Powell: Manny Machado Watch Has Begun In Chicago

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 11: Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Anthony Santander #25, Chance Sisco #15 and Jace Peterson #29 after hitting a Grand Slam in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 11, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

By Kevin Powell

He may be playing on the South Side, but both teams in town will be keeping a close eye on free-agent-to-be Manny Machado this week.

The three-time All-Star showed flashes of why he’s worth a nine-figure contract in the Orioles 3-2 win over the White Sox Monday night — showcasing his skills by smacking a homer about twenty rows deep to left, followed by a perfect throw to home plate to get Yolmer Sanchez on a relay in the 5th.

Machado is the real deal, and there’s a reason there’s so much buzz around him.

You don’t have to be a baseball lifer to realize the 25-year-old is clearly the best player on the field almost every time he steps on the diamond. He is a legitimate superstar. So, will he end up with the Cubs via trade? Can the Sox actually make a push for him in free agency? That’s what everyone is talking about this week.

Meanwhile, Machado handled himself like a pro and said all the right things Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

So what does he think of all the trade rumors and speculation?

“It’s out of my hands,” Machado said. “Obviously we’ve got to answer these questions and we’ve got to stand in front of the camera, but at the end of the day none of that matters if you don’t go out there and win some games for your ball club.”

For the Cubs, Machado would be a rental and they’d have to pay a premium for just a few months of his services. For the Sox, they would have to spend more money than they ever have by a wide margin to sign the two-time Gold Glove winner.

Some think Machado could be looking at a $300 million dollar type deal. Keep in mind the richest deal in Sox franchise history is Jose Abreu’s $68 million contract. Is it a stretch to think the Sox can find a way to win the Machado sweepstakes? Yes. But don’t completely rule them out.

And the argument that it’s not the right time for the Sox to make a megadeal because they won’t be contenders next year doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Machado will be looking for a contract that runs for eight or ten years. You sign Machado for the long-term, not for 2019.

General manager Rick Hahn has said it before – when the time is right they will be aggressive in free agency. At some point, the Sox will have to go after top free agents. Why not at least try for Machado?

From the Cubs perspective, do they really want to pay a premium for a rental?  I realize he’s one of the best players in the game, but Theo & Co. would likely have to give up at least one of their current big leaguers, and maybe even a prospect from their thin farm system.

I realize the thought of Machado in the middle of the Cubs lineup has the fan base all giddy, but there’s plenty of talent on the roster already. Giving up assets such as Addison Russell and Ian Happ (both under team control through at least 2021) would seem like a stretch. Remember, this Cubs core has already won a World Series together. Can they do it again? Of course they can.

Reaching for Machado wouldn’t be a smart play by the Cubs unless Theo can somehow pry him for the Orioles at an inexpensive cost. But I don’t see that happening.

So where does Machado get traded? My guess is the Dodgers. They have value in their farm system, and they could use a jolt of life after a slow start and the season-ending injury to Corey Seager.

In the meantime, keep dreaming Cubs and Sox fans, and enjoy Machado Mania while it lasts.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7pm. Follow on twitter @kpowell720