This is a bold move on the Dodgers' part and a good haul for Baltimore.
After a small medical holdup involving one of the prospects coming back, the Dodgers have acquired All-Star shortstop Manny Machado from the Orioles. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz is the key piece headed back to Baltimore in the deal. They’ll also receive minor-league right-handers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop, along with infielders Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera. The Dodgers will take on the entirety of Machado’s remaining 2018 salary, which checks in at about $6.3MM.
Since starting out the year with an 8-20 record, it’s been all but certain that the Orioles would deal the impending free agent in exchange for more controllable talent ahead of the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. But the question of where he would go would prove to be one of baseball’s most intriguing storylines for months. At different points in time, the Yankees, Brewers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Indians were all strongly connected to the four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award-winner, with the Braves and Red Sox more loosely associated in trade rumors.
The trade will, of course, close the book on Machado’s tenure with the Orioles organization, who drafted him with the third overall pick back in 2010 and watched him blossom into one of the best players in franchise history. With his new team, Machado will step in as the club’s everyday shortstop — a void that was created earlier this year when Corey Seager incurred a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery.
Manny Machado | Ray Carlin-USA TODAY SportsThough Machado, 26, broke into the league as a third baseman, he was drafted and developed as a shortstop and only moved to the hot corner due to the presence of J.J. Hardy at shortstop early in his Baltimore career. Machado voiced a strong preference to move to shortstop this season, and the Orioles accommodated that desire this winter, although defensive metrics have painted him in a dismal light (-19 Defensive Runs Saved, -7.7 Ultimate Zone Rating). It’s also possible, of course, that Machado’s glovework at short will continue to sharpen as he continues to re-acclimate to his natural position after spending years as one of the game’s premier defenders at third base.
Regardless of his defensive skills, there’s little denying the type of offensive upgrade he’ll bring to an already potent Dodgers lineup. Machado posted a .280/.338/.502 slash and 105 homers from 2015-17, and he’s in the midst of his finest offensive campaign yet; through 413 trips to the plate, he’s raked at a .315/.387/.575 clip with 24 homers, putting him well on his way to a new career best.
As was made abundantly clear at the time of this offseason’s Matt Kemp swap with the Braves, the Dodgers have a strong desire to remain south of the $197MM luxury tax threshold this year. Doing so would reset their penalty level from 50 percent to 20 percent the next time they cross that line (not coincidentally in advance of a stacked free-agent class). The Dodgers were roughly $15MM south of that line prior to acquiring Machado and the roughly $6.45MM remaining on this year’s $16MM salary. Earlier on Tuesday there were reports that Los Angeles could attempt to send a veteran player such as Logan Forsythe back to the Orioles as a means of offsetting some of that salary, but Rosenthal since reported that the Dodgers were sending only minor leaguers to Baltimore in the deal.
The 21-year-old Diaz immediately becomes Baltimore’s top prospect. MLB Pipeline’s most recent ranking pegged him as baseball’s #84 overall prospect, praising the potential of all his tools outside of power. In fact, he earns 55 grades across the board with his hitting, speed, arm and defense. Though he’s played center field in the minors, MLB Pipeline suggests he’s more likely to play right field at the MLB level. Thus far in Double-A this season, Diaz has hit at an impressive .314/.428/.477 clip with more walks than strikeouts to go along with six homers and eight steals.
Bannon, 22, is largely regarded as the second-best player headed back to Baltimore in the deal. Checking in as the Dodgers’ 27th-best prospect prior to the trade, Bannon profiles as a third baseman and has earned praise for his great defensive capabilities. That’s not to say that his bat doesn’t hold some potential, however, as he’s managed an impressive .296/.402/.559 so far with the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate. Though he’s compiled a gaudy strikeout total, his 14.6% walk rate is nonetheless impressive. Bannon game to the Dodgers by way of the number 250 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Kremer checked in right behind Bannon at #28 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Dodgers prospects before being shipped to Baltimore. It’s said that his best pitch is his fastball, which sits around 91-94 MPH with some good horizontal movement. He also features an impressive curveball, and has recently found some success with a slider and changeup. Though he struggled as a swingman at the High-A level last year, the success he’s enjoyed thus far in 2018 (3.30 ERA, 12.99 K/9 at High-A Rancho Cucamonga) has convinced scouts that he has a good chance to stick as a starter.
Pop, however, does indeed profile more as a reliever. Despite a mediocre 7.67 K/9, he’s managed to post a 0.33 ERA through 27 innings in High-A this season. A 95% strand rate suggests he may have been a bit lucky so far, but a dirty 94-97 MPH sinker has impressed scouts and annihilated opposing hitters to such an extent that there’s optimism as to the right-hander’s upside.
Valera is the only player in the deal who’s spent any time in the majors. He spent seven years in the Cardinals’ minor-league system, eventually earning a promotion to St. Louis and making 11 plate appearances before ultimately being traded to the Dodgers in exchange for minor-league outfielder Johan Mieses. Valera’s made 34 plate appearances with the Dodgers this year, amassing just five hits but walking as many times as he struck out (four). That patience is a skill he’s shown in the minors this year, as evidenced by his 9.4% walk rate and 9.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A Oklahoma City. That’s in tandem with a .284/.350/.433 batting line at that level.