Dodgers Must Pay Whatever It Takes for Manny Machado Trade Splash

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2018

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 16: Starlin Castro #13 of the Miami Marlins looks on during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 16, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

At the outset of the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers employed one of the best shortstops in baseball.

In his first two full MLB seasons, Corey Seager made a pair of National League All-Star teams and won the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year award. The 24-year-old appeared destined to anchor L.A.'s lineup as the defending NL champions sought to get over the World Series hump.

Then, injury struck.

On April 30, the Dodgers learned Seager was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. The procedure is typically associated with pitchers, but it can be equally devastating for a position player. And, in this case, it's exceedingly devastating for the team involved.

Now, as the pennant race heats up and the Dodgers try to regain supremacy in the NL West and the Senior Circuit, it's time to pay whatever it takes to improve.

It's time to go get the Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado.

The latest rumor comes courtesy of Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman, who reported Thursday the Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are Machado's "most aggressive pursuers." 

Los Angeles has been linked to Machado since Seager's surgery, and chatter has intensified as Baltimore has sunk further from contention. Heyman's note added fuel to an already crackling fire.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

It makes almost too much sense. Machado is a 25-year-old generational talent who's hitting .303 with a .930 OPS and 20 home runs. He's won a couple of Gold Gloves for his play at third base but has spent this season manning shortstop. 

The defensive metrics haven't been wild about his play at short, as his minus-17 defensive runs saved below average attest, but he's an athletic player with a strong arm who could be suffering from small-sample noise.

At any rate, his bat more than makes up for defensive hiccups. 

The downside? Machado is an impending free agent who will surely test the free-agent waters rather than sign an extension with any team that trades for him. He'd be a rental. A high-performance rental, but a rental nonetheless.

The Dodgers and Phils aren't the only clubs that may come calling. Heyman name-dropped the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs. Don't count out the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox or any number of other dark-horse suitors. 

Translation: Machado's price tag will be steep. Los Angeles should be prepared to pony up.

The Dodgers, SoCal fans don't need to be reminded, haven't hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy since 1988. They came agonizingly close in 2017marching to Game 7 of the Fall Classicbut baseball is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades. 

Yes, the club got burned at the deadline last season when it rented ace Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers only to watch the right-hander battle injuries and fizzle in the World Series. No, trading top prospects has not generally been the style of executive Andrew Friedman since he took the helm in October 2014.

The Dodgers should feel a strong sense of urgency, however. At 43-37, they're 3.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the division with the archrival San Francisco Giants (42-40) nipping at their heels. 

Three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw has battled a rash of injuries (biceps tendinitis, back strain) but returned for an encouraging outing Thursday (5 IP, 6 SO, 0 BB, 1 ER) in an 11-5 loss to the Cubs.

If Kershaw's spate of DL stints have taught the Dodgers anything, it's windows don't stay open forever. Assuming the rotation-anchoring southpaw stays on track, this feels like the year Los Angeles should shove all its chips in.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The offense has been more than adequate. Dodgers hitters rank seventh in baseball in OPS (.751) and eighth in runs scored (378).

At shortstop, however, in-house options such as Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor are stopgaps, not solutions. 

This is where the Dodgers can throw their weight around. This is where Los Angeles can make an unambiguous statement.

"We talk about things," Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said of speculation surrounding Machado and other targets, per Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. "We're always actually talking about our club and how we can upgrade and better our ballclub. There's always talk around this time of year, and that gets intensified."

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Orioles have yanked scouts from major league duty to assess minor league prospects, and they are "focusing primarily on the Dodgers' vaunted system."

Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked Los Angeles' MiLB stockpile No. 7 in the game. It's topped by outfielder Alex Verdugo, catcher Keibert Ruiz and outfielder Yusniel Diaz. L.A. would likely have to part with one of the above plus ancillary pieces to pry Machado from the O's.

Would it sting and possibly harm the franchise's future? Yes.

Is that a gamble worth making when you're one of MLB's biggest spenders and trying to break a 30-year title drought? You bet.

The Dodgers may have lost one of the best shortstops in baseball but could gain one of the best players in the sport in the span of one season. 

Risk be damned, they should make it happen.

                   

All statistics current as of Thursday and courtesy of FanGraphs

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