Manny Machado Trade Gives Dodgers Firepower to End 30-Year World Series Drought

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJuly 19, 2018

Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado gestures as he rounds the bases on his two-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

What had been the worst-kept secret in Major League Baseball has become good, old-fashioned real news.

Manny Machado is headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After months of speculation and rumors about where the Baltimore Orioles would send Machado when they were finally ready to trade the slugging shortstop, the Dodgers emerged as the team to beat shortly before the All-Star break. A few twists and turns later, the two sides finalized a trade Wednesday.

Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, these are the terms:

Although Yusniel Diaz only checks in as MLB.com's No. 84 prospect, he's been pushing his value northward with a .905 OPS for Double-A Tulsa.

The fact that he's one of only five prospects leaving Los Angeles in a trade that's bringing zero dollars back from Baltimore speaks to how badly the Dodgers wanted Machado, even if he's only two-and-a-half months away from free agency.

But while it's not a steal, this deal isn't without silver linings for the Dodgers.

For one thing, the club's best young assets—i.e., right-hander Walker Buehler, outfielder Alex Verdugo and catcher Keibert Ruiz—remain in the organization. This trade thus fits the Dodgers' usual pattern of being willing to deal young players only as long as they're not the cream of their crop.

For another thing, there's the kinda-sorta important detail that the Dodgers just added one of MLB's best players to their quest to snap a World Series championship drought that dates back to 1988.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Although Machado, who has four All-Star nods and two Gold Gloves, should need no introduction at this point, the degree to which he's raised his game in 2018 can't be overlooked.

Before this season, the 26-year-old's offensive peak involved an .876 OPS and 37 home runs in 2016. With a .963 OPS and 24 homers through his first 96 games of 2018, he's on track to blow that peak away.

Even when the hitter friendly environment of Oriole Park at Camden Yards is factored into the equation via OPS+, Machado still checks in as the fifth-best hitter among batting title qualifiers at the halfway mark:

  • 1. Mookie Betts: 200
  • 2. Mike Trout: 193
  • 3. J.D. Martinez: 172
  • 4. Jose Ramirez: 169
  • 5. Manny Machado: 164

For other teams in the National League, word of a hitter like this joining the Dodgers is the polar opposite of good news.

After a slow start, the Dodgers have climbed to the top of the NL West largely because of their offense. It's averaged a .793 OPS and 5.1 runs per game in the team's 37-17 stretch since May 17. In general, there seems to be no going backward for the Dodgers offense:

Getting to this point has been a group effort to which Max Muncy, Matt Kemp, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez and (when healthy) Yasiel Puig have all contributed.

At worst, Machado's arrival means the Dodgers now have a great deal of protection against any regression their incumbent hitters might experience down the stretch. At best, his arrival will boost the Dodgers offense to a point where it's on par with any in MLB.

One catch is that it might mean living with a downgraded defense. 

"I'm a shortstop. I play shortstop," Machado insisted when he was asked if he would move back to third base if a new team asked him to, per Marc Carig of The Athletic.

Assuming the Dodgers honor Machado's desire to remain at shortstop, they stand to bear the brunt of a defensive performance that has produced minus-19 defensive runs saved and a minus-7.7 ultimate zone rating. Machado simply hasn't been the lockdown defender at short that he was at the hot corner.

However, it takes a stretch of the imagination to perceive this as the Dodgers' doom.

Whereas Machado was playing on MLB's least efficient defense in Baltimore, his new defense is right in the middle of the pack (14th) in efficiency. The Dodgers should have an easier time downplaying any defensive struggles Machado might experience.

Besides, the appeal for the Dodgers is all about the offense. Not because they need it to finish off their comeback and clinch a sixth straight NL West title, but more so because extra offense figures to be instrumental in getting them through the postseason.

No thanks to Clayton Kershaw's ongoing decline, manager Dave Roberts has had to do even more mixing and matching with his pitchers than he did in 2017. It's mostly worked, but the Dodgers may not have the arms to walk the same path to the World Series that they did last year. That one involved an NL-best 3.38 ERA in the regular season (up to 3.49 this year) and a 2.28 ERA through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And even that path wasn't good enough to take them the distance. Although the Dodgers put up a good fight in the World Series, their arms were ultimately no match for the Houston Astros' bats.

Assuming they can get there, an easier challenge isn't likely to be awaiting the Dodgers in the World Series this time around. The Astros still have a high-powered offense, and the ones belonging to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are even better. As such, any NL team that plans on winning the World Series had better be able to win a slugfest.

If the Dodgers weren't already equal to the task, they sure are now. All they need now is for Machado and the rest of their hitters to go to work.

   

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus.

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