Entering the 2018 MLB season, many eyes were on superstar slugger Manny Machado. The then-Baltimore Orioles shortstop was in the final year of his contract and most signs pointed to his departure for a massive contract.
But as the season came to a close, it became more unclear as to how much Machado was worth and where he might end up.
At the All-Star break, with the Los Angeles Dodgers in need of a replacement for the injured Corey Seager, the Orioles sent Machado packing in a deal involving several prospects. In 365 at-bats with Baltimore, Machado hit 24 home runs and had a .962 OPS — numbers that prompted MVP consideration.
The Dodgers were going through some struggles at the time of Machado’s arrival and the deal sparked optimism that Los Angeles would not only make a serious run at their first title since 1988 but could also lead to an elite bat and glove on their roster for years to come.
Machado is just 26, plays stellar defense at a premium position, and has posted excellent hitting numbers since debuting in 2012. On paper, the Dodgers and Machado seemed like a perfect fit: he’s a superstar in his prime and the Dodgers left themselves enough payroll flexibility to offer him a mind-boggling contract.
But his time in Los Angeles produced mixed results and uncertainty seemed to surround Machado’s potential future with the Dodgers. In 267 at-bats with the Dodgers, Machado saw his numbers slide to an .825 OPS. In 66 postseason at-bats, Machado had just a .672 OPS. He also showed signs of immaturity.
Machado, despite his immense talent, did not follow the Hollywood script. By the end of the World Series, it became clear that Machado’s stock had taken a dip and he seemed to hint that he may have played his final game with the Dodgers.
Machado on Wednesday posted on Instagram: “Thank you for making my experience as a Dodger, one I will cherish forever. I know we didn’t achieve our goal of bringing a championship back to Chavez Ravine, but there is no doubt in my mind that with this group of guys a World Series Title is on the horizon.”
So where might Machado end up?
The Philadelphia Phillies reportedly have had him as their top free-agent target and still seem like the favorites. After failing to achieve a record above .500 since 2011, the Phillies are looking to make a major push to win the NL East. Machado would be an ideal addition for a young lineup.
The Phillies also have enough payroll space to offer Machado a deal in the neighborhood of $300 million. Machado spent nearly his entire career in Baltimore, so he won’t have any difficulty adjusting to a city that is roughly 100 miles away. The Phillies also play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, which would help pad his career numbers.
But according to USA Today baseball insider Bob Nightengale, the list of possible destinations is small and the New York Yankees are the frontrunners.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made multiple attempts to trade for Machado but the Orioles likely wanted above-market value because the two teams play in the same division. All of that doesn’t matter now that Machado is a free agent.
The Yankees love to make a splash, especially after watching the Red Sox win the World Series, so Machado could easily be wearing pinstripes by the end of the winter. An obstacle for the Yankees would be if Machado arrives at the expense of adding a pitcher, which is the club’s top need.
A dark horse to land Machado might be the Chicago Cubs. Addison Russell’s future is uncertain in Chicago, so adding Machado would mean Kris Bryant could move to the outfield or Javier Baez to second base. After coming up short in the postseason, the Cubs may want a huge bat to compete in the deep NL Central.