What had been quite the usual boring Winter Meetings for O’s fans got quite the jolt yesterday, as reports began to surface (first from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal) that the Orioles were suddenly open to trading star third baseman Manny Machado.
Many fans already assume that Machado, who is due to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2018 season, is as good as gone by roughly this time next year. However, there remain plenty of starry-eyed eternal O’ptimists who believe that Manny will join the likes of Brooks, Cal, and Jim as Orioles-for-life Hall of Famers.
Unfortunately for that latter group, that’s just not how things work these days. It takes two to tango, and even if ownership was willing to dole out the ~$400 million (unlikely, and arguably quite unwise), Machado would still need to agree to stay. Would locking up his buddy Jonathan Schoop help? Perhaps, but chances are the needle would barely budge.
So that said, the organization needs to treat Machado as they would any other asset. He has value to them on the field, to be sure, but he also has an unknown amount of untapped value on the trade market. Machado will, in all likelihood, not be helping the Birds on the field after 2018. If they can flip him for pieces that can in turn help the team win in 2019 and beyond, they would be wise to do so.
The worst-case scenario here, and one that those of us familiar with the way this organization does business fear is also the most likely scenario, would be for Machado to leave as a free agent after 2018, in which case the O’s would get absolutely nothing but a draft pick. This isn’t football, where that draft pick could come in and be an immediate franchise-changer – it’s baseball, where the draft is nothing but a crapshoot (and one in which the Orioles have crapped out more often than not).
There are other factors at play here as well.
One, do we actually trust Dan Duquette to get maximum value in a trade? For all the good he’s done in finding diamonds in the rough and valuable cast-offs, Duquette’s record in making trades certainly wouldn’t be confused with his predecessor Andy MacPhail’s.
Duquette is only under contract through 2018 as well, so how much stake does he really have in the long-term future of the Orioles? Any Machado trade should be done with an eye on 2019 and on, NOT on competing in 2018. Dan’s own (as well as Buck Showalter‘s) muddy future throws another wrench into things that teams wouldn’t usually have to deal with when debating trading a superstar.
If they trade Manny they trade Manny. I’m over it. I will just say that I believe we could get the same if not more for him at the deadline and at least you could give the fans some hope April-June
— The Sunglass Guy (@OsSunglassGuy) December 12, 2017
This is a fair point from Sunglass Guy. However, in his suggested scenario, you run into Peter Angelos’s well-known aversion to selling at the deadline. If the Orioles are anywhere NEAR a playoff spot (which they could easily be while floating around or below .500, as we saw in 2017), he likely wouldn’t approve a trade in July. So if he is, in fact, willing to approve a Machado trade now, then we have to strike while the opportunity is there. There is no telling when Pete might change his mind and slam the window shut.
Later in the day, Duquette spoke to reporters and dropped this nugget:
Duquette said that he hasn't had any discussions about a long-term contract with Machado's agent in a few years. #Orioles
— Rich DubroffMLB (@RichDubroffMLB) December 12, 2017
What. The. H$(@(!
What do we make of this? After thinking about it for longer than I’d like to admit, my conclusion is this: Just like his comments about why the team didn’t go after Shohei Ohtani, to me this smacks of Dan subtly saying “look, this is above my pay grade. Out of my hands!” We know darn well that ownership realizes what it will take to re-sign Machado. They have either A) decided that they are NOT going to pay it; or B) have sent another of Peter’s minions (Brady Anderson, perhaps) to test the water with Machado’s agent.
Whichever of those cases it may be, the end result, in my mind, is that if Angelos is willing to approve a trade now, there is no long-term future for Manny in Birdland. Plenty will lose their minds with Duquette over this, but as always, my advice is to direct your ire further up the org chart (while also, again, recognizing that “it takes two to tango.)
Taking all of this into account, it would seem that trading Machado – now – would be the prudent route to take.
Of course, not all O’s fans agree on this most logical course of action. There are plenty who would write off the team, cancel their season tickets, and burn their gear (or, hopefully, donate it to charity) if the Orioles were to let a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Machado leave. While I disagree with that mentality, I recognize that being a fan is about a lot more (or less) than just being cold and logical. We love Manny. He’s ours, and we’ve defended him when, at times, his actions were less than defensible. I’ve said for years that, even when the Birds lose, it’s worth watching them because Machado likely did something that left our mouths agape.
So I get it. It would be Mike Mussina all over again (and some fans still haven’t gotten over that). At least in this case, the team would (hopefully) get something of value in return.
To reiterate: nobody is HAPPY that the Orioles might be trading Manny Machado. We all want him to continue to wow us with things we’ve never before seen on a baseball diamond. We all want his number retired at Oriole Park at Camden Yards one day. We all want his infectious smile brimming widely right in the middle of things when the O’s again hoist that elusive World Series Trophy.
Those things, sadly, might not be in the cards. Sometimes, being a fan sucks. But we remain. As fans of the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back.
This boring offseason just got a whole lot more interesting.