By: Chris Larson
According to a report by Ken Rosenthal and confirmed by Jon Morosi this morning, the Dbacks and Indians have been the two teams that have had the most dialogue with the Baltimore Orioles regarding their biggest trade chip, as the deadline approaches, in shortstop, Manny Machado. Machado will likely be the biggest position player traded by the time the trade deadline comes around.
When you look at the Dbacks and Indians on paper, the fit might not seem natural, but when you start to dig a bit deeper, you can start to see why both teams would be interested and how Manny Machado would instantly upgrade both lineups. After all, the Diamondbacks have Ketel Marte locked in at second base with Nick Ahmed at shortstop and Jake Lamb over at third base along with Chris Owings as a utility player who can play both middle infield positions as well as in the outfield. The fit isn't natural, but Manny Machado would be an instant upgrade over all of those names besides Jake Lamb.
For the Cleveland Indians, the fit seems even more complicated given that, All-Star Francisco Lindor, has things locked down at shortstop, and Jose Ramirez is the team's third baseman and has quickly become the best third baseman in the American League. However, considering that Jose Ramirez's natural position is second base, the Tribe could simply move Ramirez to second base, continue with Lindor at shortstop, and have Machado over at third base. It's not the position that Machado wants to play, but it would probably give the Indians one of the top three middle infield duos in the entire MLB.
While all of that is great and would enhance both teams chances of making the postseason and playing for a World Series Championship tremendously, the question then becomes: what do the Dbacks and Indians have to offer the Orioles to get a deal done? To answer that, you have to consider what the Baltimore Orioles are looking for in a package and then try to identify potential names that could be included in any trade package.
In addition to yesterday's report by Ken Rosenthal, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Dodgers have also expressed interest in Manny Machado and the name that Baltimore must receive in any deal is Dustin May, a Class A pitching prospect for the Great Lakes Loons. May is the Dodgers 10th best prospect and would give the Baltimore Orioles a potential future middle of the rotation starting pitcher down the road. Regardless, in any deal, the Orioles will likely be focused on pitching prospects because that is the greatest area of need for the organization.
Getting back to the Dbacks and Indians now, both teams do have pitching prospects that could be of interest to the Orioles. Let's start with the Cleveland Indians, who have a middle of the road farm system, as indicated by their ranking by MLB which puts them 15th in the league. For the Indians, the package would likely be built around their second best prospect in 20-year old, right-handed pitching prospect, Triston McKenzie. McKenzie has been highly regarded by scouts who say that he has the potential to someday become a number 2 or 3 starter, but is someone who needs to add muscle for long-term durability. Through 32 and 1/3 innings of work this year in Double A, McKenzie has a 3.34 ERA with 26 strikeouts and a .195 Opponent Batting Average Against.
Beyond McKenzie, another potential name to watch in any deal between the Indians and Orioles for Manny Machado is Cleveland's third best prospect, Shane Bieber. As you might recall, Bieber made his MLB debut earlier this season and is currently on the Indians 25-man roster so he would immediately help the Orioles 25-man roster. Prior to being called up to the big leagues, Bieber had a 1.29 ERA over 76.2 IP down in Double and Triple A. So far in the big leagues, Bieber has been successful with a 2.97 ERA over 30.1 innings of work and a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 8.6. The best thing about Shane Bieber is that he is still only 23 years-old and still has plenty of time before he reaches his full peak.
Shifting over to the Diamondbacks now, the Dbacks don't have the best farm system in baseball, but it's not dead last either like it used to be. Just a few years ago, the Dbacks had the worst farm system in the game, but thanks to the work of Mike Hazen & Company, the Diamondbacks farm system currently ranks 26th in the league. Over the last two years, Hazen & Company have been able to slowly add talent and depth to their farm system and it continues to be a work in progress for the organization. Either way, the Dbacks have a few names that could be of interest to the Orioles.
One of those names is the Dbacks best prospect, Jon Duplantier. Duplantier is the 60th best prospect in all of baseball and projects to be a frontline starting pitcher when all is said and done in terms of his development based on various scouting reports. So far this season in Double A, the 23-year old, has a 2.52 ERA over 35.2 IP with 41 strikeouts. For the Orioles, Duplantier could easily become their next ace of the future as many scouts project him to be a very successful starting pitcher thanks to the 4-pitc repertoire that he possesses. Baltimore has struggled to really have a frontline starting pitcher that projects to have a bright future and that's where Duplantier could significantly help out the Orioles.
Beyond Duplantier, another name to watch is 23-year old, right-hander, Taylor Widener, the Dbacks 4th best prospect. Widener was a 12-th round draft pick from South Carolina during the 2016 draft and came over to the Dbacks as part of the Brandon Drury trade with the New York Yankees from this past offseason. Even with previous health problems resulting from ulnar transposition surgery during 2015 and issues with his knee and back, Widener has shown that he should be durable enough to remain a starting pitcher or be a threat for a team, such as the Baltimore Orioles, at the back of the bullpen. So far this season, through 79 and 2/3 innings of work, Widener has a 2.71 ERA with the Double A Jackson Generals and a .204 Opponent Batting Average Against.
While all of this is pure speculation and none of us truly know what the Baltimore Orioles are asking for in return, it gives Dbacks and Indians fans a general idea of who a potential trade package could be built around. Regardless, for the Dbacks and Indians, a Manny Machado upgrade would be a significant boost for both rosters and one that could easily put either team as the favorite to win the World Series. In fact, this might be the best chance the Dbacks have at playing for a World Series Championship for the foreseeable future. For the Indians, the window might not be closing after this season, but things definitely become a bit murkier after this year with the potential loss of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to free agency, which is all the more reason why the team needs to capitalize on its shot to win it all now.