The most reliable news source in my world is my dynasty baseball WhatsApp group, and Thursday morning someone posted a tweet suggesting there was maybe a rumor that Rafael Devers was a potential trade piece for Manny Machado. At that point, the question of whether the Ken Rosenthal-aided rumor was legitimate became irrelevant, because it’s a great thought experiment either way. We will conduct it presently.
The “problem,” in terms of it being a thought exercise, is that it’s not a very hard one. Machado is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and without an extension in place, it’s hard to imagine the Sox would part with their 21-year-old third baseman, the baby ox with the power of an... adult ox, I guess, and and with style to burn:
It’s possible that Dave Dombrowski would do the trade without the extension, because he’s Dombo and he likes to trade for the best players in baseball, that wacky guy. Machado is a (potential) Hall of Famer in his prime and still only 25. He would make the Sox extremely good for as long as he was on the team, and the front office knows that.
The question in my head is how many years the Sox have to get beyond this one for a Machado swap to make sense, and I’m guessing the answer is merely one or two. Devers is very good and very young, but the ball is flying out of the park across the country, and homers aren’t enough. It’s an open question of how good he’ll get from here on out -- for what it’s worth, I think he’ll be very good, but it’s not certain — but his .235/.286/.412 batting line isn’t in the same hemisphere’s as Manny’s .307/.378/.579, nor is his glove, nor is the threat to go to the Yankees instead. Yep — there’s the rub.
The Yankees hover over the whole business, but such is life. Grabbing Machado for any number of years prevents him from going to the Bronx, and while in most cases I would suggest the Red Sox focus solely on what’s best for them and not what their rival is doing, I’ll allow it here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to do their own Machado for Devers deal, with Miguel Andujar playing the Raffy role. They also are all but certain to pursue Machado this offseason in free agency, and Yankee pursuits on the FA market tend to be shooting-fish-in-barrels type affairs.
Machado on the Yankees would be bad. The undercurrent to all of this is that the rivalry is back on, full-bore, and it’s an arms race. It’s one sort of thing to glorify being the ‘champion of each other’ if you’re talking about, like, WAC schools, but it’s quite another when one of the teams is the Yankees. Being better than them means you’re potentially the best team in the world, by default.
It’s for this reason that I don’t get caught up in the very real emotional storm that would come with dispatching Raffy, but a good part of that is muted by the fact he’d be going to the Orioles, who suck balls. There’s only so much damage you can do when Peter Angelos, Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are holding you back. Duke, we’re Facebook friends, but I’m sorry to say that it’s true, you are bad. (Just not that sorry.)
Machado unleashed on a good team will be frightening. A batting order starting with Mookie Betts/Andrew Benintendi/Machado/J.D. Martinez is so potentially fantastic it nearly made me pass out just typing it. It also looks like total overkill, but the Sox are currently 48-22 and effectively only tied for first. Every little bit helps.
To that end, I think Dombrowski probably pulls the trigger on a Devers-for-Machado deal if it’s a) actually available, and not a figment of imagination and b) somehow assured of one to two years beyond this one, contract-wise. That’s solidly in Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and J.D. Martinez’s window, not to mention that of Dustin Pedroia and Craig Kimbrel, if the latter returns after this year. Hopefully he does, but I’m printing and pantenting my #Poyner2019 shirts now.
It’s easy to wrap this up by saying, “In the end, do I think the Sox will trade Devers for Machado? No, because the status quo is the status quo,” but in this case, I won’t. Even if the trade isn’t very likely simply because most trades aren’t likely, I think there’s a real fit there. It certainly makes a lot of sense from Boston’s perspective. We may just be rooting for laundry, but that would be some good-ass laundry: Machado. No. 13. I feel lucky. Because if we’re stuck with Raffy instead, that’s great too.