamble. The White Sox would have to believe they could bring Machado back—which means resigning themselves to potentially signing him to a contract that reaches as high as $400 million total—before giving up young assets. It's hard to imagine the Orioles would only trade him for current MLB pieces.
The other possibility is the White Sox flipping him at the trade deadline to a team that perhaps has prospects they covet. The Orioles may not deal directly with the Yankees, but the White Sox could. That line of thinking is a gamble as well, though, as there is no guarantee the White Sox would get as much in a trade for Machado as they'd be giving up to get him.
As for Arizona, why not go for broke and try to land Machado? The team reached the postseason last year, surprising many, and in Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb have a strong power combination in the middle of the lineup. While Lamb currently occupies the third base position, Machado would be an instant upgrade at shortstop.
Money may be an issue, obviously. But for a Diamondbacks team with an opportunity to make another postseason run in 2018, there's an argument to be made that a player such as Machado could put them over the top and make them a legitimate World Series contender.
Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
To say there has been interest in Chris Archer would be an understatement.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins have all expressed interest in trading for the starting pitcher.
That's nearly a third of Major League Baseball, for those keeping track at home.
But Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News added Archer is "still under contract for four more seasons on a very team-friendly deal, which means the Rays would have to be blown away to move him now."
Outside of Machado, the Rays own the trade market at the moment. As Mark Feinsand of MLB.com wrote, "Alex Colome continues to be a popular name among teams seeking a closer, while Archer and Jake Odorizzi have caught the eye of clubs looking to add to their starting rotations. Then there's Evan Longoria, the face of the Rays' franchise, who continues to be mentioned as a possible trade candidate."
Archer is the crown jewel, though. He's 29, comes at an extremely affordable price ($33.75 million total) over the next four years and is a bona fide ace with two All-Star Game appearances under his belt. In 2017, he went 10-12 with a 4.07 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 249 strikeouts in 201 innings.
Archer misses bats and eats innings. He has 871 strikeouts over the past four seasons and has thrown 809 innings in that span. So why trade him?
Well, the Rays likely won't. As both Fagan and Feinsand noted, a team would have to make a huge offer to pry Archer away. But the Rays could also decide to undergo a full rebuild and trade off all of their top players, Archer included.
If the Rays decide they won't be competing in the AL East anytime soon, blowing things up and moving players such as Archer, Colome, Odorizzi and Longoria would make sense.