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Braves trading for Machado not worth the price or the risk

Sure, it’s tempting.

Manny Machado would fit beautifully in the middle of the Atlanta Braves’ lineup. Slide him right even between Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, or maybe behind them. A lineup that starts Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies, Freeman, Machado and Markakis would rival any in the National League. It would be truly an All-Star lineup, as all but Inciarte figure to be playing - and possibly starting - in next week’s All-Star Game, and Inciarte made it last year.

So, absolutely, it’s tempting.

But ...

To understand the risk the Braves would be taking to trade for Machado, consider a little history. Chances are, if you followed in the past 10 years, you’ve heard of Elvis Andrus, and maybe even Neftali Perez, and Matt Harrison. Those three combined for four All-Star selections and, along with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had a respectable 11-year career, were the price the Braves had to pay for a two-year rental of Mark Teixeira.

Teixeira hit some home runs for the Braves and provided protection behind Chipper Jones. But never appeared in a postseason game with Atlanta.

The Baltimore Orioles are not going to let Machado go anything short of a ransom. It would take surrendering a package of prospects even more overwhelming than what the Braves gave up for Teixeira. Four months from now, Machado will be a free agent.

Former Reds general manager Jim Bowden, now writing for The Athletic, proposed the Braves trade minor league pitchers Touki Toussant and Bryce Wilson, outfielder Cristian Pache and a throw-in player to Texas for Cole Hamels. Now that’s for Cole Hamels, a solid veteran starting pitcher but one on the backside of his career.

The price for Machado would be significantly higher.

Would it be worth it? Only if Machado helped lead the Braves to the World Series.

Baseball is about risk and reward. The risk is the Braves could lose a player or two who could become perennial All-Stars. The reward would be that they’d improve their chances of winning the National League East.

But even with Machado in the middle of the lineup, the Braves still would lack pitching. The starting rotation, which had exceeded expectations, is starting to plateau. Even if it can endure long enough to hold off the Phillies and the Nationals, it’s questionable whether the rotation would be able to win a best-of-five National League Divisional Series -- let alone a best-of-seven NLCS.

And let’s say Juilo Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and maybe Brandon McCarthy get hot at the right time. There’s still the matter of a shaky -- and sometimes just awful -- bullpen.

Unless the pitching staff is bolstered or suddenly improves, I just don’t see it being strong enough to get through two playoff series.

And then what?

Maybe Machado loves Atlanta so much that he signs a long-term contract. Or maybe a club with deeper pockets makes him an offer that he can’t refuse. So then the Braves are left with no World Series, no Manny Machado and minus a few prospects who could help lead them to a World Series, or serve as trade bait for a more permanent fix.

Those who have followed the Braves for decades remember the Fred McGriff deal, almost exactly 25 years ago. The Braves virtually stole him from San Diego for Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore and Donnie Elliott. What made that deal such a windfall for the Braves wasn’t just that McGriff helped the Braves chase down the San Francisco Giants in one of the great pennant races of all time. Rather, it was the fact that the Braves got four more productive years out of McGriff -- including the World Series championship in 1995 and a return to the World Series in ‘96.

The scenario couldn’t be more different with Machado. The risk far outweighs the reward.

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