Machado trade makes Dodgers World Series frontrunners

Manny Machado of the Dodgers slides into third base.The Los Angeles Dodgers took a big step towards returning to the World Series by acquiring Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles over the All-Star break. Machado was considered one of the top trade targets heading into the deadline and his bat has provided an instant boost to the Dodgers’ offense.


Machado is hitting second in the Los Angeles batting order and he appears to be comfortable in the spot, recording at least one hit in each of his first four games with the Dodgers. Los Angeles has won three of four with Machado, who is being used primarily at shortstop but also played one game at third base.


In Machado, Los Angeles acquired the kind of consistent contact hitter who also produces more than 30 home runs in a season. His presence is providing an immediate boost to an offense that wasn't quite performing to the lofty expectations set by the Dodgers’ stellar 2017 campaign. While Los Angeles still leads the NL West, it hasn't been able to build the same dominant advantage it held last year, but the Dodgers know the real test lies in the postseason, where they came tantalizingly close to winning it all before losing at home in Game 7.


In order to get back there, Los Angeles will need to overcome the NL-leading Chicago Cubs, who are looking more and more like the successors to the Cubs team that won a championship in 2016. The Dodgers have been a better defensive team than Chicago so far, and with Machado they might be better offensively now as well.


Los Angeles showed it can manufacture all kinds of runs in Monday's win over the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting four home runs in the first four innings and grinding out more offense on plays like a seventh-inning sacrifice fly that scored Machado after the Dodgers’ normally reliable pitching faltered. The versatility of their offense will be crucial for matching up against any kind of opponent in a playoff series.


As for the Orioles, they might not be done selling their assets for prospect packages. Machado fetched them five prospects, and they might be looking for a comparable return on star closer Zach Britton, who is expected to generate a lot of interest as the trade deadline approaches.