Early in the season, a lot of talk surrounded the potential that Manny Machado could be traded to the Chicago Cubs. While much of that has died down, Machado could still end up with an NL Central rival.
When the Chicago Cubs offense was struggling early in the season, a lot of focus from Cubs fans and the media turned to Manny Machado. Machado seemed like an easy fix for the Cubs problems: a strong offensive force who was hitting for plenty of power and could replace the then-struggling Addison Russell at shortstop.
Since then, the Cubs offense has picked up considerably, although it may continue to be a bit inconsistent. Meanwhile, Russell has improved offensively. He is now batting .272 with a .349 on-base percentage, quieting many of his doubters for the time being.
Thus, it no longer seems certain that the Cubs should make a push for Machado. They may discuss possible trades, but the more immediate need right now is, without a doubt, the bullpen.
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However, even if the Cubs are not in the market for Machado, their National League Central rivals the St. Louis Cardinals could see a lot of value in adding a player like Machado.
St. Louis could use some help on offense. The Cardinals currently sit 17th in team batting average at .242. It wouldn’t hurt them to add some more power to put them over the edge—they rank ninth in home runs at 98.
Plenty of trade pieces
Unlike the Cubs, whose farm system currently leaves something to be desired, the Cardinals have a lot of young talent that could be offered in a deal for Machado. St. Louis has two players in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects, and is known for being ripe with young pitchers the Orioles would certainly value.
There is little doubt that St. Louis could put together a package that Baltimore would deem worthy of Machado.
What does this mean for Chicago?
If the Cardinals were to get a deal done and acquire Machado, it would almost certainly instill fear in Cubs fans. Machado is slashing .305/.375/.559 with 19 home runs and a .935 OPS. At least to this point, he is having the best season of his career.
And yet, the Cubs offense as a whole should still top the Cardinals, even if Machado were to join the Redbirds. The Cubs lead the Cardinals by a wide margin in team batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and WAR. And while St. Louis lurks close behind in the NL Central standings, the Cubs have shown in the past that they are built to pull away in the second half.
Extra motivation for Cubs?
For some fans, when a rival makes a trade move, panic ensues. Fans will advocate for a reactionary trade from the front office to counter the move. However, it has become clear in the past that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are not ones to act hastily. Their trades are well thought out, and even when the Cardinals have made midseason moves in the past, they have remained on course.
The threat of a Cardinals trade for Machado should not necessarily motivate the Cubs to trade for Manny to block St. Louis. If the Cubs brass thinks Machado is the right guy to get for their needs, then they will do it. But at the current moment, Cubs fans can relax knowing a slugger like Machado is not exactly what Chicago needs most right now.
Sure, Machado would give the Cardinals a boost if they were to acquire him by the trade deadline. But it’s still somewhat unlikely they would sacrifice their young pitching for him. And even if they do, the Cubs offense, when at full steam, still takes the cake.