Lounging on a boat atop Lake Tahoe, leaning into the frenzy consuming the Dodgers’ fan base back in Los Angeles, Justin Turner and Alex Wood posed for a video on Wednesday afternoon. They wore swim trunks and shades as they stared at their iPhones. A notification chimed.
“It’s done,” Wood said.
“It’s done?” Turner said.
“We got Manny, dude,” Wood said.
“We got Manny?” Turner said. “We got Manny! We got Manny, baby!”
Two weeks after the Lakers landed LeBron James, the Dodgers countered by acquiring a superstar of their own. Manny Machado lacks the worldwide fame and unparalleled game of Los Angeles’ new king. But he might help bring a championship to Dodger Stadium before James can return a title to Staples Center.
Turner’s wife posted the clip on Twitter shortly after the trade was finalized on Wednesday afternoon: Machado, the 26-year-old shortstop, to the Dodgers for a five-prospect package headlined by double-A outfielder Yusniel Diaz heading back to the Baltimore Orioles. The front office of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi outbid a sizable field of suitors and extracted Machado from the notably finicky Orioles. He represents the latest midseason rental brought to town in hopes of ending the team’s 30-season championship drought.
“We viewed Manny Machado as a big difference maker, and potentially the biggest difference maker who was going to be available going into this trade deadline,” Zaidi said. “So he was obviously a very high priority for us.”
The addition of Machado adds a thunderous bat to an offense which leads the National League in home runs. Machado has slugged 24 this season with a career-best .963 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has struggled in adjusting to shortstop this year after six seasons as a third baseman, but the Dodgers believe the ferocity of his offense outweighs any qualms about his defense.
The trade does not solve all the team’s issues. The Dodgers ended the first half with a half-game lead in the National League West after an ungainly start to the season, but with unresolved questions about their pitching staff. The bridge to closer Kenley Jansen requires fortification. The team is expected to pursue further upgrades before the July 31 trade deadline.
Machado will join the Dodgers on Friday in Milwaukee to start the second half. He wore an Orioles uniform for the final time in Tuesday’s All-Star game, in which he represented Baltimore for the fourth time. His impeding departure threatened to overshadow the other festivities at Nationals Park as the Dodgers made progress in a sweepstakes which included the Brewers, Phillies, Yankees, Diamondbacks and others.
To finish the trade, the Dodgers parted with nearly half a dozen prospects, while holding onto their higher-regarded youngsters like pitcher Walker Buehler, outfielder Alex Verdugo and catcher Keibert Ruiz. The two sides had been haggling for about a month, Zaidi said.
Baseball America rated Diaz, 21, the organization’s third-best prospect. He will depart for the Orioles’ organization along with double-A starter Dean Kremer, Class A infielder Rylan Bannon, ClassA reliever Zach Pop and triple-A utilityman Breyvic Valera. The departure of Valera opens a spot on the 40-man roster for Machado.
Baltimore did not send any cash in the deal. The Dodgers will pay Machado $6.3 million, tightening their wiggle room in avoiding luxury-tax penalties. The team’s tax payroll was already at $181.5 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. That number does not include bonuses for Kenta Maeda, which averaged $5.875 million in 2016 and 2017.
With Machado’s salary and Maeda’s bonuses, the Dodgers will have less than $4 four million available to improve their bullpen. The team could attempt to shed salary by moving big leaguers like second baseman Logan Forsythe, pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu or outfielder Yasiel Puig.
“We’re going to continue to shop and look for ways to make the team better,” Zaidi said. “We’ll deal with any potential financial hurdles as they come up.”
The arrival of Machado could expedite the exodus of Puig. By playing Machado at shortstop, a series of dominoes will fall. Chris Taylor can handle second base, while also spending time in the outfield. Max Muncy can move to first. And Cody Bellinger might join an outfield already crowded with Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles and Enrique Hernandez.
After the trade became official, manager Dave Roberts reached out to Machado to communicate the team’s preference for flexibility. Machado expressed his willingness to shift between third base and shortstop when needed.
“Everybody is on the same page about that,” Zaidi said. “He understands the way we manage the roster, and the options that Doc likes to have moving guys around. He’s told us he wants to do whatever he can to succeed and win.”
In their four years at the helm, Friedman and Zaidi have been aggressive during the July trading season. They negotiated a complicated deal to get Wood in 2015. A year later, they bundled three pitching prospects to Oakland in exchange for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. A few minutes before the deadline last summer, they finalized a trade with Texas for Yu Darvish.
The returns on those deals are mixed. Wood became a mainstay of the rotation and an All-Star in 2017. Hill pitched well and re-signed in the winter; Reddick stunk and bolted for Houston. Darvish aided the cause en route to the World Series before combusting in his two starts.
A similar pressure will build for Machado. He can become a free agent after this season. He will headline a class that could include Clayton Kershaw along with Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. The Dodgers will get a four-month window to sell Machado on Los Angeles before he hits the market. And Machado will get a chance to play in October again.
“This is about 2018 for us,” Zaidi said. “We hope he plays well, and creates a good market for himself. We’re not worried about what happens beyond 2018 right now.”