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The Chicago Cubs are reportedly targeting Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado in trade discussions.
According to Jon Heyman of FRS Baseball, Machado is “the Cubs’ main target” before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Heyman noted FRS Sports previously speculated Chicago shortstop Addison Russell could be part of a potential deal.
He also suggested the Los Angeles Dodgers would be a “logical” team to trade for the shortstop with Corey Seager out for the season but granted their slow start may allow the Cubs to emerge in “the forefront.”
On the surface, adding a marquee talent such as Machado to a lineup featuring the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber, among others, seems like an obvious move for the Cubs, even if it costs them Russell. After all, Russell is slashing just .250/.336/.367 with a single home run and nine RBI this season.
Machado, by comparison, entered play Thursday with a slash line of .342/.422/.652 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI and is one of baseball’s best offensive players.
However, there is more than just the offensive numbers to consider. Machado is set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 campaign. Russell won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022, per Spotrac. He also offers the Cubs the chance to keep a 24-year-old shortstop who already helped them win a World Series under team control for years instead of renting Machado for the second half of 2018.
Yes, the Cubs could look at the second half of the year as an audition to convince Machado to sign a long-term contract if he enjoys playing in Chicago. However, that would also limit the team’s financial flexibility to add someone such as Bryce Harper, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.
Russell is also a defensive asset who anchors Chicago’s infield. He was responsible for 53 defensive runs saved the last three years and is already at five this season, per FanGraphs.
Machado is at minus-five runs saved in his first year returning to shortstop, per FanGraphs.
Trading for Machado would be an instant upgrade for Chicago’s offense as it attempts to reach its fourth consecutive National League Championship Series and win a second Fall Classic in three years, but moving Russell—and likely other pieces—in the deal would present it with a significant cost.