LOS ANGELES -- Ten years ago, the Dodgers traded for Manny and it was epic. On Wednesday, they did it again.
If new Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado can make a fraction of the breathtaking impact Manny Ramirez made after his 2008 acquisition, it will be worth the five Minor Leaguers the Dodgers sent to Baltimore on Wednesday for the 26-year-old, who, like Ramirez in 2008, is a rental eligible for free agency after the season.
"We're in first place by the slimmest of margins [half-game] and four teams are within a few games," general manager Farhan Zaidi said on Dodgers station AM 570. "We felt improving the team in this period was imperative, and we think Manny Machado is the best target out there."
After a Wednesday delay necessitated by physical exams, trading for Machado cost the Dodgers only one of their top prospects: Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. In addition, the Orioles received right-handed pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop, third baseman Rylan Bannon and infielder Breyvic Valera. Diaz is the club's No. 4 prospect and No. 84 in MLB, according to MLB Pipeline. Kremer is No. 27 and Bannon No. 28 in the organization.
Baltimore hopes the deal can be transformative, offering both quality and depth to a system in need of both.
The 21-year-old Diaz is the centerpiece for the O's, and the Dodgers spent $31 million in bonus and taxes to sign him out of Cuba. Two homers in Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game showed that his one lagging tool, power, is not so lagging.
The 22-year-old Bannon is hitting .296 with a .961 OPS at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and is a plus defensive third baseman. The 22-year-old Kremer was just promoted to Double-A after striking out 114 in 79 innings at Rancho Cucamonga. Pop, a seventh-rounder last year from Kentucky, was recently promoted to Double-A after dominating at two Class A clubs. Valera has had three big league cameos with the Dodgers, and his departure clears a 40-man roster spot for Machado.
The trade is the latest reaffirmation by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's front office of a commitment to land the franchise's first World Series ring since 1988.
"It's a means to an end," said Zaidi, saying this was no time for a victory lap. "We're trying to win a World Series every year, but this year in particular. We think it's a big stepping-stone to get to that point."
It also demonstrated the organization's deep development system, from which a package was offered that outbid rivals such as Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Arizona and the Yankees. Once again, the Dodgers didn't even need to go all in, retaining their top three prospects as rated by MLB Pipeline -- Alex Verdugo, Keibert Ruiz and Mitchell White.
Zaidi said negotiations have been ongoing for a month.
"Over the past week, the Orioles seemed intent on making it happen over the All-Star break," Zaidi said. "We stepped up and made sure our offer was something that would get them to act sooner rather than wait until July 31."
Zaidi said the Dodgers will continue to monitor available pitchers, primarily relievers, leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline at the end of the month. The Dodgers are determined to remain under the competitive tax threshold and just moved $6.3 million closer with the remainder of Machado's 2018 contract.
Machado just played in his fourth All-Star Game as the American League's starting shortstop and is a two-time Gold Glove third baseman with three top-10 finishes for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. He is batting .315 with a .963 OPS, 24 homers and 65 RBIs. Machado has had three seasons with at least 33 home runs and is seeking his first 100-RBI campaign.
Machado is expected to take over at shortstop, displacing Chris Taylor, who moved in from center field after All-Star shortstop Corey Seager was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. Seager is expected back for 2019, lessening (but not eliminating) the chances Machado would remain in L.A., as Ramirez did.
Because Machado was acquired during the season, the Dodgers will not be able to give him a qualifying offer this offseason, which means they will not be able to recoup Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Bryce Harper, who is assumed to be Machado's competition as the best player on this offseason's market, will almost certainly get a qualifying offer from the Nationals, which means any teams that signs him other than Washington will give up a high Draft pick, and this might make Machado slightly more appealing to some suitors.
Zaidi said Machado could see some time at third base. Although Taylor has not matched his offensive breakthrough from last year, he can slide over to second base and be an upgrade from Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley.
Enrique Hernandez, who has 16 home runs but no set position, can continue to spot start all over the place.
Pending manager Dave Roberts' lineup when play resumes in Milwaukee on Friday night, Machado could bat third or second (Seager's spot) in the batting order. Machado has hit third for the O's most of this season. Either way, he lengthens a lineup that has slugged its way to first place even with little pop from Turner, who hasn't been the same force since returning from a fractured left wrist.
If Machado isn't a defensive upgrade, neither was Ramirez, but he made the lineup lethal, and Machado is capable of the same, joining an offense that already has eight hitters with 10 or more homers.
This is the fourth straight July in which the Dodgers have made a major trade, and the third straight in which those deals were for half-season rentals.
To get Yu Darvish last summer, the Dodgers dealt No. 4 prospect Willie Calhoun, No. 17 pitcher A.J. Alexy and No. 27 infielder Brendon Davis. To get Rich Hill and Josh Reddick in 2016, the Dodgers traded No. 5 prospect Grant Holmes, No. 8 Frankie Montas and No. 13 Jharel Cotton, all pitchers. In the 2015 13-player, four-team Alex Wood trade, the Dodgers traded away Hector Olivera (unranked because of age, but signed for $62.5 million) and No. 13 Zack Bird.
This is the Dodgers' most significant trade with the Orioles since they acquired Eddie Murray after the 1988 season.