Photo: Rob Carr (Getty)

Manny Machado turned 26 on Friday; he is in the prime of his career, and he is having the best season of his life. The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball, and not much hope of being better any time soon. It seems certain that by the end of this month—maybe even by the end of this week—Machado will be traded. But to where? Let’s get to some good old-fashioned rumormongering.

On the weekend Machado was elected to his fourth all-star team his sixth full season, educated observers—no doubt taking their cues from sources who would know—appear to have given up the possibility that the Orioles might hold on to Machado and risk losing him for nothing in free agency this winter. (Here’s a slightly confusing cross-sport metaphor to sum up their progress.) That’s probably quite all right with him, even as he attempts to be diplomatic about the uncertainty, though in this quote he seems to forget midway through that he is supposed to be pretending he’s unsure if he’s leaving or not.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Machado said. “I’ll probably be the last to hear, but things could change, or I could probably stay here for a lot longer, for more than a couple weeks to come. But who knows? I’m just blessed and happy that I got selected to be a starter and I can continue to do my job here as an Oriole and try to win some more games before I leave, just try to enjoy every moment I can with my teammates and just try to take this season as it is.”

The weekend saw a flood of unusually detailed, generally accordant reports on the standings in the race to rent Machado, which is probably a good sign that Baltimore’s front office is trying to goose lagging offers. So let’s see where we are.

  • The Baltimore Sun ranks the current offers, from best to worst, as the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Indians, and Cubs, with all the offers “very close” to each other, which is something you’d leak if you want to encourage a team to throw in one more piece.
  • MASN’s running order is quite similar: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Phillies, Braves, and Cubs, and “there isn’t much of a gap.” By MASN’s telling, the Indians made an offer but it’s not competitive.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the Dodgers and Brewers are the most serious bidders right now, with the Indians active.
  • Jon Paul Morosi says the Dodgers and Brewers are the top two, and that the Brewers’ assets have them “better positioned” to make the deal.

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So the Dodgers appear to be the frontrunners, and their interest only makes sense after losing shortstop Corey Seager to season-ending elbow surgery. Machado might be purely a rental in L.A., given that they have Seager and Justin Turner signed through 2020. Arizona, too, could use Machado these final few months, given that they or the Dodgers want to avoid the play-in game—or missing out on the postseason altogether. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks might both be additionally motivated to make a deal by the benefit of keeping Machado away from the other.

The Brewers are an interesting case, with some echoes of one of the most successful rentals in recent history. Saturday was the 10th anniversary of Milwaukee trading for CC Sabathia, a move that sealed the end of a 26-year playoff drought. It’s only been seven years this time around, but Machado could be a crucial piece in a competitive NL Central, where the Brewers now lead the Cubs by just two games.

Whoever gets him, Machado is going to make them significantly better. He’s currently hitting .313 (12th in MLB) and slugging .560 (11th), with 21 HRs (tied for 10th) and 60 RBI (11th). And because he is a pure rental—he has offered no hint that he plans to do anything other than hit the open market—Orioles fans are probably going to be surprised and disappointed by the seeming meagerness of the return. Isn’t baseball fun?