Lonnie Chisenhall was Cleveland’s starting third baseman down the stretch last season as a rookie and headed into spring training as the presumed Opening Day starter, but today the Indians sent him back to Triple-A while handing the job to veteran Jack Hannahan.
Matt LaPorta was also optioned to Triple-A and unlike Chisenhall his place in the Indians’ long-term plans is now very uncertain. LaPorta was acquired from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, but the former first-round pick is now 27 years old and has hit just .238 with a .701 OPS in 269 games as a big leaguer.
As a prospect LaPorta looked like a potential middle-of-the-order bat with power and plate discipline, but his stock has fallen so far that the Indians signed Casey Kotchman instead of playing him at first base. Chisenhall struggled this spring, but is probably six good weeks at Triple-A away from being back in Cleveland. LaPorta might need an injury and some big-time production in the minors to return in an expanded role.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.