Jon Heyman: Milwaukee checks on Machado as mostly NL battle brews

There may be a new suitor in the race to acquire superstar Orioles shortstop Manny Machado.

According to sources, the Brewers are a previously unmentioned, semi-surprise team to show interest in Machado in a derby seemingly dominated by most of the best of the National League – the also contending Phillies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers are all seen as among the possible Machado favorites – as the trade interest raises the prospect that the former third baseman could be dealt sooner than most figured.

With interest heavy in the Orioles’ iconic infielder, and the Orioles trying to take advantage of his quick start and several rival teams’ interest in using Machado as long as possible, the infielder's long-time team has suggested teams come soon with their best offers and sources say it’s possible Machado could be dealt as early as next week.

Of course, with several teams still involved — including possibly the Brewers, who currently hold the best record in the National League at 52-35 and are getting the least shortstop production in the NL by some measures — it still could easily run past the July 17 All-Star Game. One person with Brewers ties pointed out Milwaukee is one of the teams that check in on just about every available player. Still, the reality is Machado could be a fit for a NL Central leader that seems ready to contend for a World Series title and is once again trying to hold off a stacked Cubs team.

The Diamondbacks, Phillies and Dodgers all have been involved in the Machado Derby, and Machado still could make sense for any of that trio of contenders. But Milwaukee shortstops have a .553 OPS, lowest in the NL, 29th in baseball and nearly 200 points below the .751 average in MLB. That creates a sense of urgency and an opportunity for the Brewers to improve significantly at a key position should they provide the most compelling offer for the Orioles star.

The Brewers’ greatest perceived need for two years has been in the starting rotation, but while they are interested in Mets ace Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, there’s a general belief around the game that the Mets’ are unlikely to trade Syndergaard and even more unlikely to trade deGrom, a top-five starter with two more years to go before free agency. Assuming they remain in Queens, fine mid-rotation rentals J.A. Happ and Cole Hamels are probably the best available starters, and the reality is the Brewers are known not to relish rental players of any ilk.
Machado is the best and most impactful player who will almost certainly be traded. He may be the best position player traded at the deadline in decades. And the Orioles star would fit the Brewers, whose shortstop of the future, the talented Orlando Arcia, is in the minors again after a dreadful performance in Milwaukee this year. The Brewers recently made a trade for infielder Brad Miller, who was originally a shortstop and is off to a nice start in Milwaukee, and rookie Nate Orf has become popular after his recent call up and game-winning home run against the rival Twins two days into his tenure.
But there’s no denying the kind of impact Machado could make for Milwaukee, which made one of the biggest acquisitions of a rental star in recent years when they obtained C.C. Sabathia in an early deadline blockbuster a decade ago. That piloted the Brewers to the playoffs, where they lost to the eventual World Series champion Phillies. Machado has a .937 OPS, 21 home runs and a .308 batting average and could transform the Brewers' largest weakness outside of the starting rotation (and maybe larger) into one of their greatest strengths.
Sabathia was an early deadline pickup, and word is Machado may not wait until July 31, either. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network recently reported that the Orioles were “accelerating” talks, and that certainly fits the widening scope of interest that has been reported among mostly NL clubs. 

The Brewers also have perhaps the best overall prospect list among the main contenders for the superstar, though the Phillies are also very high in prospect rankings. Counting young major leaguers, Philly is strong where the Orioles need help most, at pitcher and on the infield. The Dodgers, whose rich farm system is already on display with the major-league team, also easily has the prospects to get a deal done, and the Diamondbacks probably do, too, though they trail the other three teams in the latest lists.
The battle for Machado on the surface at least seems to be waged almost entirely in the National League, though there could still be a surprise team or two in the mix. The D-Backs have been seen as a “consistent” player in the mix, the Phillies love Machado and need help on the left side of the infield and and the Dodgers, who lost their star shortstop Corey Seager for the year, have been painted as a Machado contender in most reports, as well. All three of those teams are confirmed to be involved at least on some level.

Clearly, each contender has a clear motivation and the ability to get a deal done, but also possible reservation about paying the cost that is needed. The D-Backs, who recently were tied by the slow-starting Dodgers atop the NL West, have been seen as perhaps the favorite in some circles based on their keen and consistent interest and need to win now, with two of their biggest stars – A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin – free agents after the year. The surging Dodgers whave done well with Chris Taylor at shortstop, and the ultra-deep team also has Kike’ Hernandez to man the position in reserve. Plus, L.A., which has done well to get below the $197-million luxury-tax threshold, may focus more on pitching at this deadline due to other injuries and continuing concern about ace Clayton Kershaw’s back. Phillies executives, most of whom were in Baltimore when Machado was selected as the No. 3 overall pick in 2010 draft, love Machado and intend to target him as a free agent this winter. They haven’t gotten much production at either shortstop or third base. And while Phillies people have suggested they are unsure if they are ready to win a World Series this year, the reality is that in the NL East they are only one game behind the Braves, another surprise team.
While the Braves have previously been mentioned as a possibility, they would already seem to have their shortstop of the future in Dansby Swanson and are getting solid production out of third base from Johan Camargo. The Cardinals also could make some sense as they have seem frustrated by their overall offensive production, and shortstop Paul DeJong, expected to return soon, could switch to third base – though they aren’t seen as a favorite.
Other teams that showed interest either in the winter when Machado was shopped include the Red Sox, Yankees, Padres and White Sox, but Boston and New York wouldn’t seem to have the need and San Diego and the South Siders are in the midst of rebuilds. Nine teams were involved in winter, and the interest is said to be about as great – and perhaps even greater – now.
The Cubs, the other Chicago team, also had shown interest, but sources suggest other teams are more involved at the moment.

That leaves their main rival stop of the NL Central as possibly the most likely other destination for the Baltimore slugger at or before the deadline. 

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.