Odds for Each Blockbuster Trade Suitor on Manny Machado, Zack Greinke, and More
As Major League Baseball's free-agent market crawls slowly along, the offseason trade market has already churned out a few blockbusters.
And it's not done yet.
The aim here is to run through the seven biggest available stars—including ace right-hander Zack Greinke and All-Star slugger Manny Machado—and assess the likelihood of their top suitors making a deal. This entails breaking down what it will take to pull off a trade and what each suitor has to offer, and it will culminate in odds that aren't scientific but convey a general scale of likelihood.
Going roughly in order from least likely blockbuster to most likely blockbuster, let's take it away.
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
In posting a 3.20 ERA over 202.1 innings, Zack Greinke was one of the primary reasons the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a 24-win improvement in 2017. But since he's 34 years old and owed $138.5 million over the next four years, it wouldn't be the worst idea to flip him while the flipping's good.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Diamondbacks have "no interest" in a salary dump. That means they won't unload Greinke unless they get quality talent back.
Philadelphia Phillies (Robert Murray, FanRag Sports)
The Phillies rebuild has produced a top-10 farm system and the beginnings of a young core on their major league roster. They also have a ton of open space in their long-term salary commitments. So, this is a good time to make a push toward contention.
But would they sacrifice some of their hard-won talent and take on a significant salary commitment to acquire a pitcher who's already in his mid-30s? Maybe in the future, but right now is a stretch.
New York Yankees (Murray)
After a brief rebuild, the Yankees are back in win-now mode. They also have a crop of elite prospects that includes top-ranked shortstop Gleyber Torres, as well as plenty of money.
They don't necessarily need an ace, though. They're also trying to get under the luxury tax in 2018 so they can go wild on next winter's free-agent market. Besides which, Greinke has a limited no-trade clause that could come into play with New York. "He won’t go there," said Murray's source.
The Rangers share the AL West with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros and competitive Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners clubs. With an aging Cole Hamels atop their starting rotation, they also have a more immediate need for an ace than the Phillies or Yankees.
However, per Jeff Wilson of Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it seems Texas wants to do a bad contract swap involving Shin-Soo Choo. That doesn't make much sense for the D-Backs. The Rangers could come around to the idea of sending prospects to Arizona instead, but it's unlikely as long as other options exist.
Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Michael Fulmer was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016 and an All-Star in 2017. He's only 24 years old and under club control through 2022.
These things make him one of the most valuable trade chips in MLB, so the Detroit Tigers have every right to ask the world for him as they look to kick-start a rebuild. According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers will only entertain "lopsided" offers.
Texas Rangers (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News)
Fulmer fits the bill of a guy who could complete the Rangers' rotation and help them catch up in the AL West, and he is much younger and much cheaper than Greinke.
Fulmer's acquisition cost, however, will be significantly higher. The Rangers might have to surrender top-ranked outfielders Leody Taveras and Willie Calhoun, plus a little extra. And even if that's doable, there's another team in the sweepstakes that could beat whatever offer they make.
New York Yankees (Nightengale)
The Yankees seem to be leaving no stone unturned as they search for rotation upgrades, and there's no denying that Fulmer's youth and controllability fit nicely into their long-term payroll plans.
The question is whether the Yankees would give up Torres and some combination of outfielder Estevan Florial, right-hander Chance Adams and left-hander Justus Sheffield to acquire Fulmer. It may not be probable. But given that they don't have much incentive to hoard prospects these days, it is possible.
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are stuck in an AL East division that's back to being dominated by the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The only way out is to rebuild.
That's an excuse to shed the $86 million remaining on Evan Longoria's contract and hopefully get something back for him. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, interested parties include the Yankees, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have an opening at third base and a deep prospect pool to draw from. Trouble is, Longoria's $16.7-million-per-year contract would eat up the space between the Yankees and the 2018 luxury tax. If they're going to make that sacrifice, it probably won't involve dealing cherished prospects to an AL East rival.
New York Mets
The Mets also have a need at third base. And while they're generally hesitant to spend money, it shouldn't be too much to ask that they consider a contract as reasonable as Longoria's.
Prospect depth is another matter, however. The Mets' best young players are already on their major league roster, and none is expendable. Underneath them is a barren farm system. Tampa Bay can do better.
San Francisco Giants
Unless the Giants are serious about using Pablo Sandoval, they sorely need to upgrade third base. But their idea, according to Nightengale, of selling the Rays on a bad contract swap involving Denard Span or Hunter Pence isn't going to fly. The alternative is to dip into a farm system that's better than what the Mets have, but not by much.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals made a bold statement when they acquired Marcell Ozuna, but they still have room for upgrades. Third base would be an ideal spot to put one, as Jedd Gyorko could slide over and platoon with Kolten Wong at second base.
To boot, St. Louis still has some good talent in its farm system. Included within are some intriguing arms the Rays could find attractive. So, perhaps the only holdup is whether the Cardinals can do better than Longoria.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
Chris Archer is 29 years old, dependable (sixth in innings since 2014) and can miss bats (fifth in strikeouts since 2014) with the best of 'em. He also has a contract that controls him through 2021 for just $33.75 million. These things add up to tremendous trade value.
According to Topkin (two reports here and here), the full list of teams with interest in Archer includes the Yankees, Cardinals, Astros, Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins. So, let's dive in...
Archer would fill a sizable need in the Cubs' rotation. Trouble is, their farm system is picked clean, and it doesn't seem likely that the Rays would take back guys (e.g. Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez) whose arbitration clocks are already ticking.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have the need and the prospects, and taking on Archer's contract wouldn't ruin their luxury tax goals. The catch is the AL East factor, which looms larger here than it does with Longoria because of the higher acquisition cost attached to Archer.
The Nationals will go all-in for Archer if they feel like making their biggest World Series push yet before possibly losing Bryce Harper after 2018. Victor Robles is almost certainly a non-starter in trade talks, however, and their prospect depth underneath him may not be good enough to swing a deal.
Archer would be an ideal choice to stabilize Minnesota's rotation around Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. And with a strong farm system that includes Royce Lewis, the No. 1 pick from the 2017 draft, the Twins also have the means to deal. There are better farm systems, though, as well as teams that could be more willing to blow up what they have.
If the Phillies are going to sacrifice a chunk of their prospect depth to acquire an ace who could propel their rebuild forward, Archer makes tons more sense than Greinke. But even if they view now as the right time to make a plunge, there's an NL East team in a similar spot that has a better farm system.
Bleacher Report ranked Atlanta's farm system as the best in MLB at the close of the 2017 minor league season. Even if uber-outfielder Ronald Acuna were taken off the table in talks for Archer, the Braves would still have plenty of young pitching to entice the Rays.
The bigger question is one of timing. Archer alone probably won't take them from 72 wins to the playoffs in 2018. The Braves thus might be better suited waiting on their own arms.
St. Louis Cardinals
Although the focus has been on the Cardinals' lineup, they could also stand to upgrade a starting rotation that was just OK in 2017 and is now sans Lance Lynn. A trade for Archer is an achievable way to do so. But even if they were willing to drain their farm system, they still might not be able to make the best offer.
The world champs don't need to upgrade, but it's understandable if they don't want to move forward with Justin Verlander as their only reliable innings-eater. It's believable that they would sacrifice outfielder Kyle Tucker and other well-regarded prospects to acquire Archer and push their superteam status up yet another notch.
The Brewers announced a return to contention with a surprising 86-win season in 2017. To take the next step, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe teased that competitive owner Mark Attanasio has a No. 1 starter in his sights. Archer matches the description, and Milwaukee's farm system features more than enough depth to make it happen. There is no better suitor for the right-hander.
Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins have already traded Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, but they're not done yet. It's likely that Christian Yelich will be the next to go.
As an All-Star-caliber player who's only 26 and who's signed through 2022 at less than $60 million, he's the most valuable trade chip they've had all along.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com)
The Diamondbacks would have a heck of an outfield if they could line up Yelich alongside A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. But when it comes to blue-chip prospect depth, they're not quite in the same league as other suitors for Yelich.
Philadelphia Phillies (Jim Salisbury, NBC Sports Philadelphia)
The Phillies certainly have the prospect depth to entice Miami, but they might balk at sending it to an NL East rival. Besides, their outfield is in good hands with Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams already in place.
Atlanta Braves (Frisaro)
The Braves have a deeper farm system than the Phillies and a bigger need in their outfield. So, the only question is how comfortable they would be sending a boatload of prospects to an NL East rival.
San Diego Padres (Dennis Lin, San Diego Union-Tribune)
Of all the teams pictured here, the Padres have the best farm system outside the NL East. Included within are left-hander MacKenzie Gore, right-hander Cal Quantrill and other talented arms that could appeal to a Marlins team that badly needs young pitching depth. If the Padres feel they're accelerate their rebuild, a deal for Yelich would be within reach.
Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
The NL Central is moving past the Pittsburgh Pirates just as the core of players who led the charge to three straight postseason appearances between 2013 and 2015 begins to fade away.
This includes Gerrit Cole, who's due for free agency after 2019. It thus behooves the Pirates to see what's out there for the 2015 All-Star.
Baltimore Orioles (Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Orioles starters finished last in MLB with a 5.70 ERA in 2017. To that extent, their interest in Cole makes sense. But with their contention window closing, they likely wouldn't blow up their farm system to land a short-term asset whose results have tended to lag behind his stuff.
Texas Rangers (Sullivan)
Sullivan says the Rangers checked in with the Pirates about Cole but found that there's "nothing really there." They have the need and the prospects to change that, but it's understandable if they also don't want to pay through the nose for a guy who isn't guaranteed to be an ace.
Milwaukee Brewers (Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Brewers have their deep farm system and a need for a top-of-the-rotation starter, so any interest in Cole passes the smell test. But it wouldn't be too wise to deal within the NL Central. To boot, it would be wiser for them to target Archer or some other pitcher who they could control for the long haul.
Minnesota Twins (Mike Berardino, St. Paul Pioneer Press)
The Twins are and aren't in the same boat as the Brewers. On the one hand, they can afford to trade for Cole and wouldn't have to worry about enriching a division rival for the long-term. On the other hand, it makes more sense to sacrifice their prospect depth for a more controllable pitcher.
Washington Nationals (Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic)
As Rosenthal notes, the Pirates and Nationals match up well because of the latter's need for a starter and the former's familiarity with Washington's farm system. Since the Nationals could probably get away with basing a deal off non-Robles prospects, the only question is whether they want to pay a big price for a guy with limited controllability who they don't truly need. Their rotation is plenty good as is.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are as much a win-now team as the Nationals but with a more pressing need for Cole. He also fits their luxury-tax plans. And if they can get him for Clint Frazier and an MLB-ready starter such as Adams, as George A. King III of the New York Post suggested, well, that would be acceptable.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
It seemed unfathomable not too long ago, but just about every sign suggests the Baltimore Orioles are prepared to trade Manny Machado before he hits free agency after 2018.
According to Rosenthal, the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and White Sox are the serious bidders for Machado. He also reports that Baltimore's preferred price is two controllable, MLB-ready pitchers.
Boston Red Sox
Machado's power is needed in Boston's lineup, but there's no easy fit as long as Xander Bogaerts is at short and Rafael Devers is at third. Trying to include one of them in a deal would require the Orioles to forgo their asking price. Should the Red Sox try to abide by that asking price, they wouldn't have much to offer.
New York Yankees
Between Adams, Sheffield and Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees have the arms the Orioles desire. However, Nightengale reported that Baltimore owner Peter Angelos doesn't want Machado to end up on the Yankees. That could just be posturing, but it's just as easy to believe it's a sincere ultimatum.
San Francisco Giants
A deal that would send Machado to the Giants would fill a need on one end and get him far away from the AL East on the other end. And in right-hander Tyler Beede, the Giants do have one MLB-ready arm to offer the Orioles. He's hardly a blue chip, though, and the Giants don't have much to pile on with.
Chicago White Sox
Between Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito and Alec Hansen, the White Sox have a ton of young pitching they could offer the Orioles.
The obvious catch is that the White Sox aren't contenders yet. It only makes sense for them to deal for Machado if they can flip him elsewhere or get a window to negotiate an extension. Nightengale's report is cold water on the former. The latter is something that O's general manager Dan Duquette shot down, telling Joel Sherman of the New York Post: "I don’t see that as a viable option."
With right-hander Jon Duplantier and left-hander Anthony Banda at the top of their system and Robbie Ray, Zack Godley and Taijuan Walker in their major league rotation, the Diamondbacks line up well with the Orioles. The question is how comfortable they are sacrificing young arms for one year with Machado.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are generally considered the best fit for Machado. No argument here. They could play him at either shortstop or third base, and could deal for him with some combination of Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks and Dakota Hudson.
Is one year of control enough for the Cardinals? Well, they were willing to pay a good price for just two years of Ozuna. It sure seems like they want to go for it sooner rather than later.