The hot stove has been heating up the past couple of weeks with some minor O’s chatter about the likes of Jason Vargas, Tyler Chatwood and Andrew Cashner. Those acquisitions would do very little to help the O’s World Series odds at the best sports betting sites, and are mere peanuts compared to the pending expiring contracts that the Orioles are facing from within; Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Adam Jones are all set to be UFA at the conclusion of the 2018 season, with Jonathan Schoop following just behind at the conclusion of 2019. The popular opinion around town has been to lock up Schoop now, and let Manny walk due to the presumed outrageous numbers he would command.
So whom should the Orioles invest their money in, Machado or Schoop?
Both! They should invest in both.
The Orioles have a rare opportunity to build around two superstars – one established and one budding, and both set to enter the prime of their careers – and to let this chance pass them by would be criminal.
Consider what we have seen. Schoop spent the majority of 2017 batting right in front of or behind Machado for the first time in his career. The result? His best season by far, .293/.338/.503 slash line with 32 HR, 105 RBI, and 182 hits. Don’t think for a second that his position next to Machado in the lineup is not directly correlated to these MVP-ish (he finished 12th in the voting) numbers.
Further, those of us who drink the orange kool-aid have every reason to believe Schoop will sustain his improvement, all while Machado rebounds from a disappointing offensive 2017 in which his slash line dipped to career lows at .259/.310/.471. Despite that however, he still provided power with 33 HR and 95 RBI, and was much improved from the first half to the second.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and think about this logically. The Orioles have two players who have come up through their system together, are young, and happen to be the very best of friends. Could you ask for a better PR marketing scenario? OH and by the way, they’re both All Stars who bat in the middle of your lineup and you can build around for the next 5-7 years.
How can you pass this opportunity up?
Coming off the books this offseason is approximately $51 million from Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Seth Smith, Welington Castillo, Hyun Soo Kim and Ryan “The GOAT” Flaherty. $50 million split between them (say, ~$30M/yr for Machado and ~$20M/yr for Schoop) should be enough to get the job done.
Payroll will go up; that’s unavoidable. But it’s time for the Orioles, as an organization, to stop pretending they want to win a World Series and go out and do it. For the first time in recent memory, the O’s cracked the top 10 in 2017 MLB payroll, coming in at number 10 (largely due to arbitration numbers and a phenomenal contract for Chris Davis).
Guess what? That’s not good enough when the top 5 is made up of 3/5 of your own division (Yankees, Red Sox and Jays). The whole point of player development and organizational success is to acquire guys like Machado and Schoop.
Now that we have them, we can’t let them go.