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Manny Machado Picked A Great Time To Have His Best Season

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:

Machado is one of the modern era’s best hitting trade targets

Best pre-trade weighted runs created plus (wRC+) for players who were traded at the deadline, 1975-2018

Player Year Traded from To Pre-Trade wRC+ Stayed w/ Acquiring Team?
R. Henderson 1993 Athletics Blue Jays 182
K. Phelps 1988 Mariners Yankees 170
J.D. Martinez 2017 Tigers D-Backs 160
O. Gamble 1979 Rangers Yankees 160
J. Guillen 2003 Reds Athletics 159
H. Baines 1989 White Sox Rangers 157
M. McGwire 1997 Athletics Cardinals 156
M. Machado 2018 Orioles ? 155 ?
B. Bonilla 1995 Mets Orioles 154
C. Beltran 2011 Mets Giants 150
J.T. Realmuto 2018 Marlins ? 149 ?
C. Floyd 2002 Marlins Expos 147
S. Pearce 2016 Rays Orioles 147
G. Berroa 1997 Athletics Orioles 145
S. Hairston 2009 Padres Athletics 143
X. Nady 2008 Pirates Yankees 142
M. Ramirez 2008 Red Sox Dodgers 141
F. McGriff 2001 Devil Rays Cubs 139
G. Parra 2015 Brewers Orioles 138
M. Teixeira 2008 Braves Angels 136

Stats through July 10.

Machado and Realmuto are both listed among MLB Trade Rumors’ top 10 2018 trade targets.

Source: FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors

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.

Footnotes

  1. We also included Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom MLB Trade Rumors has listed among the players most likely to be dealt at this year’s deadline in addition to Machado.

  2. Maybe that stance makes sense in the free agent market, since shortstop is considered a premium defensive position. Then again, shortstops don’t seem to be paid more than other positions.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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