Jon Heyman: Are two favorites emerging for Manny Machado? Or is it four?

In a market that will be the most-watched this summer and may contain many twists and turns to come, the Phillies and the Dodgers are said by one Orioles-connected person to be the most aggressive pursuers of superstar shortstop Manny Machado. Yet another Orioles-liked person agreed, but added the Diamondbacks, and maybe the Cubs, are also in close pursuit. There’s more than a month to go before the trade deadline, which should provide plenty of time for twists and turns. But for now, those four may be the leaders, in some order.

Of course, there are more than two or even four teams involved – there were said to be about nine serious suitors in winter, and there are new ones involved this time around – and folks expect anything that happens to unfold close to the July 31 trade deadline.

The Phillies, whose executives have very close links to Machado from their days in Baltimore and who are said to love the longtime Orioles star, have been seen as a prime player all along. The big question is whether they are willing to give up prime prospects when they are an up-and-comer, but yet to be firmly established as a legitimate World Series contender.

One person with Phillies connections suggested they are not amenable to trading their very top pitching prospects like Sixto Sanchez; however, they have a nice list of pitching prospects that also includes Enyel De Los Santos, Adonis Medina and others and also the type of young infielders who might entice the Orioles, who are looking to restock that position, as well.

While the Phillies have gotten about the least production of anyone on the left side of the infield, third baseman Maikel Franco or rookie shortstop J.P. Crawford (who is out with an injury after being hit by a pitch) could entice Baltimore. The Phillies just have to decide how aggressive to be considering they have slowed a bit in recent days and are running a few games out in the playoff race at present.

The Dodgers have been mentioned as a possibility before, and that’s natural considering they lost star shortstop Corey Seager for the year. Chris Taylor and Kike’ Hernandez have done a fine job manning the position, but while they wouldn’t be interested in a defensive specialist such as Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria or Freddy Galvis, people close to the situation say they are at least “monitoring” the Machado situation. One rival exec took it a step further, suggesting he believes the Dodgers are, “trying to keep it quiet.”

Perhaps, but the reality is that it may be too early for them to commit their remaining dollars under the $197-million luxury threshold before they understand their biggest need.

The Diamondbacks and Cubs, like the Phillies and Dodgers, were among the nine or so teams involved in the winter. Arizona may see a window with stars like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin as free agents to be after the year, while the Cubs are an aggressive team with a young nucleus but only an ordinary (at best) farm system now.

Whether any of these four makes a legitimate play for Machado remains to be seen, but at least there is some consensus that they are the most motivated for such a move.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.