It’s been a truly miserable summer for baseball in Baltimore. Not only do the Orioles currently have MLB’s worst record, but according to the FiveThirtyEight projections, they are also on pace to lose a staggering 111 games this season. That’s so bad, it would put them in the same company as such notably putrid clubs as the 2003 Tigers (119 losses), 2013 Astros and 2004 Diamondbacks (111 losses apiece). Not even Buck Showalter’s magical managerial touch could save the Orioles from their wretched fate. (Not that they necessarily want to be saved.)
Amid such horrors, there has been one bright spot in the form of shortstop Manny Machado. Through Wednesday’s games, Machado has 23 home runs (sixth most in the American League) with a .314/.383/.573 slash line. That helps make him the AL’s seventh-best hitter so far this season according to weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which measures run production relative to the league on a per-plate appearance basis. Not only is it a massive improvement over the disappointing stats Machado put up a year ago, but it represents the best hitting season of his entire career to date.
Machado picked a great time to put up career numbers, since he’s set to be a free agent after the season. And it’s good for the Orioles, too, though they’ll miss their star player. When Machado is inevitably traded before the July 31 deadline, he’ll command plenty in return, even if he’s just a three-month rental for a World Series contender.
But it’s tough to say Machado isn’t worth the ransom — he’s having one of the best seasons by a trade-deadline target in modern history. Going back to the dawn of the free-agent era in 1975, here is how Machado compares to the top performances by batters who were traded at the deadline,1 in terms of their wRC+ for the team doing the trading:
|Player||Year||Traded from||To||Pre-Trade wRC+||Stayed w/ Acquiring Team?|
|R. Henderson||1993||Athletics||Blue Jays||182|
|H. Baines||1989||White Sox||Rangers||157||✓|
|M. Ramirez||2008||Red Sox||Dodgers||141||✓|
|F. McGriff||2001||Devil Rays||Cubs||139||✓|
In essence, Machado switching teams is as a big a deal as the A’s trading Mark McGwire at the 1997 deadline. (That one worked out pretty well for the Cardinals, too, with one major caveat.) Machado might not be the best fit for every contender, with questions about his defense at short and his reported unwillingness to switch positions in order to fit better with a potential trade suitor.2 But in terms of raw hitting, Machado is making the most of his walk year, and his bat could make a real difference for a top-shelf team looking for that extra edge in October — regardless of whether that team is willing to re-sign him for an increasingly exorbitant price this winter.
Check out our latest MLB predictions.