The other shoe has finally dropped and Manny Machado has become a Dodger. To quote my favorite line from Aladdin, I’m going to have a heart attack and die from that surprise. Anybody who didn’t see that coming probably didn’t see that Bryce Harper was going to win the Home Run Derby either.
I rarely look at Twitter, but Sportsnet LA made it impossible for me not to see a tweeted video of Justin Turner and Alex Wood jumping for joy at the news that “we’ve got Manny!”. There are a lot of questions to be asked about the video (starting with who shot it), but I think we can take it as an indicator that the members of the team have positive feelings about the acquisition.
At least those whose job security isn’t threatened by the addition of an infielder to a roster that’s already bursting at the seams with position players. The Machado trade cannot possibly spell unrestrained jubilation for Andrew Toles.
Excitement certainly is running high. Not LeBron high, but still high, and one does get the feeling that the Dodgers were out to try and trump the Lakers’ ace of trades. (They didn’t. Nor could they possibly ever have.) Los Angeles is a city run by a celebrity culture, and the Dodgers must have been seeing in Machado not only 24 home runs, but also an infusion of star power akin to what the Lakers have gotten with LeBron.
That’s not an unreasonable thing to want. Corey Seager, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy aren’t red carpet material. I’d love to have a beer with any of them, but they’re never going to be media stars. Machado, on the other hand, could possibly be the biggest thing to happen to the Dodgers press department since Yasiel Puig.
(The problem of media star power isn’t limited to the Dodgers. Down in Anaheim, the Angels are facing the same problems with Mike Trout. The game’s best player shows no interest in cereal boxes and flashy clothes, which is costing the sport a potential ambassador. Trout is charming but low-key. Having a beer with him would probably be awesome, but he’s never going to stick out in a sea of Hollywood A-listers.)
While a hot bat joining the lineup is of necessity a good thing, I’m not as excited by the Machado acquisition as everyone else seems to be. As I see it, the Dodgers don’t really need Manny Machado. I practically led the Chorus of Universal Dismay when Corey Seager went down for the season, but, thanks to the Dodgers’ depth and the versatility of some of their players, the gaping hole at shortstop was plugged up in short measure. The laconic but admirable Chris Taylor returned to the infield and turned out to be a far more than competent shortstop. He’s backed up by the amazingly versatile Kiké Hernandez, who probably has yet to show us what miracles he can achieve while keeping Seager’s seat warm.
The Dodgers simply don’t need a rental shortstop. It’s and yet another case of fixin’ what ain’t broke.
Meanwhile, off in the bullpen, there’s plenty that is broke. Not nuclear armageddon-broke, but still not good enough to get the team through to October. Pitching is what the team needs – and needs badly if there are plans to win a championship. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have said that they may well address the relief pitching situation, but the store is only open for so long, and they’ve wasted an awful lot of their shopping time in the shortstop department.
Machado will no doubt bring coals-to-Newcastle hitting to the League’s top-ranked offense. I suppose you can’t really ever score too many runs in a game, but what about his fielding?
He won two Gold Gloves and has a thrilling highlight reel of diving catches and running throws. Those were a few years ago already – and when he was playing 3rd base. He has switched (returned) to shortstop this season, and has made it clear that he intends to stay there. The problem is that his numbers (advanced metrics in particular) are cause for concern, and that, when it comes to defensive shortstops (again, especially in terms of advanced metrics) both Taylor and Hernandez are far superior.
Watch what happens when the first domino is tipped over: Machado takes short, Taylor shifts to 2nd, Max Muncy goes back where he belongs at 1st…and you’re left holding Cody Bellinger. Put him back in the outfield, you say? That would make a total of six outfielders: Bellinger, Kemp, Pederson, Toles, Hernandez and Puig. True, Puig’s currently on the DL (and there is again talk of trading him that will probably come to the same naught to which it’s come in previous years), but that still leaves five guys and three positions. I suppose that there are worse things for a manager to worry about than such an embarras de richesses, but those are not really the richesses the team needs.
The Dodgers are avoiding questions about a long-term future for Machado with the team, and wisely so. Set to be a free agent this off-season, Machado is a rental player, who can perhaps best be seen as a big-name but temporary replacement for Seager. If the team doesn’t really need a shortstop now, it certainly isn’t going to need one once Seager returns in the first half of next season. Machado is nevertheless here now, and the shortstop of the moment. There is certainly a good possibility that his offensive contribution will outweigh his defensive weaknesses, and, even though I don’t think the trade was the greatest thing to happen to LA sports since…well, since LeBron…I have difficulty seeing how it could hurt the team.
On the other hand, let me conclude with two sobering words:
Yu and Darvish.