In April, Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia's left leg during a slide into second base. Controversy ensued. Pedroia missed the next three games with injuries. A retaliatory fastball almost hit Machado in the head.
At the time, it was nearly impossible to imagine Machado playing for the Red Sox one year later.
Now the possibility is being discussed.
Although substantial barriers exist to a deal, the Red Sox and Orioles have had discussions about a trade that would send Machado to Boston, sources said this week.
Superstars rarely are dealt from one division rival to another, but a longstanding relationship between the opposing baseball operations chiefs could prove helpful; Boston's Dave Dombrowski and Baltimore's Dan Duquette worked together in the Montreal Expos front office 30 years ago.
Machado, 25, is coming off his third consecutive season of at least 30 home runs. In Major League history, only one other everyday third baseman -- Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, with four -- had more than two such years through his age-24 season.
Among the numerous unknowns in the Machado-to-Boston scenario:
- Are the Red Sox pursuing Machado primarily in an effort to gain leverage against agent Scott Boras in the team's arduous negotiations with free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez? (It appears doubtful that the Red Sox would add both Machado and Martinez.)
- If the Red Sox trade for Machado, is it likely that 21-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers would go to Baltimore in the deal? And if he doesn't, what would his role be on the 2018 Red Sox? (In both the Majors and Minors, third base is the only position Devers has played.)
- Are the Red Sox comfortable with the idea of Machado playing shortstop, where Xander Bogaerts' offensive numbers declined in 2017?
- Would the Red Sox insist on an MLB-approved window during which to negotiate a contract extension as a condition of any trade? (Machado will become a free agent after the upcoming season.)
The Orioles have communicated with multiple teams regarding Machado trade possibilities over the past week, sources say. The White Sox, who are moving into an opportunistic phase of their rebuild, are among them.
Orioles officials have not set a firm deadline by which they will trade Machado or decide to keep him for the start of the 2018 season. Duquette could revisit the possibility of a Machado trade during the season, if the Orioles are out of the pennant race as the non-waiver Trade Deadline nears. Duquette, like Orioles manager Buck Showalter, is entering the final season of his contract.
Even after the Giants acquired Evan Longoria from the Rays, intrigue persists in the trade market for third basemen. The Cardinals have ongoing interest in Toronto's Josh Donaldson, but the Blue Jays likely would insist on receiving Major League talent in return for the 2015 American League MVP.