It is true the Orioles possess some kind of all-time record for deals wrecked by failed medical examinations, and yes, their proposed trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers was slowed by a snag in the doctor review. But the trade is done, about 24 hours after the Dodgers kicked off the production of jerseys and shirts with MACHADO stitched across the back.
Now the dominoes will fall in a lot of different directions:
Los Angeles Dodgers: The addition of Machado and the $6 million he’s owed for the rest of this season chews up just about all of the payroll flexibility they have, in a year in which they have worked to get under the luxury-tax threshold. But with their position-player group fortified by the addition of Machado, the Dodgers' area of need might only be for bullpen depth -- and given the wealth of relief options that could become available in the weeks ahead, the Dodgers probably will be able to find decent and relatively cheap alternatives, like the Marlins' Kyle Barraclough. If they wanted to focus on a more expensive option, like Zach Britton, they could ask their trade partner to pick up salary.
New York Yankees: They really wanted Machado, who had the potential to be a difference-maker in New York’s AL East showdown against the Red Sox. But with Machado off the board, the Yankees will get back to searching for a starting pitcher capable of credibly matching up against the stacked lineups of the Astros or Boston in October. Toronto’s J.A. Happ made the All-Star team and is coveted by several contenders, but the Yankees have balked at the Jays’ asking price so far -- and Happ isn’t someone who dominates hitters. Executives with other teams have serious doubts about whether a highly inspiring starting pitcher will emerge in the market.
It may be that the Yankees' best hope for improvement is with somebody already on their roster: Sonny Gray, who threw at a higher average velocity (94.7 mph) in his last start before the All-Star break than in any regular-season game in his career. Gray probably will have to pitch a lot better at home, and pitch better against the Red Sox, before he engenders the kind of trust Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia own, but the Yankees might not find a better alternative, with a potential ceiling as high as Gray’s, in the trade market.
Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies: There’s no getting around this possibility -- Machado could be the difference-maker for the Dodgers in their effort to win a sixth straight NL West title, and no matter who San Francisco, Arizona and/or Colorado lands before the trade deadline, no individual player acquired will likely offset the production Machado will generate for L.A.
But the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants have been engaged with other teams, looking to plug holes. Rival evaluators say the Diamondbacks are highly motivated to follow up on their fast start, in what may be a narrowing window of opportunity: center fielder A.J. Pollock and pitcher Patrick Corbin are headed into free agency in the fall. The Giants are looking for bullpen help, albeit with little payroll flexibility, and have talked to the Mets about Jeurys Familia. The Rockies finished the first half strongly, winning 13 of their last 16 games, and have seen their starting pitching gradually improve.
Milwaukee Brewers: Unable to finish a deal for Machado, the Brewers continue to have a need for another hitter, and it seems nobody close to Machado’s ability is going to be available in the next two weeks. But the Brewers will have opportunities to upgrade at second base and/or shortstop, changes that are needed: Milwaukee’s second basemen rank 21st among 30 teams in OPS this year, at .658, and its shortstops are 29th among 30 teams in OPS (at a staggeringly low .567). The Minnesota Twins could be sellers before the trade deadline, and with Brian Dozier heating up -- the second baseman hit .298/.369/.632 in the first 15 July games -- he could be a good fit for the Brewers.
Philadelphia Phillies: Their pursuit of Machado will need to be postponed until the offseason, when they should be the favorites to land the shortstop in free agency by using their tremendous resources and payroll flexibility. The Phillies should have opportunities in the next 12 days to add pitching depth and a veteran infielder, like the Royals' Mike Moustakas, as some of the sellers look to dump salaries. Barraclough could be a potential upgrade for their bullpen.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves were on the fringes of the Machado trade conversations, but never really among the finalists. Their focus has been on adding some low-salaried relief help, like Seunghwan Oh (who is making $2 million with an option for 2019) or John Axford.
Manny Machado: In 2008, CC Sabathia was traded to the Brewers and pitched Milwaukee into its first postseason appearance in 26 years, sometimes taking the ball on three days' rest. That performance and that leadership vaulted Sabathia into free agency, giving him the leverage to generate a record-setting $161 million deal from the Yankees.
Now Machado has a similar opportunity. He joins the Dodgers, a team that came within one game of winning the World Series, and if he continues to play at an All-Star level and takes advantage of the pennant-race platform, he might further inspire general managers and owners to augment the already enormous offers he is bound to receive in the fall.
Consider all that will be feeding into his market value:
He will be a rare 26-year-old free agent.
He is among the best-hitting middle infielders in baseball.
At worst, he is an average defender at shortstop; at best, he is a Gold Glove-caliber infielder.
Machado might have a monthlong audition on the center stage of postseason baseball.
And like Sabathia, he may sign a record-setting contract.