Manny Machado has one more year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent. This past week, MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported that the Orioles “have no intention to shop” Machado. This approach leaves the Orioles and Machado with a few options, especially since the Orioles could put together one last run at the postseason.
Keep Machado and let him leave
This option only makes sense if the Orioles go all in on next season, which would require a lot of work, especially for a one-year run.
The Orioles need to improve their starting pitching. Kevin Gausman (FIP: 4.52, xFIP:4.43, SIERA: 4.51) and Dylan Bundy (4.38, 4.78, 4.45) will need to step up for the Orioles to even have a chance. Wade Miley (5.22, 4.62, 5.04), Ubaldo Jimenez (5.89, 4.73, 4.48), and Jeremy Hellickson (5.81, 5.58, 5.41 on the season) have all disappointed, but they all become free agents next year.
This means the Orioles could turn to Gabriel Ynoa (3.69, 5.22, 4.62) and Alec Asher (5.25, 5.41, 4.82), but neither of them has pitched a full season as starters at the major league level. That would be a massive gamble for a team looking to make a playoff run. Even after that, the Orioles would still need to find at a bare minimum one other starter, preferably an ace. If Ynoa and Asher do not work out and Gausman and Bundy do not step up, the Orioles will hemorrhage runs.
Jonathan Schoop (wOBA: .359, wRC+ 124) and Tim Beckham (.376, 135 with the Orioles) will help form an okay lineup around Machado. If Mark Trumbo (.296, 81) has a bounce-back year in 2018 and Adam Jones (.332, 105), who is also in the last year of his contract, performs, the Orioles have a lineup that produces enough runs if the pitching does its job.
For Machado, 2018 might be his most important year yet. He had one of his better years at the dish (.366, 130) and in the field (UZR: 10.4, DRS: 13) in 2016. This year, however, he has had his worst year at the dish with a .336 wOBA, 108 wRC+, 4.8 UZR, and only 6 DRS. Since next year is a contract year for him, he could earn himself an even bigger contract from a team such as the New York Yankees or even the Boston Red Sox, who need to find long-term solutions at third base in case Rafael Devers is a flash in the pan. If he bounces back and has a career year, he could earn himself a contract similar to Giancarlo Stanton’s.
Keep Machado and extend him
For the Orioles, the chance of signing him does not seem likely, as it would require them to shell out a massive amount of money. The Orioles reportedly attempted to sign him a few years ago, but the team was “within 8 or 9 million” to signing him long term. If this deal did happen, it would be best for them to get the extension done this offseason, especially since Machado is coming off a down year.
The Orioles might also have difficulty signing him. Even with Miley, Jimenez and Hellickson all leaving, the Orioles still have to pay what remains of Chris Davis’ $161 million contract. There might be room, but the O’s need pitching and they already have one massive deal on the books.
Furthermore, Machado might not want an extension, especially since the future of the Orioles rest on the shoulders either unproven or underwhelming pitchers. For a player like him, who is still only 25 and entering his prime, signing for a team that might spend a few years developing pitching prospects. Add the fact that he will get more money and could join a playoff ready team, re-signing with the Orioles does not seem that appealing.
Keep Machado and trade him at the trade deadline next season
For the Orioles, this move might make the most sense. If Machado improves, he could increase his trade value even more, and he could get some prized prospects in return. Acquiring promising prospects is critical for the Orioles, as they have had one of the worst farm systems in 2015 and 2016, and they acquired no prospects this year. This sort of deal would help replenish a system that appears very arid, in particular for a team that could end up rebuilding in one year’s time.
Trade Machado and ignore the recent reports
This sort of deal would be an interesting option, as it would shift the makeup of the Orioles altogether, but also very unlikely. If a trade happens during the winter, teams are more likely to swap bigger pieces. If the Orioles pulled off this sort of deal, they could acquire a starting pitcher. The likelihood of this happening, though, is incredibly small. Teams are usually hesitant about trading away valuable starting pitchers, and the Orioles did say that they had no intentions of trading Machado. But stranger things have happened, and anything is possible in the world of baseball.
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