With trade talk starting to take center stage, the race for Manny Machado’s services could come down to the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manny Machado’s services will be in hot demand for any contender looking to make it to the playoffs and further. Through forty-eight games, Machado is slashing .335/.412/.649 with fifteen home runs and forty-three RBI. He is a clear-cut MVP candidate right now in the American League on a team destined for no where. But he’s someone the St. Louis Cardinals could use now or in the immediate future.
But if the Chicago Cubs are in on Machado, then the Cardinals should be too for a couple of reasons.
The Cards can beat whatever price the Cubs are willing to pay
We’ve seen the Cubs spend their prospects loosely over the last couple of seasons and it gave the a championship. But now, as they fight to stay afloat in the packed NL Central, the only thing preventing the Cubs from getting any better is their lack of prospects and major league talent. The Cubs’ situation is not great by any means, especially if the rumors of Addison Russell being a center piece are true.
I have no doubt the interest in Machado is real for the Cubs, but I struggle to see how they would get a deal done at the deadline given their lack of talent in the farm system and on the major league roster. And it’s for this exact reason the St. Louis Cardinals are poised for a better chance at Machado’s services.
At this point, if you’ve been paying attention, the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system is loaded with talent. Some of it is still developing, but the projections look good. Then you have the major league ready talent blocked by players on the current major league roster just looking for a chance to show what they are made of now. But the fact of the matter is the Cardinals present the best case to the Orioles for Machado based on the Orioles’ team needs.
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The Cardinals have the pitching talent to get the conversation going, especially with the likes of Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Austin Gomber being major league ready, if not close to it. I personally would not give up Flaherty in a deal for Machado, and with the way he’s pitching I’m sure the Cardinals would be hesitant to do so as well.
But the Cardinals have the pitching depth at the major league level to offer the Orioles.
Outside of pitching, the St. Louis Cardinals also have the outfield pieces to complement their pitching prospects. Remember Adam Jones is a free agent next season and there have been no signs of a reunion taking place in 2019.
If the Orioles are in a true rebuild phase, the answer won’t be in free agency but rather in a trade.
If I’m the Orioles, I want a good, young, controllable outfielder to offset Machado’s value. The question for the Cardinals then becomes who will that player be. Harrsion Bader would likely fill a role in center field for the Orioles, but so could Tyler O’Neill. And if the Cardinals don’t want to hand out wither of those players, the depth in the minor leagues is as staggering as the pitching.
Now that all sounds grand and wonderful, but we all know how this front office is at times. This would be a huge move for sure, but something that hasn’t fit with Mozeliak and Co. before. I’m just not sure the front office has the nerve to do this kind of move.
The struggling offense
Don’t think the St. Louis front office doesn’t know this already. They see the offense as clear as we do. Consider how many times the Cardinals string together a couple of good games only to be let down by the offense to halt any momentum. The St. Louis Cardinals’ offense ranks fourteenth in runs (203), eighteenth in batting average (.240), thirteenth in OBP (.320), and twenty-second in slugging percentage (.393). Their OPS ranking? Just a mere nineteenth (.712) in all of baseball.
In other words, the St. Louis Cardinals are an average offense and seemingly going nowhere.
Now I’m not saying Machado would solve all the offensive problems the Cardinals have. Machado can’t take swings for the likes of Matt Carpenter (although showing some signs of life) or Dexter Fowler (still showing no signs of life). Machado alone won’t be able to boost everyone’s slugging percentage, on-base percentage, or simply overall quality of at bats. But Machado could offer Mike Matheny some lineup stability he hasn’t had in quite some time.
While Ozuna was brought into be THE guy, the offense still feels like they are missing a bat from being the best lineup in the National League. Machado could provide the Cardinals with a true three hitter and one of the best one-two punches in baseball backed by Ozuna in the clean up spot. That would allow Jose Martinez and some of the other players to shift into a more fitted role for them as well. That isn’t to say Martinez shouldn’t hit third, but he just fits better behind Ozuna in my opinion.
But could you imagine having your two through sixth in the order be Tommy Pham, Manny Machado, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez, and Yadier Molina? That’s as good of a middle of the order you will find in the National League, maybe even baseball. Or you could look at this way. Machado would end Mike Matheny’s butchering of lineups . If that’s something you can’t get behind, then I can’t help you.
But seriously, one thing that would/could go under the radar is the help Machado could bring to Ozuna. For whatever reason, Marcell Ozuna has struggled in his first season with the Redbirds. Whether it’s his approach at the plate or him being unlucky, Ozuna isn’t the same player as last year…and it’s not close. But consider who he had batting around him.
I can imagine Ozuna would be able to make some adjustments to his swing with some better protection at the plate in front of him and behind him. I’d imagine having a three hitter like Machado in front Ozuna would allow him to be more relaxed at the plate and work on being the hitter he was in Miami. And if that is the case, look out.
Making a statement
This is going to sound very cliché, but I don’t care. A trade for Machado makes the St. Louis Cardinals the favorites to win the NL Central and the National League. You take their pitching and their retooled offense, there is no telling what this team could actually do. Now if you really wanted to make a statement, you trade for Machado in mid-April/May, but the Cardinals will want to water down that asking price as much as they can.
But just the sheer fact of Knowing you have to go through the Cardinals with that kind of lineup, including the starting pitching (only set to get better with the returns of Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes), is a tall task for any team. But if you want to be the best, you must beat the best. Machado certainly offers the Cardinals that opportunity.
There is just one other statement a trade for Machado would send, and that would be to the fan base. It was great when the deal for Ozuna happened, but his underwhelming performance so far in 2018 has killed a lot of the vibe. a trade for Machado though instantly rejuvenate the fan base and tells them, “We’re all in.”
Cardinal fans have patiently waited at the deadline for the last couple of season to see if the Cardinals would press for greener pastures only to miss out on the playoffs twice. If the front office is intent on making the playoffs once again, and avoid three straight disappointments, then show us you mean business and get Machado to at least give us a shot.
Should the Cardinals go all in on Machado? Let me know in the comments below.