If Manny Machado would have transformed the Yankees into a super team after the All-Star break, he’ll now pretty much do the same for the Dodgers. The National League’s top homer-hitting club acquired the slugging shortstop Wednesday from the Orioles for a package of five minor-league prospects.
With Machado headed for free agency at the end of this season, the Orioles had been shopping him since last December, but the negotiations with a handful of suitors didn’t appear to become serious until the week leading up to the All-Star break. Machado, 26, is having what may turn out to be the best season of his seven-year career, hitting .315 with 24 homers, 65 RBIs and a .963 OPS in 96 games for the last-place Orioles.
The Yankees poked around at his availability, but their refusal to include top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield for a two-month rental of Machado seemed to scuttle their chances, and they were not among the finalists. The Dodgers’ most attractive chip included in the deal is 21-year-old outfielder Yusmiel Diaz, the team’s fourth-rated prospect by MLB.com, who drilled a pair of homers in Sunday’s Futures Game. Diaz was hitting .314 at Double-A Tulsa with a .905 OPS.
The Orioles also received two more of the Dodgers’ top 30 prospects, third baseman Rylan Bannon (No. 27) and righthander Dean Kremer (No. 28). Bannon, 22, was hitting .296 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Kremer, 22, was 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 86 innings at Double-A. The other two are righthanded reliever Zach Pop, 21, who has a 1.04 ERA in 30 games (split between Rancho Cucamonga and Tulsa) and second baseman Breyvic Valera, 26, who is batting .284 at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Dodgers emerged as the favorite, overtaking the Brewers and Phillies, before Machado played in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Washington. During the festivities, he posed for photos with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, fueling speculation that the deal was nearing completion, if not already done.
“You put that bat in the middle of our lineup it makes things pretty special,” Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling said Tuesday.
Machado, who twice finished in the top five for MVP, brings his prolific run-producing ability to a team that leads the NL in homers (129) and is ranked third in OPS (.753).
Chris Taylor was playing shortstop for the injured Corey Seager, out for the season after elbow surgery, but L.A. was eyeing Machado for months, knowing he was on the block. Not only did the Dodgers greatly strengthen their lineup, but they also kept Machado away from some of their biggest NL threats.