A Manny Machado Trade Would Be Historic

Manny Machado possesses a rare combination of youth and talent. (Photo: Keith Allison)

The Orioles have seemingly come to their senses about their place on the win curve and, as such, are open to trading Manny Machado. On the other hand, it’s been nearly a week since that news broke, and we haven’t heard many concrete trade offers out for Baltimore’s All-Star infielder. Perhaps the news was overblown. Perhaps not. One thing we can say with certainty is that, if Machado were traded, it would be fairly historic.

Players get traded all the time, but usually they haven’t accomplished as much as Machado has. Here’s the top-30 WAR leaderboard for position players by the end of their age-24 season. You’ll find Machado toward the bottom.

All-time WAR Leaders, Position Players, By End of Age-24 Season
Name Team Traded? PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Mike Trout Angels No 3,558 0.306 0.405 0.557 167 47.5
Ty Cobb Tigers No 3,734 0.359 0.407 0.501 172 47.2
Mickey Mantle Yankees No 3,493 0.308 0.412 0.560 164 41.1
Mel Ott Giants No 3,974 0.315 0.412 0.548 150 38.6
Jimmie Foxx Athletics No 3,268 0.336 0.432 0.625 164 37.4
Ted Williams Red Sox No 2,615 0.356 0.481 0.642 185 36.4
Rogers Hornsby Cardinals No 2,903 0.323 0.384 0.467 156 35.7
Alex Rodriguez Mariners FA 3,515 0.309 0.374 0.561 137 35.0
Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners No 3,606 0.306 0.379 0.541 144 35.0
Arky Vaughan Pirates No 3,181 0.336 0.429 0.496 153 34.5
Al Kaline Tigers No 3,777 0.311 0.374 0.489 130 32.3
Eddie Mathews Braves No 3,142 0.279 0.388 0.559 152 32.1
Joe Jackson – – – Yes* 2,556 0.377 0.444 0.544 177 31.2
Johnny Bench Reds No 3,228 0.271 0.334 0.488 127 30.7
Andruw Jones Braves No 3,312 0.268 0.337 0.487 109 30.3
Tris Speaker Americans No 2,623 0.335 0.405 0.482 160 30.1
Albert Pujols Cardinals No 2,728 0.333 0.413 0.624 166 30.0
Joe DiMaggio Yankees No 2,544 0.341 0.397 0.622 149 28.7
Sherry Magee Phillies No 3,444 0.291 0.353 0.418 135 28.6
Hank Aaron Braves No 3,173 0.316 0.365 0.543 145 28.3
Eddie Collins Athletics No 2,312 0.331 0.397 0.435 154 28.1
Frank Robinson Redlegs No 3,156 0.298 0.380 0.552 143 28.0
Cal Ripken Orioles No 2,855 0.290 0.350 0.488 131 27.8
Bryce Harper Nationals No 3,262 0.285 0.386 0.515 141 27.7
Vada Pinson Redlegs No 3,551 0.309 0.355 0.492 127 27.2
Cesar Cedeno Astros No 3,491 0.293 0.350 0.470 131 27.1
Rickey Henderson Athletics No* 2,891 0.291 0.401 0.398 131 26.6
Jimmy Sheckard – – – Yes 3,257 0.306 0.387 0.439 132 26.6
Manny Machado Orioles ? 3,365 0.279 0.329 0.476 115 26.0
Stan Musial Cardinals No 1,953 0.344 0.423 0.539 171 25.4
* Was traded in age-25 season

Of the 30 players here, you find few who changed teams before reaching age 25. Shoeless Joe Jackson was acquired by the Cleveland Naps as a player to be named later in a trade they had made with the Philadelphia Athletics. That has to be one of the most monumental PTBNL’s in baseball history. At the time, Jackson had 41 plate appearances and -0.5 WAR to his name. It’s safe to say that Philly didn’t know he was going to become one of the greatest players of all time. He was also traded in his age-25 season, from Cleveland to the Chicago White Sox. It’s safe to say, at that point, that Cleveland knew who he was.

Jimmy Sheckard also appears here, a relatively obscure player who had some real succes both before and after his age-24 season. Let’s take a look at his transaction log over at B-Ref.

This happened even earlier in time than the Jackson deal — so long ago, in fact, that we don’t have exact dates for most of the transactions. But odds are that both Brooklyn and Baltimore knew how good he was. In 1899, he led the league in stolen bases. In 1901, he led the league in triples and slugging percentage.

Other than that, there are only two data points of note here. First is Alex Rodriguez, who left the Mariners for the Rangers as a free agent following his age-24 season. The other is Rickey Henderson, who traded in the midst of his age-25 season. That’s still a possibility for Machado. There’s no law dictating that Machado has to be traded before the season starts. Dan Duquette & Co. might decide that it’d be better to ransom him off in the run up to the trade deadline.

So, you can see how a Machado trade would be historic. It’s not often that a guy who is that good at such a young age is moved. And if it weren’t for the time he missed in 2014, he’d probably be a little higher up that leaderboard.

But you know what? Maybe it’s not fair to be comparing Machado to players who played in the time before free agency. These days, teams have to plan things out a little more. Let’s take a look at that leaderboard again, but beginning with 1975, the dawn of free agency.

WAR Batting Leaders, End of Age-24 Season, 1975-2017
Name Team Traded? PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Mike Trout Angels No 3,558 0.306 0.405 0.557 167 47.5
Alex Rodriguez Mariners FA 3,515 0.309 0.374 0.561 137 35.0
Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners No 3,606 0.306 0.379 0.541 144 35.0
Andruw Jones Braves No 3,312 0.268 0.337 0.487 109 30.3
Albert Pujols Cardinals No 2,728 0.333 0.413 0.624 166 30.0
Cal Ripken Orioles No 2,855 0.290 0.350 0.488 131 27.8
Bryce Harper Nationals No 3,262 0.285 0.386 0.515 141 27.7
Rickey Henderson Athletics No* 2,891 0.291 0.401 0.398 131 26.6
Manny Machado Orioles ? 3,365 0.279 0.329 0.476 115 26.0
Jason Heyward Braves Yes 2,819 0.262 0.351 0.429 117 21.6
Giancarlo Stanton Marlins No 2,640 0.271 0.364 0.540 145 21.4
Roberto Alomar – – – Yes 3,349 0.291 0.355 0.401 114 21.3
Barry Bonds Pirates No 2,388 0.256 0.345 0.458 123 21.2
David Wright Mets No 2,312 0.311 0.388 0.533 139 21.1
Grady Sizemore Indians No 2,364 0.283 0.369 0.488 126 20.8
Evan Longoria Rays No 1,840 0.283 0.361 0.521 134 20.2
Mookie Betts Red Sox TBD 2,309 0.292 0.351 0.488 122 20.0
Miguel Cabrera Marlins Yes 3,072 0.313 0.388 0.542 139 19.6
George Brett Royals No 2,029 0.318 0.368 0.481 137 19.5
Tim Raines Expos No 2,559 0.293 0.380 0.412 126 19.3
Willie Randolph – – – Yes 2,471 0.270 0.361 0.357 107 19.0
Ryan Zimmerman Nationals No 2,626 0.284 0.347 0.478 114 17.6
Carl Crawford Devil Rays No 2,951 0.292 0.326 0.434 98 17.2
Ivan Rodriguez Rangers No 2,868 0.285 0.324 0.429 94 17.1
Hanley Ramirez – – – Yes 2,101 0.308 0.379 0.527 134 17.0
Frank Thomas White Sox No 1,652 0.322 0.447 0.542 177 16.7
Eddie Murray Orioles No 2,726 0.291 0.353 0.486 132 16.5
Robin Yount Brewers No 3,778 0.276 0.314 0.393 96 16.5
Francisco Lindor Indians TBD 1,845 0.293 0.349 0.474 117 16.5
Justin Upton Diamondbacks Yes 3,030 0.278 0.357 0.475 117 16.0
* Was traded in age-25 season

So, OK, there are a couple of comps here. Let’s separate them out a little. The Roberto Alomar and Hanley Ramirez trades were big deals, but neither of those players quite reached his potential yet. Ramirez only had two PAs to his name with the Red Sox, while Alomar had recorded a couple of decent seasons with the Padres. Willie Randolph’s trade isn’t quite as famous, but it was certainly a big deal at the time. After just 70 PA with the Pirates, he was shipped off with Ken Brett and Dock Ellis to the Yankees for Doc Medich. Those three trades aren’t truly comparable to Machado’s situation, but there are a couple that are.

Miguel Cabrera, Jason Heyward, and Justin Upton were all traded in the offseason following their age-24 seasons. Of the three, Heyward’s situation was the most similar. Like Machado, Upton debuted at age 19, but thanks to a six-year extension he signed in 2010, he had two years of control left when he was traded from Arizona to Atlanta. Cabrera, who debuted at age 20, was in his second trip through arbitration during the offseason in which Florida traded him to Detroit. He would sign an extension shortly after going through arbitration and never reached free agency at the tender young age he could have.

But Heyward and Machado have the same situation. Heyward was a year from free agency and fresh off his age-24 season when Atlanta traded him to St. Louis. But while they occupy consecutive positions on that 1975-2017 leaderboard, you can see that Machado has been 4.4 WAR better than Heyward had been to that point in his career. So one might expect him to fetch a little more than Heyward did.

There are a lot of great young players in the game right now. As such, it can dull the significance of the situation in which Machado and the Orioles find themselves. It wouldn’t be completely unprecedented for Baltimore to ship off their superstar, but there aren’t exactly a ton of comparisons, either. Trading Machado may indeed be the right move for Baltimore’s front office, but given how infrequently players of his caliber have been traded at this stage of their careers (and some of the players who were traded weren’t quite up to Machado’s caliber), it wouldn’t be a surprise if Baltimore ultimately kept him.

We hoped you liked reading A Manny Machado Trade Would Be Historic by Paul Swydan!

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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

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srpst23
Member
srpst23

I just don’t see any team forking over what the Orioles are asking for. I know that defense is starting to get paid a bit more now in free agency, but I can’t see a team surrendering top prospects for 1 year of a guy with a career 115 WRC+ (coming off of a 102 WRC+ season). I suspect that too much of his WAR is tied up in defense for teams to really bite.

dave
Member
dave

The impact he can have on offense can carry an entire team though. Add that to exceptional defense, the ability to steal bases and he’s going to come at a premium

majnun
Member
majnun

FWIW in his last two years he has 9 total steals and 7 times caught

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

The Orioles have less of an emphasis on baserunning than almost any other team. If Machado were on the Angels, he probably would been right around his 2015 season: 20 SB and 8 CS.

Monsignor Martinez
Member
Monsignor Martinez

If you think he’s only good enough for a 71% SB%, then he shouldn’t be stealing bases.