Manny Machado loped to second base and pulled out his iPhone. He hooked an arm around the shoulder of Dodgers star Matt Kemp, who’d hit a second-inning double and beamed as they posed for a selfie.
“That’s my boy,” Kemp said. “We go back.”
On Tuesday evening, they were opponents in the All-Star game at Nationals Park.
By Wednesday morning, they could be teammates.
After surging to first place in the National League West during the final week of the first half, the Dodgers stand on the verge of a trade that would increase their chances of returning to the World Series and add a dynamic element to an already explosive offense. With the Midsummer Classic as the backdrop, the Dodgers were in talks to acquire Machado from the Baltimore Orioles, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.
The deal had not yet been finalized, and remained subject to the fickle nature of Baltimore’s ownership group, which is notorious for nixing trades made by its baseball operations department, and the potential counter-offers from other interested teams.
One Dodgers prospect mentioned as a possible centerpiece of the return package is outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The Orioles were said to be reviewing the medical histories of the involved players Tuesday. The trade could be completed as early as Wednesday — if it goes through.
“If it happens, my head will hit the roof,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. “That’s how excited I am. I talked to him a little bit. He’s excited. We’ll see. If it happens, it would be a fantastic thing.”
Manager Dave Roberts laughed when asked who his shortstop will be when the season resumes Friday in Milwaukee. “What’s the latest?” he said. “Catch me up to speed on what’s going on.”
The expectation is the Dodgers will complete a trade that would include several prospects in addition to Diaz, but the outcome was still undecided late Tuesday evening. It was unclear if Baltimore would send any money to cover Machado’s salary, which will be around $6.5 million for the rest of the season. Every dollar counts for the Dodgers as they attempt to stay beneath the $197-million luxury tax threshold.
Roberts indicated he would need to contact his front office. He did not intend to make that call in the presence of the handful of reporters gathered in his office.
The intrigue overshadowed the game itself, with players in both clubhouses gabbing about Machado’s impending departure from Baltimore. The Orioles were believed to be still in contact with Philadelphia and Milwaukee, although the Dodgers were positioned as the favorite.
Machado looked ready for the spotlight. He wore no shirt beneath his suit when he arrived at the ballpark. The outfit delighted Kemp.
“Did you see what he wearing today on the red carpet?” Kemp said. “That’s Hollywood, man.”
Machado would improve the Dodgers on more than an aesthetic basis.
He is one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. He entered the break with 24 home runs and a .963 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, backed up by a career-low strikeout rate and a career-high walk rate. He can become a free agent this winter.
“We’ve got a great locker room, and I think he would fit right in,” All-Star pitcher Ross Stripling said. “And obviously you put that bat in the middle of our lineup, it makes things pretty special.”
During the past few seasons, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi have shown a willingness to make a splash at the deadline. In 2016, they acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from Oakland in exchange for a three-pitcher package that included prospects Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas. A year later, the team bundled a pair of prospects around young hitter Willie Calhoun to get Yu Darvish from Texas.
The returns on those deals were mixed. Hill pitched well after healing a blister on his pitching hand, and re-signed during the winter. Reddick was a bust, posting a .643 OPS during the regular season and finishing the postseason without an extra-base hit. Darvish imploded during the World Series the next year, including a disastrous performance in Game 7.
Machado would not exactly fill a void in the team’s roster.
The Dodgers lost shortstop Corey Seager to season-ending elbow surgery in May, but Chris Taylor has been a useful replacement. The versatility of Taylor makes the trade more functional. Taylor could replace Max Muncy at second base. Cody Bellinger could enter the outfield rotation with Muncy handling first base.
The addition of Machado would crowd an already packed outfield. With Yasiel Puig on the disabled list, Roberts is still juggling playing time between Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles and Bellinger.
The Dodgers may need to trade an outfielder before the July 31 deadline, which could end Puig’s tenure in the organization.
The Dodgers invested $15.6 million as a bonus to sign Diaz, 21, out of Cuba in 2015. He has blossomed with double-A Tulsa this season, hitting .314 with a .905 OPS. He showcased himself with a pair of home runs in the Futures Game on Sunday.
Machado is the most prized asset on the trade market. He worked out with Kemp during the winter in Miami in the past. Kemp came away impressed with Machado’s ability and work ethic. He called Machado “one of my favorite players to watch.”
“If that’s something that happened, I think L.A. would be excited about it,” Kemp said. “And it would definitely help our team win more games.”
Machado’s impending trade has been dissected on a daily basis. He caused a stir when he liked a picture on Instagram of himself wearing a Yankees jersey. Speculation abounded when Baltimore removed him from a game after a rain delay over the weekend.
A crowd of reporters engulfed Machado during Monday’s media day.
Machado looked weary when a similar crowd awaited him Tuesday.
What had he heard from either the Orioles or his agent?
“Nothing,” he said.
He would not say whether he expected to play another game for the Orioles.
“Whatever happens moving forward will happen,” he said. “There will be a time and place for everything.
He also would not say whether he’d be excited to join the Dodgers and play in a pennant race.